Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: All Wheel Drive
SERIES: Bluewater Bay #18
AUTHOR: Z.A. Maxfield
PUBLISHER: Riptide Publishing
LENGTH: 326 pages
RELEASE DATE: July 10, 2017
Healey Holly is battered, depressed, and looking to go to ground in his childhood home. He wants to rent the garage apartment, but it’s Diego Luz’s place now, and the last thing Diego wants is to share it.
Diego is recovering too—from the accident that put him in a wheelchair and the death of his mother shortly after. The garage apartment is where he’s keeping his mother’s things, and as long as they’re up those stairs and he’s down on the ground, there’s no way he can deal with his loss. And that’s just how he likes it.
Healey believes in science. Diego believes in luck. It will take a blend of both, and some prayer thrown in besides, for these two to learn that it’s the journey and the destination that matters.
Healey Holly’s last relationship crashed and burned…literally. After a life of being told he is special, and coming off of the high of getting his Doctorate, Healy should be flying high. His wings got clipped in a rather abrupt fashion, though, by the car crash that left him in the hospital and his ex cutting cords in the most dramatic way possible. Now, back in Bluewater Bay, Healy hopes going home will help him find his center again. Or at the very least a place where the world isn’t spinning so far out of his control. Only trouble is that “home” ain’t home anymore; at least not for the Holly’s.
Having a random dude show up at his door begging to rent his unused garage apartment is a bad way to start any day. But for Diego Luz, angry and unsure how to cope with his new life–in a wheelchair and grieving his mother, who had always been his constant center–it is an intrusion he doesn’t need, want, or can cope with.
Both men are broken and unsure if all the pieces are even there to be glued back together. They are barely able to hold onto themselves, adding a relationship to the hurricanes they are feeling inside is only a recipe for a disaster on a grand scale. But every time they try to step away they find themselves back to facing each other, wanting to find a home…together.
While I won’t say it is necessary to have read it, I will recommend that if you haven’t got to it yet that you pick up Hell on Wheels, book 3 in the Bluewater Bay Series, before reading this one. It is Z.A. Maxfield’s previous contribution to this Bluewater world, and All Wheel Drive is pretty much the sequel to that book, storywise. But where in Hell we got the story of Nash Holly, here we (finally) get to see his twin brother’s, Healey. I actually didn’t realize that these two books were connected (outside the connection all books in this series share), since it has been so long since I read Maxfield’s previous story, but as I read this book I couldn’t help but feel a desire to go back and do a reread. Not because I felt the story in any way didn’t stand alone, but because all these characters made me remember how much I enjoyed getting to know them that first time.
As for the story itself…well, I think it was good. The characters are truly enjoyable, in a rather frustrating manor. They are both going thru a lot of shit related to their recent (and some not-so-recent) pasts, and as a result they come together and fall apart at rather regular intervals. While that could have been annoying, though, I found it made the story all the better. This book wasn’t just paying lip-service to their grief, anger, depression, and just downright confusion. It makes you live every little bit of it. They snap at each other, push at each other’s wounds; they are not nice…but also terribly in need of each other. Would it have been a more pleasant read if they had their shit together a bit more? Sure. Would it have been a better story? No chance in hell. The broken bits are the good bits of the story and the characters. It made them human and fragile, all the while also showing that putting each other back together is not easy or clean, but worth it.
I really appreciated the real-life take on what it is like to live with an injury like Diego’s. Both for himself, but also for Healey. Granted, I don’t know anyone who has to deal with his particular issue, but I am glad that it went into the detail that it did. Much like Healey, I greatly admire people who are able to take that kind of pain in their lives and force it into iron-willed strength. It is one of the reasons that I will almost always pick up books with characters that deal with disabilities and chronic illness and pain. And where some books really do the characters and situations justice, other times it is treated like a very small obstacle that impacts very little of the character or their lives. Here it isn’t just that Diego can’t walk. It is how being a paraplegic impacts his whole life, and how he has to deal with that now. I can not speak to the medical accuracy, but thematically and emotionally it works really well in this story. You don’t feel sorry for Diego–because he’d hate that–but you understand why he is such an ass at times. You also come to understand the strength that is required to live his life, and just why someone could find that mesmerizing.
There is, however, a rather obvious flaw in this book. In my opinion, at least. There story seems to lack a bit of a resolution to a couple of the major subplots. At least one that left me satisfied. While I really loved–I mean loved–the slow unfolding of the truth about the crash Healey and his ex were involved in, there are no real answers to what happens with the lawsuit that haunts the edges of this book. It left me a bit disappointed, to be honest. I’m glad the confrontation at the end of the book happened, but it felt like there was at least one scene missing from this story. I maybe could have lived with some kind of wrap-up in the Epilogue, but we didn’t even get that. There was also no real pay-off for the whole Bigfoot thing, but that was just a minor annoyance–mostly because I’m not sure why the set up was included in the final draft if there was no resolution.
I would have loved a better ending for this book, something that wrapped it a bit more completely, but the rest of the book was really good. I really liked these characters, even if there was frustration in their actions along the way. It served as a great sequel to Hell on Wheels as well as just a good story about how to move on when your life has been tossed around in every direction.