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    Wonderfully different setting but missed the mark

    I picked Gnarly up on a whim, partially because I love the idea behind Dreamspinner’s World of Love series and because older characters intrigue me. I hadn’t read this author before, but her attention to detail in Gnarly was noteworthy- specifically in regards to the Basque culture and scenic descriptions. I continue to return to this series because I love learning about new places and experiencing it though a romance is a fantastic bonus. As far as that element goes, Gnarly is great. I loved all the details about the traditions, food, cultural events, and history. Unfortunately, the excess details spilled over to include the more mundane aspects, consequently dragging down the pace a little bit in the first part of the book. However, as the relationship between the three men took shape, I found myself more interested and the story seemed less weighed down with unnecessary details and descriptions. Novellas are always tricky. Sometimes the story is overly simplistic and lacks depth, other times- like in Gnarly- there’s simply too much going on in too few pages. Not only did the book tackle the complexities of a second chance romance 30+years in the making, a triad relationship, and an age gap, but also addressed a character dealing with depression and PTSD after an injury, a character coming out as bisexual, a character changing careers, and a relationship complicated by long distance. It was a lot, especially once the details of the Basque culture and unique setting in Northern Spain were factored in, and it ended up feeling muddled. I was pleased most of the conflicts were resolved, I just think Gnarly didn’t quite live up to its potential as far as the romance and character development was concerned. My other major hang-up was Ed. I quite liked the characters together and I think Miss Ashling did a good job creating a chemistry that blended all three personalities without leaving one person out regularly. I understood how they all fit together emotionally, and each seemed like an essential component in the relationship. I also liked Javi and Iker on their own. However, Ed’s self-important image and dressing down of others because he’s a doctor irritated me. I kept waiting for him to check himself. While he did mature a bit during the story, my distaste remained and it undoubtedly influenced the way I felt about Gnarly on the whole. I really liked the idea of a second chance romance between two older men. The addition of a third man into the relationship who was significantly younger further intrigued me. Unfortunately, I think Gnarly suffered from a few pitfalls that prevented it from meeting my expectations. *Reviewed for Alpha Book Club*

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