Is Brandon Stewart just Dustin's way of getting over a bitter divorce? Can Dustin really care for him, or is it simply that Brandon is the complete opposite of his ex-wife? Dustin keeps their affair as quiet as possible, because if it continues, he knows he'll eventually have to come out to his homophobic family or walk out on the man he's trying not to love.
Now, with a few thousand books under my bedazzled belt I feel a bit of frustration with Dustin that I didn’t pick up on before. I think it hit me with all the conversations about labels that are really prevalent these days. Dustin was trying so hard to label himself, which I understand, his attraction to a man was all new, but I couldn’t help but want to holler at him with a . . .
“Who the actual fuck cares? Are you happy? Do you love this person? Then you can call yourself a fishstick for all I care, just don’t hurt Brandon and FFS, grab that happy with both hands and never let go!”
But, I also get it. The way Dustin went through his self-discovery wasn’t always pretty and he’s damn lucky he had Brandon in his life and he’s damn lucky he didn’t FUBAR the whole thing.
All that being said, Nick Russo is the perfect narrator for this book, his Dustin is just right. He’s got the cocktail of vulnerable lustiness down that was delicious to listen to. I’d recommend a listen to anything he reads.
There was never a question about the attraction between Dustin and Brandon. While it was purely physical at first, it wasn’t long before it was obvious they were moving into relationship level status. Labels tripped Dustin up again, but again, I understood it. He hadn’t been an “ex” for all that long and then to move onto another relationship with a member of the same sex was a lot for him to process. He did it with ease when it was just he and Brandon and as long as he didn’t stop to analyze it too hard. When he was out of the insular bubble that he and Brandon had, he was a bit of a hot mess. Those moments were tough to listen to. I hurt for them both and wanted to wave a magic wand and take away all the obstacles so they could have the HEA they both deserved.
Dustin’s ex and his mother are the epitome of evil female characters and he had a brother and a couple of ‘friends’ that deserved a quick throat punch. He did however, have a female BFF and a sister that were unflinchingly supportive. As well as another brother who seems like he’ll come around when Dustin can prove he’s happy and with Dustin for the right reasons. And that was the crux of the story. Can Dustin be happy with Brandon for the right reasons? It takes Dustin a good while to get his shit together and there were some moments of experimentation that were SUPER annoying, again, because I loved Brandon. Dustin’s dick did way too much deciding for him and when his heart tried to take over his mouth didn’t work. It’s bad enough he’s confused but having trouble with communication is not a good thing for him and his love life. Once his dick worked out its issues and he started thinking with the big head, he moved forward with some well-earned groveling to Brandon. Again, Dustin is damn lucky he’s got a Brandon in his life, because not everyone would be as forgiving as he was.
I’m glad that I had read this story many moons ago along with the follow up, Rain and I’d recommend having Rain on stand-by to read when you finish this one. Rules of Engagement ends quickly with a highly optimistic HFN and after all the crap these two have been through, you’re going to want more. You get the “more” with Rain and without it you’ll be happy but left hanging a little. The story is not unfinished by any means, but these guys deserve a solid HEA.
For more information on Rules of Engagement audiobook, head over to Dreamspinner Press and Goodreads.
**a copy of this audiobook was provided by Dreamspinner Press for an honest review**