West has been crushing on Sawyer for years. He asked Sawyer out when they first met, but Sawyer continually turned him down, and finally West gave up asking. That hasn’t stopped the two men from becoming best friends. Nor has it stopped West’s attraction. But aside from one ill-advised (and super hot) kiss, the two have stayed just friends.
While West is content to coast along with his friendship with Sawyer, the guys at Four Bears Construction are worried about him being alone and encourage West to get back out there. He can’t muster up too much excitement for anyone, but he agrees to give it a shot.
Sawyer knows that the age gap between him and West is too big for anything to work out. And after a crushing break up a few years ago, Sawyer doesn’t have much confidence in long-term relationships. He loves his friendship with West and doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize it. That doesn’t mean it is easy watching West go out with other people, and Sawyer knows it is just a matter of time before West finds someone serious. But West is still completely into Sawyer and not particularly interested in anyone else. Now Sawyer just needs to be brave enough to take a chance on moving them from friends to something more.
Stud is the fifth book in the Four Bears Construction series and it is great to be back in this world. While the initial series introduced us to the titular “four bears,” there were some other characters who needed stories and I am really excited that K.M. Neuhold is continuing the series. We have met both West and Sawyer previously, and West works for the construction company. This story also features all the bears, their partners, and side characters from the series. So while you could probably get away with reading this one alone from a plot standpoint, I think it is definitely richer being familiar with the other books and characters.
The story starts us off at Cole and Ren’s wedding where we see the connection between West and Sawyer and the kiss they share. It is clear that West is very interested in Sawyer, but Sawyer has been turning him down and West finally decides to stop asking. From there we jump ahead a couple of years to find the guys best friends and spending tons of time together. West is still hot for Sawyer and, truth be told, Sawyer is totally hot for West too. But he is keeping things just friends for fear of harming the relationship and worries about a potential breakup.
Things get shaken up when West starts dating and Sawyer gets jealous. This is the area where I struggled somewhat as Sawyer starts secretly sabotaging West’s dates. There is very much a “I don’t want him, but no one else can have him” thing happening here that I didn’t find particularly appealing. Sawyer ends up making the dates look foolish (telling them West has hearing loss and they must talk in a super high-pitched voice, for example) and ruins these potential relationships for West. He is also so hot and cold with West, sending crazy mixed signals about wanting him, and then pushing him away again. It may have helped if we had more of a clear idea of just what was holding Sawyer back, but while we get the basics, it is not given with enough depth for me to really understand his fears. So this part of the story didn’t work so well for me.
However, the major focus of this story is on West and Sawyer’s relationship and I really did love them together. There is great chemistry from the start and it is clear they are meant to be together. They have a great sense of camaraderie as they hang out, and a feeling of knowing each other inside and out. There is a playfulness to their relationship and a nice intensity that makes it clear these guys are destined for each other and it is only a matter of time until they figure it out.
I really like the tone of these stories and there is a fun playfulness to the books. This is particularly true when the whole gang is together and their banter and teasing are a lot of fun. There is a nice sense of found family to these stories as well, and I love when all the men are together. There is also a sweet side story here about Gus, the owner of Wooley’s, who left the bar to Sawyer when he died. We learn more about his past and his relationship with a man long before they could be open about their feelings and it is added a nice sweetness and poignancy to the book. Also, we get lots of fun with adorable baby ducks that the guys rescue.
So I am excited about this series continuing and this was a good installment. I struggled a little with Sawyer’s date sabotage and unwillingness to either reach for West or let him go. But I loved the two of them together and their connection made the story really work for me, despite the issues. Plus, more time with the bears is always a good thing. I am looking forward to more!