If you love gay romances with a lot of steam set in the world of motorsport this is the perfect book for you! This book also has a little extra mystery subplot, and sweet family relations that will warm your heart.
Driven To Distraction is the first book in the new Gamble Racing series by Renée Dahlia. It’s a mm romance series set in the famous open-wheel single-seater car racing world (but due to copyright issues it goes under the name Series One aka S1), where each book will focus on different characters and their romances. This first book follows racing driver Ondrej D’Grieg, who was kicked out of his former team when it was revealed that he was gay, and who has decided to lay low in his new team and not let anything get in the way of his goal to be a champion just like his deceased mother. That is, until his father hires the historian Hudson Lockley to solve a mystery involving a missing rare car.
The attraction between Ondrej and Hudson is immediate and fierce, but they both have strong reasons to ignore it; Ondrej out of fear for losing sponsors and fans if he comes out, and for Hudson it’s a no-no to fall for his employer’s son. But some things are just inevitable and one night turns into several, and perhaps even more…
I really rooted for both Ondrej and Hudson right from the start, as well as for several of the other characters. There were a lot of amazing relationships in this book. The father-son relationship between Ondrej and his father was such a sweet and relatable one, with Ondrej’s dad both supporting his son’s career choice and dreading the same fate that killed his racing wife, as well as both wanting Ondrej to find love and happiness, and fearing the consequences of it. I also really loved the relationship between Hudson and his sister, who kept pushing, teasing and supporting him with a truly heartwarming big sister love.
But unfortunately, even though I rooted for both Ondrej and Hudson as characters, I never felt fully invested in their relationship. Mainly because of the dominant and submissive elements that were bordering to toxic, in my opinion. (And in Hudson’s sister’s opinion too, since she kept pointing out how Ondrej treated Hudson like a pet, only calling when he needed him and ignoring him the rest of the time.) Especially the sex scenes had too much of that dominant-submissive aspect for me. Generally, I had some issues with how much sex there was in this book, and how explicit it was. If you enjoy spicy romances, you’re in for a treat, but for me personally I felt that all the sex diminished the story itself. For a large part in the middle of the book, it felt like the story was only about Ondrej requesting Hudson to come over, and Hudson immediately obeying, the two of them saying a few words and then just hooking up and hooking up and… To be honest I skimmed some of the parts that were just a little too long and too detailed. I wish that we could have gotten some more dialogues, more of Ondrej showing his vulnerability and more of Hudson’s work with the mysteriously missing car instead. This subplot was so intriguing that it very well could have played a larger role in the story; now it was more used as a reason for Ondrej and Hudson to meet. I really enjoyed how it was solved, but there could have been so much more build-up for that, and Hudson’s investigations could also have been used as a way to balance the relationship between him and Ondrej. If Hudson’s investigations and his professional work had been given focus and value, I think it would have made Hudson feel more as an equal to Ondrej than his toy.
But with those objections set aside, I nevertheless enjoyed this book a lot! I cared a lot for Ondrej and Hudson as characters, and my heart ached for them having to endure so much hardships in their lives, but still having such big hearts. Being a big F1 fan, I was also truly impressed with all the research Renée Dahlia must have done to get all details correct and make the setting so authentic. But on the other hand, even though the story took place in the racing world, you don’t need to be interested in racing or cars to appreciate this book. The racing world was more of a backdrop to the romance, the issues about being able to be who you are and the scary but wonderful thing called love.
I also enjoyed the subplot with the car mystery (even though I’d love more of it). This part of the story was actually based on true story about the Bugatti that was the win in the 1937 Le Mans race and that was later gifted to the winner’s friend, but that disappeared during WWII. A very fascinating story!
All in all, if you love some steam, this is the perfect book for you, but even if you don’t it’s a great story with wonderful characters, fun sibling banter and an intriguing mystery subplot.
Thank you so much to the author Renée Dahlia for the free review copy. All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
3.5 stars rounding up to 4.
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