Review: A Worthy Man (The Men of Halfway House #5) by Jaime Reese

Vannguard Shaw has spent the last ten years serving a life sentence and adjusting to the ache of solitude. He accepts his fate, a sacrifice for the only man he ever loved and the one person who saw beyond his rough edges.

Drayton grew up with a trust fund and pre-planned future, but an unexpected encounter one night forces him to abandon everything and start from scratch. He is now a self-made man and developer of one of the most sought after electric exotic automobiles in the world with a fortune greater than that of his birthright. Yet, he’d surrender it all—again—for the only man who’s still ever-present in his heart.

After a decade and entirely too much distance between them, Vann is suddenly released back into a world that has been nothing but cruel. Drayton never lost hope they would once again reunite and pick up where they left off, but Vann’s stubborn nature and repeated encounters with a heartbreaking world prove to be a challenge.

Vann needs to tap into his fighting spirit’s reservoir of strength and hope life doesn’t punish him for taking a chance. Only then will he realize his own value and feel worthy enough to finally have Drayton’s heart. And their chance at forever.

Damn, but every book in this series is such an emotional ride! A Worthy Man is right up there, but I do think this one is even more relationship focused (which sounds weird to say with this series, I know) making it even more romantic to read. The setup is unique in that the two MC’s, Vann and Drayton have known one another since their teens and have been in love since about that same time. And they don’t have that, “Oh aren’t they perfect for each other, how sweet” kind of love, they have that soul deep, eternal kind of love that’s just plain, more.

Vann and Drayton came from completely different backgrounds. Drayton grew up with all the privileges (at least on paper) and Vann had to scrape by just for the necessities. Both had shitty parents in common and both sides were a complete waste of carbon so the boys were on their own early in their lives. Drayton was a genius with few social skills so he spent a lot of time avoiding bullies and being alone. Vann was the bad boy constantly sporting black eyes and bruises that weren’t from fights with other kids, but at the hands of his worthless father. Vann stepped in one day to defend Drayton and the rest was history. They had their “outcast” status in common and they were the kind of opposites who attract and complement, the author did such a good job of showing me the connection between the characters from their teen years on through to adulthood.

Shit got real in Dray’s house one night and neither of the boys was at fault, they were the victims, but they paid the price for the assholery of the very people who were supposed to protect them above all else. Not everyone is meant to be a parent that is for damn sure. Vann goes down for protecting Dray and the two are separated for ten years as Vann serves his prison sentence. While Vann is on the inside the story is told in flashbacks and dual POV and it sets up the time that these two come back together perfectly. There is no way their connection would have read so strong and real without it. It made me so anxious for their reunion and I felt the excitement and tension as the day for Vann’s release came closer.

There are so many “moments” that you just have to read for the first time to be able to wallow in the love properly. I highlighted the hell out of the book, but when I went back to pick a quote or ten I couldn’t do it. I loved reading them the first time and I don’t want them to lose their impact for you. So instead of details I’m going to ramble on about my feelings and how much I loved all the love. 

When Vann gets released the two have SO many things to talk about, to clear up, to reconfirm and this is where the dual POV and flashbacks paid off hard. Without knowing what was going on in their brains, the connection wouldn’t have been a given to the reader and instead of just loving the evolution of their relationship there would have been a lot of wasted time on confuzzled feelings all around. There were enough road blocks and speed bumps for these guys on their way to infinity, they needed each other unconditionally and the focus stayed on their journey instead of any manufactured miscommunication.

As the story progressed and Vann made it through one milestone after another, he’d take a couple steps forward and one step back, but every one of them opened gave the two of them another “moment”. Vann found out more and more about how much faith and belief Dray had in him and it never wavered once. That’s not something that someone with Vann’s background and level of self-esteem believes with a couple of sentences, but Dray had all the history, all the magic words and the perfect sense of timing for Vann to be able to receive all of Dray’s love and believe every word.

Dray had locked himself in his ivory tower of equations while Vann was away. He worked tirelessly for Vann’s release and to build the company that brought their two strengths together. The company wasn’t just about business, it was an investment into their future based on their past. I loved all the ways Dray made sure Vann was included, even though he was inaccessible. But, while Dray built his empire he reverted back to his outcast ways and missed out on years of connections with other people. Vann was his confidence and his catalyst to come out of his shell and it was really very sweet reading about these two egging each other on to overcome their discomforts. These two were more than just epic romantic declarations, they were full of snark and inside jokes with one another and reading about them letting their guards down gave me a glimpse into their HEA.

A Worthy Man can be read as a standalone and while you don’t need to read the rest of the series in order to dive into this installment, you should because some of my favorite characters made appearances.


*waves maniacally*

I cannot wait for the next installment, which is greedy as hell considering I just finished this one, but I do feel another reread of A Better Man coming on. It happens every time Julian makes an appearance for me. I am so anxious to know what is coming next though. We met some new characters in A Worthy Man and I would love to have Vann and Dray make their HEA appearance in the next book. I have a serious soft spot for Ben, one of the residents of the halfway house. He didn’t have a ton of page time, but he was pretty impactful, so more of him would be most welcome, but hell, I’ll take any of Jaime’s characters and their stories.

**a copy of this story was provided for an honest review**

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