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Double Blind

Double Blind - Heidi Cullinan I won this book in a Facebook competition and am very glad I did as it introduced me to a new (for me) author and one who made me want to read every one of their books.Heidi is also one of those authors that makes my efforts feel inadequate. Then I look at how long they have been writing and I take heart.Double Blind is actually a sequel to "Special Delivery" but is quite capable of being read as a stand alone. In fact it wasn't until I finished it that I decided to search and see if Sunshine and Mitch had their own book. I must admit I skipped a lot of the poker detail as I'm not a fan. Vegas itself also has never been on my "must visit" list and now I've read this book, I feel I can safely leave it off. I much preferred reading about the outdoors in "Special Delivery".Heidi writes great sex scenes and a lot of them. So if you want a hot read....* * * *It's now six months on and I've re-read "Double Blind" and "Special Delivery" in the right order. Not that the books didn't work as stand alones but you definitely get more out of it that way. I also didn't skim the poker parts this time ;)In a way, the poker and the cards are integral to this book, so my initial rating of 4 stars wasn't really fair. The wonderful character of Crabtree has a parable about men based on what type of card they are:We divide the deck into numbered and face cards, and so we divide the types of men. This then becomes what is in essence an Ugly Duckling story in which a number of characters change. Sam's wings unfurl as he's removed from the smothering protection of Mitch and Randy. Randy changes once he relaxes because he knows Ethan understands him and is there for him and as for Ethan... I’d love to see this in a movie with the scared, incomplete Ethan, trapped in his tiny world gradually “coming out” not out of the closet but out of his narrow existence. Blooming into a confident, sexy man. At the start he’d be the type of guy you wouldn’t notice in a crowd, but under Randy’s and Crabtree’s direction, he gradually finds who he can be. It’s scary for him. It’s not put on. It’s right. Tentative to confident. Out of control to in control and controlling others. Being a fish to being a number card, to a face card to an Ace. Turning to Randy for reassurance and comfort when he stops moving ahead and teeters on the brink.Then Ethan, as his ability to "read" people grows, realizes Crabtree is bluffing about who he is.Double Blind is full of opinions, but this is what makes it feel real IMHO. Guys sitting around and talking about their feelings never rings true to me, but guys stating their opinions (whether their audience wants to know or not) makes them more like real men not CWD.It's a pleasure to revisit Sam and Mitch and watch their relationship grow. It's even more of a pleasure to get to know Randy better. Heidi has created another wonderful character there.This paragraph sums up Randy for me:So Randy launched into high court jester mode. He made loud noises about how good the food smelled, and he made so many rude comments about Sam’s body and what he wanted to do with it that Ethan started to look at him askance. He was saved from having to explain that one by Sam’s finally noticing the second cat, and then Randy made all kinds of wry remarks about cat litter and scratches, and when Ethan started to explain about the clicker, engaging Sam, Randy turned his focus on Mitch, poking at his cooking until he snapped at him. Randy teased him back, goading and mocking and anything he could think of until all the damn spiky energy was redirected, and finally everyone was either glaring at him, or arguing with him, or waiting for him to piss them off again. In short, it was a lot fucking better. Randy, the consummate poker player who finally finds someone who can read him, who wants to read him and understands he's not a Joker but in reality an ace like himself. I loved the way once Ethan understood what Randy was doing, he took over the reins and worked out a less confrontational way to fix the situation. And a highly charged sexual one at that!Finally, I always try to work out what an author has added to the m/m world by writing her book. This quote of Ethan's sums that up for me:being here, playing here, and working here has taught me more about life and the risks we take—that we need to take—than anything else I’ve encountered yet. It's a book about the need to read people, to see who they really are and what they need. The tells are all there if we learn to look for them.Worth a second read if you've already read it, and a first if you haven't.