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.
Get your own copy:
All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abby Kaitz Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed Aislinn Brophy AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alex Beltran Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Alice Winn Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton Amanda Ferreira Amanda Woody A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Ashlyn Kane Audrey Coulthurst Ban Gilmartin Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cait Nary Cale Dietrich Cara Dee Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare Cat Sebastian C.F. White C.G. Drews Charlie Adhara Charli Meadows Chasten Buttigieg Chris Bedell Christina Lauren Christina Lee Ciara Smyth Claerie Kavanaugh Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Courtney Kae Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Dallas Smith Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton D.N. Bryn Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elisa A. Bonnin Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E.L. Massey E. Lockhart Emery Lee Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens F.T. Lukens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hannah Grace Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving H.S. Valley Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacob Gelman Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson James L. Sutter Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jen Bailey Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray Jesse H. Reign Joelle Lynne John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé Kathy Anderson K.A. Tucker KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Lauren Shippen Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Lex Croucher Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Magdalena Di Sotru Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr M.A. Wardell Melanie Munton Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot Morgan James M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nathaniel Shea Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Nyla K. Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rachel Reid Racquel Marie Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Renée Dahlia Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Saxon James Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophia Soames Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tal Bauer Tamara Girardi Taylor Jenkins Reid Teagan Hunter Terry J. Benton-Walker Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Tracy Deonn Tucker Shaw Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez