Reviewed by Helyce
Entomology grad student Adam Ellery meets Denver Rogers, a muscle-bound hunk of sexy, when Denver effortlessly dispatches the drunken frat boys harassing Adam at the Tucker Springs laundromat. Thanking him turns into flirting, and then, much to Adam’s delight, hot sex over the laundry table.
Though Denver’s job as a bouncer at a gay bar means he gets his pick of geek-sexy college twinks, he can’t get Adam out of his head. Adam seems to need the same rough play Denver does and it’s damn hard to say no to such a perfect fit.
Trouble is, Adam isn’t just shy: he has obsessive compulsive disorder and clinical anxiety, conditions which have ruined past relationships. And while Denver might be able to bench-press a pile of grad students, he comes from a history of abuse and is terrified of getting his GED. Neither Denver nor Adam want to face their dirty laundry, but to stay together, they’re going to have to come clean.
I am a new fan of Heidi Cullinan, so when Mandi offered me this ARC, I jumped to read it. I love her voice and her characters are always very interesting. This story is no exception. In fact, in Dirty Laundry, Ms. Cullinan features two characters who are struggling with serious issues.
Poor Adam, he’s a mess. He has multiple OCD issues, the worst of which are his panic attacks brought on when he finds himself in a situation that he cannot control. The opening scene where the frat boys corner him in the laundromat is done so well I could taste his panic. Then Denver arrives, scares off the frat boys, and we see a totally different Adam than was first introduced as he actually starts flirting with the big, hulking cowboy. I have to say, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that he could go from scared shitless to flirting and then to sex on a table in a public place in a matter of minutes.
But it was a freaking hot scene…..so I persevered.
And I’m so glad that I did. Adam is about as nerdy as a nerd could be and to have such a severe case of OCD on top of it, well it’s a miracle that he functions at all. But as the story goes on, you see so much more in the man, hidden strengths that are there. He is driven and determined not to let his disorder rule his life. When he breaks up with his boyfriend and can no longer live in the house they shared with other entomology students, he gets a place of his own. And when he meets Denver and is attracted, he steps totally out of his comfort zone, flirts with him, and then does the deed all over the laundry. He then calls Denver because he wants to do it again.
I found Denver to be a unique and interesting character as well. He has his own issues to deal with. Abused as a child, and made to feel stupid due to a learning disorder, he could have grown to be a very different man. If that wasn’t enough, a bad relationship hurt him so that he doesn’t let anyone get close, choosing to pick up one night stands at the bar he works as a bouncer.
Everything changes for both men after their encounter at the laundromat. For some reason, Adam has gotten under Denver’s skin and he finds himself wanting to see him again. Adam too has it bad for the big hulking cowboy who somehow makes him feel so safe; it keeps all his worries away. Denver, before Adam ever comes clean about his OCD, seems to have an instinct about what Adam needs. He’s in tune to Adam in an instinctive way.
There is some light BDSM in their relationship and again, I found myself cringing a little as I tried to understand how exactly this type of play worked for Adam who literally fell apart on several occasions during the book when someone so much as spoke harshly to him. These scenes are done really well and everything is consensual-but in the back of my mind I just didn’t get it. Even as I finished, having really enjoyed the book, the feeling of unease lingered.
So I went back and re-read a few scenes. I’m not a fan of BDSM in my romances, especially if any kind of pain is involved. But in Adam’s case, I came to realize that in this, Adam had made a truly conscious choice and even when he was tied up or Denver was holding him down, it was his choice and ultimately, he was in control. OCD is a compulsion and sadly, very difficult to control. Adam trusted Denver and that’s why it worked. That’s not to say this couple doesn’t have their ups and downs, but it was clear that each had something the other needed to feel whole.
I look forward to returning to Tucker Springs and I hope we’ll get to see more of Louisa-a transgendered character who befriends Adam in this story. She is kick ass funny and brought some humor to this story.