Below Grade: (Reclaimed Hearts Book 2) by Elle Keaton

The new owner of a rundown small town resort property inherits a grouchy tenant. But Martin plans to make the most of his big life change, and hopes that his attraction to the younger, angry, chainsaw wielding Nick will fade. However, Nick is just as attracted to Martin, and when they end up sharing a cabin, they can't avoid each other any longer. Below Grade is the second book in the Reclaimed Hearts series and while it can be read as a standalone, our reviewers recommend reading it as part of the series.

From the blurb:

A serious health scare forces Martin Purdy to rethink his life. He quits his job, sells his house, and buys a set of fixer-upper cabins on the coast. There’s just one teensy problem. Along with the property comes a very angry man.

Nicholas Waugh had his own scare, bad enough that he slunk back to the crappy town he grew up in. With no home to call his own, he finagles a security gig keeping an eye on a set of vacant cabins. The deal comes with a free one-year lease–and he’s not leaving a day sooner. Not even if the new owner gets down on his knees and begs him.
Okay… maybe if he got down on his knees.

Fifteen years of teaching college freshmen and patience is second nature to Martin. But Nick is giving Martin a run for his money. He’s one suggestive chainsaw sculpture away from justifiable homicide. If that wasn't enough, when he's not infuriated with Nick, Martin finds himself fighting an inappropriate and ridiculous attraction to the much younger man

Everyone in Cooper Springs thinks Nick is crying wolf, but creepy stuff is going on around town and he is the only one paying attention. Human remains found in the forest, and a body dumped on the property he’s in charge of, have Nick on high alert.

Meanwhile, all Martin wants to do is get started on the remodel. Instead, he’s fighting with Nick over things that go bump in the night and losing sleep worrying he’s made a disastrously wrong decision.

Failure is not an option.

What will it take for Nick to let his guard down? What will it take for Martin to admit that age is just a number and Nick is more than man enough for him?

Welcome to Cooper Springs, home to UFO chasers, Sasquatch believers, conspiracy theorists, chainsaw artists, and regular folk just trying to make a living. And, quite possibly, a killer.

Below Grade is second in the Reclaimed Hearts series, set in the wilds of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, it is an opposites-attract, age gap, only one bed, grumpy-sunshine, small-town romance, with a little murder.

SNik's Review:

Second in series (Reclaimed Hearts), can be read as a standalone but best if read in order as there is a small underlying shared plot line. Age gap. Grumpy/sunshine. Slow burn. Dual POV. 

Martin has left his former life as a geology professor in order to renovate a rundown small town resort, but the property comes with an angry short term tenant that seems to despise Martin. Nick has his own reasons for not liking Martin, but even though he can’t deny his attraction to the older man, he’s still struggling to find his own way to happiness having been dealt some tough hurdles over the years. 

There is a good portion of the book giving background for Martin and Nick as well as further describing the residents of Cooper Springs and some recent murder and missing persons cases evolving. But once Martin and Nick give in to their attraction, their relationship grows into friendship and something deeper, Martin accepting Nick’s abrasive self protection attitude and Nick opening himself up to the caring and kindness Martin gives him unequivocally. 

A nice read which continues to raise questions about what is happening in Cooper Springs while bringing together some sweet men.

Rating: 4 Stars

Sheena's Review:

This is the second in the Reclaimed Hearts series, it can be read as a standalone but it's best as part of the series as there's a continuing thread from the first book. This is Nick and Martin's story, we met them in the first book in the series, briefly, and now it's their turn for their story to be told.  

Unknown to Martin, he has a history with Nick that Nick holds a serious grudge for. Nick is difficult, to say the least. He's grumpy, antisocial, stubborn and downright rude to Martin at the start of the book.  Martin comes to Cooper Springs to start again, after a lifetime in academia, he purchases some rental cabins with the idea of making his living doing them up and renting them out. Nick has been living on the site as caretaker for the last owners. They don't exactly have a meet cute, Nick is his prickly self despite Martin's attempts to get to know him, but it's a joy to witness him unbending over the course of the story, and becoming closer to Martin despite himself.  

I liked the connection between the two, it built nicely and it was hot, and sweet and ultimately a satisfying HEA too. There's also the ongoing thread of what's really happening in Cooper Springs, disappearances, murders, and old bodies turning up. That adds a nice layer of mystery to the stories set here, and I can't wait to find out more.

Rating: 4.25 Stars

Below Grade is available to buy as an ebook or to read with Kindle Unlimited subscription.