Cloud Nine
Grade : B+

Fearne Hill continues her Nailed It! series with Cloud Nine, in which the protagonists are the two younger brothers of Frankie and Lysander from the previous book, Cloud Ten. I admit that I find books/series where sets of siblings fall for each other a bit… contrived, but I enjoy Ms. Hill’s work and know I can rely on her for an entertaining read loaded with depth, humour and well-developed characters, so I waved that minor niggle aside and dove in.

Tristan Carter is the youngest of the Carter triplets. He’s Deaf (he uses cochlear implants and hearing aids) and has cerebral palsy (CP - a group of disorders which affect muscle development and motor function), but he’s worked hard not to let those things define him and to be as independent as possible. He still lives with Frankie – although now it’s in Lysander’s swanky penhouse apartment where Tristan has his own suite – and works in the same record shop, where he’s gained quite the bunch of fans due to his musical knowledge and his dry sense of humour. His family and friends adore him and are fiercely protective of him, although they all know not to treat him with kid gloves – he can be every bit as prickly and caustic as his brother when he wants to be.

Dominic St. Cloud is ten years younger than Lysander and is, when we meet him, a total dick. He’s a spoiled, entitled rich-kid-frat-boy who has been shipped off to England to do an internship at the family construction company after doing some seriously dumb shit that had the potential to cause a massive scandal at home in the US. All he really wants is for his dad’s lawyers to make it all go away so he can go home and back to college to finish his degree and return to his partying lifestyle, but in the meantime, he might as well intern at Cloud Ten as anywhere; it might not be his first choice, but at least it’s cut out the need for applications and schmoozing and interviews… and he gets to live in a nice apartment rather than being stuck in a hotel room, so – win.

Tristan likes using the hot tub in the sports complex in the basement of the apartment building – the heat eases his tight muscles and relieves his pain – but he tends to go there late at night because he doesn’t want Frankie fussing over him. It’s awkward, but he can manage to get himself in and out, and he likes having the time to himself. On this particular evening however, he’s not alone; part way through his soak, a guy he doesn’t know comes in and dives – completely naked – in to the pool. Tristan can’t get out of the tub quickly so instead he dips down as low as he can go, not wanting whoever is in the pool to think he’s being perved on by some creep. But Tristan is making moves to get out when suddenly the guy is in his face yelling at him. Tristan can’t hear – he’s taken out his hearing aids to save them getting wet – and he tries telling the man he’s deaf, but he continues to yell, then sweeps Tristan’s clothes onto the wet floor before stalking out.

No prizes for working out who the arsehole is. But neither Tristan nor Dominic find out until the next evening when Dominic arrives for dinner at Lysander and Frankie’s apartment and tells them about the weird loser skulking in the hot tub who’d said he couldn’t hear. Needless to say, his welcome quickly evaporates and Lysander asks him to leave.

So yes, Tristan and Dominic don’t get off to the best of starts. Dominic really is awful to Tristan and says some horrible things to and about him, and it’s hard to see how the author is going to redeem him and turn him into a suitable love interest. But she does it incredibly well, showing Dominic growing as a person, facing up to his shortcomings, taking responsibility for his actions and showing he can think and act like an adult.

Lysander comes up with the idea of Dominic taking over as Tristan’s driver for the couple of weeks his regular one is away – and while Tristan at first preserves a degree of frostiness and distance – completely understandably – he soon begins to see that Dom isn’t a bad person; he’s just someone to whom everything has always come easily, who has got away with selfish, immature behaviour for years, and never had to face up to his own mistakes. Dominic’s initial behaviour towards Tristan is just another instance of that, but this time, he can’t get away from the consequences, and that forces him to confront his behaviour – towards Tristan and towards others – and to realise how awful he’s been. And the thing is, he’s genuinely contrite; he decides he needs to do better, he sets about doing it, and we get to see it all on the page as he takes on board the disappointment he’s been to his family and friends, his self-disgust at his behaviour - not only to Tristan, but to others, too - and how he works hard to turn things around and earn forgiveness.

Once again, the construction firm has a role to play in the story, and here, I liked that Dom ends up working on a building site and making friends with some of the guys on the crew. He realises how cushy those at the top have it, and decides that, far from being a kind of stepping stone to something else, he really wants to take his seat on the board of Cloud Ten and has plans to make things better for their employees on the ground.

Dominic’s character growth is incredible and superbly written, but Tristan is the beating heart of Cloud Nine. His PoV is sharper, and his condition is written about sensitively and knowledgeably (the author is a medical professional) – and the mobility issues he lives with are not at all sugar-coated. It’s clear that he faces difficulties every day that the able bodied people around him don’t have to even think about, but he’s not a martyr to his CP – it’s just part of who he is – and I loved watching his confidence grow as he realises that Dominic finds him attractive regardless of his physical imperfections. Dominic is a bit unsure around him at first – not wanting to do things for him without being asked, but not liking to watch him struggle, and being afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing - but he always sees beyond Tristan’s condition and values him for who he is. Their eventual romantic (and sexual) relationship needs a few awkward but necessary conversations to start with, but this aspect of the story is well done, with a realistic mix of generosity, anxiety and patience on both sides. But in the background of their new-found happiness is the shadow of Dominic’s return to the US – which was always on the cards, so they determine to keep things light and casual and have both held back from saying things they might regret. That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt like hell when Dominic leaves.

I did wonder if maybe Tristan forgives Dominic too quickly, but then I liked the contrast between his willingness to build bridges and the lingering outrage of his siblings and family on his behalf - and honestly, once the two of them start to feel comfortable around each other and the sparks start flying between them, they’re so cute together that I decided it didn’t bother me. In fact, I was far more bothered by the fact that Lysander thought it was a good idea to send Dominic, who’s never driven on the left and had no idea of London’s geography, out into London traffic to drive Tristan around! If I had to pick one thing about this book that stretched my credulity too far, it would be that!

Cloud Nine is another terrific read from this talented author, a lovely slow-burn romance with a wonderful redemption arc featuring two complex, three-dimensional leads and a nicely-rounded secondary cast. I’m really looking forward to the next book in the series.

Reviewed by Caz Owens
Grade : B+

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : May 1, 2023

Publication Date: 04/2023

Recent Comments …

Caz Owens

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two gorgeous young women who are without doubt, my finest achievement :)I’ve gravitated away from my first love – historical romance – over the last few years and now read mostly m/m romances in a variety of sub-genres. I’ve found many fantastic new authors to enjoy courtesy of audiobooks - I probably listen to as many books as I read these days – mostly through glomming favourite narrators and following them into different genres.And when I find books I LOVE, I want to shout about them from the (metaphorical) rooftops to help other readers and listeners to discover them, too.
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