Review – Double Blind (Special Delivery #2) by Heidi Cullinan

Double Blind cover image

Publisher: Samhain
Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the author

Know when to show your hand…and when to hedge your bets.

Randy Jensen can’t stand to just sit by and watch as a mysterious man throws money away on the roulette wheel, especially since Randy’s got his own bet going as to the reason this guy is making every play like it’s his last day on earth. The man’s dark desperation hits Randy right in the gut. Half of him warns that getting involved is a sucker’s bet, and the other half scrambles for a reason—any reason—to save the man’s soul.

Ethan Ellison has no idea what he’s going to do with himself once his last dollar is gone—until Randy whirls into his life with a heart-stealing smile and a poker player’s gaze that sees too much. Randy draws Ethan into a series of wagers that leads to a scorching kiss by midnight, but he isn’t the only one with an interest in Ethan’s vulnerability. Soon they’re both taking risks that not only play fast and loose with the law, but with the biggest prize of all: their hearts.

Warning: This story contains high-stakes poker, gangsters with a weakness for kittens, foursomes, and kinky consensual sex.

This book has been previously published and has been revised from its original release.
This blurb came from the author’s website.

I read Cullinan’s revised and released version of Special Delivery a few weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. So when she offered me a copy of Double Blind I couldn’t resist. I had enjoyed seeing the nicer sides of Randy in the previous installment but I wanted him to have a relationship of his own, so I was really curious to see what type of person Randy would be happy with. I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting but Ethan certainly surprised me and in a good way.

Randy started off with his usual almost careless reading of people in an attempt to stave off boredom but his eye kept being caught by a man who was almost desperately losing at the roulette table. Unfortunately, his curiosity meant the other two men also became curious about the steady loser. As a result, Randy ended up making a wager about both his skill in reading people and his ability to get a perfect stranger in bed and at stake was his unwilling participation in a stage show. Normally this would have been extremely easy for Randy but something about Ethan continued to slide under his skin. As Randy learned bits and pieces of what sent Ethan to Vegas, he couldn’t let him go.

Ethan arrived in Vegas disheartened and very disillusioned. He really didn’t have any plans, a place to stay or much in the way of belongings. What he did have was a thought that after the end of his last relationship it was time for the law of averages to swing his way. Unfortunately, the roulette wheel was not following Ethan’s wishes so he steadily lost all of his money. Then he was approached a strange man named Randy who alternately angered, aroused, and frustrated him but refused to let him wallow in misery. Ethan was such an innocent man who despite everything kept insisting that life was meant to be fair and most people were actually decent. Seeing him run up against Randy’s opposing viewpoint and the cynicism behind the Vegas machine was very entertaining.

I enjoyed watching Randy try his usual manipulative methods on Ethan without much success. It seemed as if each time either he backed off or Ethan’s reactions were entirely unexpected and therefore unpredictable. Even with the challenge posed by Ethan and his stubborn refusal to play Randy’s game, Randy did not want to let Ethan drift away without any sort of life anchor. It was very refreshing to see Randy’s vulnerability and just how much he was capable of caring as the story progressed and he became more entangled with Ethan. I equally enjoyed watching Ethan as he grew from the man who lost everything into someone capable of facing down mobsters, cuddling kittens, and giving Randy exactly what he needed even when it involved his friends Mitch and Sam from Special Delivery.

In addition to Randy and Ethan’s romance, Cullinan included a couple of other threads which anchored their relationship in her world. I loved catching back up with Sam and Mitch when they visited Randy unaware of Ethan’s presence. They showed their relationship concerns from Special Delivery had not magically disappeared in the intervening time but they remained committed to their marriage and each other. Their presence and friendship provided both support and a push to Randy and Ethan individually and as a couple. I also found Ethan’s growing role in Vegas life something, which would either break him or make him stronger. He had to decide if he was going to remain active in his own life or if he was going to remain passive and let others decide his fate.

While I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with everything in Double Blind, I enjoyed my reading experience. It was great seeing Randy lose some of his hard shell and become more of the person I glimpsed in Special Delivery. Ethan was certainly someone special and watching his growth was a treat. Cullinan also provided a lovely view of Mitch and Sam’s progression without taking the focus off of Ethan and Randy. I thought she tied up all of the lose threads from Special Delivery in a very nice package.

I give Double Blind a A-

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