Book Reviews

Adverse Conditions (Reclaimed Hearts 1) by Elle Keaton at Dirty Dog Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Mature Lovers / Romance / Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Reviewed by Bob-O-Link on 11-May-2023

Book Blurb

The town is worth saving, as long as conspiracy theorists, serial killers, and Vincent Barone all stay out of Xavier’s way.

Xavier swore he’d never move back to the flyspeck of a town he’d grown up in and he kept that promise for over twenty years. Now he's back for good.

Vincent never left. After earning his teaching certificate, he stayed in town to be close to his elderly parents. These days he’s the single dad of a fifteen-year-old daughter and working two jobs to make ends meet. He's perfectly happy with his life.

Xavier's mission is to save Cooper Springs. But his efforts are being hindered by his stodgy, straight-laced, rule-following neighbor, Vincent Barone. Dark-eyed, broad-shouldered, and muscly Vincent, who Xav stealthily ogles when he toils in his yard sans shirt. For a high school shop teacher, Vincent is too sexy. And he has a kid. And he infuriates Xavier. And anyway, love is for suckers.

Vincent doesn't have time to date. And he certainly wouldn’t date his flashy, arrogant, neighbor who he absolutely did not have a crush on in high school. Who did Xavier think he was, moving back to town and throwing his weight around, causing butterflies in Vincent's stomach, and making his stupid heart beat faster every time he saw him?

Cooper Springs has changed since they were kids, and maybe two guys can move from hate to love. But are they ready? Will Vincent bend a few of his rules? Will Xavier reign in his chaotic tendencies? Is love in the air?

Then there’s the matter of the grisly discovery in the woods, murder is bad for business.

Book Review

Let us start with two introductory advisories. First, ‘Adverse Conditions’ is a really good read, engaging and well-constructed. But, second, be forewarned that, much like my late grandfather’s old long johns, ‘Adverse Conditions’ is quite open-ended. That its tale (tail?) is left somewhat hanging in the wind is disturbing, yet intriguing; for most of us this current volume is surely but an appetizer for what is hopefully to come with the next volume.


Also, I’ll kindly let you know that with so many characters on scene (some merely appearing with little occasion), there are sufficient quizzical moments as to qualify this novel as “noir.” Early on we are introduced to Jayden and his sister – teens whose father is militarily deployed and whose mother is a frequently absent alcoholic. Don’t hold your breath awaiting the kids’ return appearance. Then we take notice of Arsen Hollis, the ex-boyfriend of main character Xavier, whom Xavier now actively strives to avoid – successfully to the point that this character is merely present as a passing, odoriferous breeze.


Blessedly, Vincent, Xavier and his twin, Max, and their immediate families, engage us quickly, and then proceed to develop rationally vis-a-vis each other and the plot.


An attraction develops between Xavier and Vincent, reasonably presented and brightly colored with sex. Plot point: attraction between antagonists is almost always hot! Take the erotic scene, starting in the kitchen “… tearing each other’s clothes off” and resolving in the bedroom “… his fingers lingering on the clasp. Vincent was into this, if the bulge below was any indication.”


‘Adverse Conditions’ much like life, is wonderfully broad. The relationship of Vincent and Xavier grows with grace, but as with pebbles thrown in a lake, concentric circles are generated concerning Vincent’s teenage daughter, and Xavier’s widowed but sexually active mother. Local real estate is an issue – as is planning for the town’s future. Even adorable rescue dogs add delightful spice in this stew. Of course, stories of this genre must either create a sense of foreboding, spring surprises, or both. So, reader, never allow yourself to totally relax. And add huzzahs for author Keaton, aptly combining eroticism with simple human expression.


The novel is worth every moment given to reading it. And is likely to be worth those additional moments as we await the next in the series, ‘Below Grade’ for resolution. That, dear reader, is authorial talent.




1. Sadly, Elle Keaton has joined the currently popular movement by referring to a singular male character by a neutral ‘their’ (i.e., their clothes were worn, their hair stuck up every which way.) Perhaps there is logic or purpose, but I seem to have gotten off this grammar train at a much earlier stop!


2. And another apparently useless fact, who knows why, informs us that the father of Max and Xavier has another family!


3. “Fine, you can get up here, but just this once.” Lies new pet owners tell the dog (and themselves) about sleeping in the master’s bed.




DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by the author via GRRT for the purpose of a review.


Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 230 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 30-March-2023
Price $5.99 ebook, $15.00 paperback
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