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REVIEW - On Solid Ground

On Solid Ground - Melissa  Collins

See my joint review with the lovely Mark at Sinfully Addicted To All Male Romance .


4.5 Stars!

Mark: Oh my goodness, now did I love this book or what? Loved the MCs Dax and Beck. Two men dealing with traumatic pasts and trying to overcome their experiences. Loved the dynamics between them. The typical but yet realistic communication problems when two guys unable to express their emotions openly get their wires crossed. Loved the story line. A plot that was intricate as well as well thought out and keeps the reader’s interest all the way. Loved the introduction of kids. Little Victoria, Beck’s five year old niece, was absolutely adorable and as I’m a sucker for kids I was a goner too. Loved the whole idea of a new family being formed. Not only from blood relations but one made of love and understanding. What were your initial reactions Lisa?

Lisa: Well, to be honest, I had no idea what to expect when I decided to give this book a go. After reading the synopsis I knew that On Solid Ground would be a book right up my alley. I am a sucker for damaged heroes striving to move forward and shed the pasts that haunt them. However, with this being said, when reading an unfamiliar author you are never quite sure whether you will end up pleasantly surprised or if you will be dragged into the land of the abysmally awful. What a wonderfully touching and beautiful book this turned out to be! I could not help falling in love with both Jacob “Dax” Daxton and Beckett Ridge (a.k.a. Beck). These two men, both equally damaged and broken for different reasons, both with very complex issues to sort through, suddenly find themselves thrown off course all because they discover one another. It may have not been the greatest timing for either one of them, but walking away was also not an option they wanted to contemplate.

Mark: I just felt so much for Dax and Beck. Dax is home from the military and suffering from PTSD and after what he had just experienced than no wonder. He is back home however his family doesn’t know that he is gay and he has never had the courage or the necessity to come out to them. That’s one of the reasons why he feels so caged and restricted at home and joined the military in the first place. Well, this also had parallels with my own personal story too! I was like totally, F*** ME and HOLY SHIT! It took me a long time to come out to my parents through fear of what they would think and I had already been in the Royal Air Force by a number of years by then. I told my younger brother first and then my parents, but like Dax in the end it happened but more by accident than it was ever planned, but I'm so grateful for it. If it didn’t happen I would have been shutting them out of a part of my life completely for fear of rejection which wouldn’t have been fair and in turn they came to love my husband of now 14 years as much as any son-in-law. Loving mums and dads will always come through as the love of their child and their happiness should never leave and always be the priority. This was my case and it was also the case for Dax when the time came. I was willing him on all the way to take that leap of faith that it takes to come out. He needed to find himself first however before going through all that. When he returns home first, for Dax it meant it wasn’t long before he moved out to live with his best friend Chloe. I could so relate to this side of the story, it was also realistically dealt with by Melissa with a lot of emotion, family love and tolerance taking the precedence even as tough as this may be at times. Also Dax’s backstory while he was in the military, his relationship with his comrade Delaney and the experience that led to his PTSD felt very real and to be honest a perfectly foreseeable scenario.

“I’ve spent the last four years of my life in the Army, fighting this war. It’s defined me as a man, and now, without it, I’m nothing.” ~Dax

Lisa: That is so amazing that you could relate to this story on such a personal level, Mark. I love it when that happens to me. Dax for me was someone who truly broke my heart at times. Here is a man back from serving his country and he is lost and trying so hard to deal with the after effects of his time in the Army as well as attempting to cope with PTSD. Like you indicated, Dax had felt like he could not be his true self at home and this is one of the reasons he joined the Army. He essentially escaped to find himself and now he feels like he is right back to square one, in the place he attempted to escape in the first place. Dax is simply trying to find himself once again, discover what life means for him without the Army being at the forefront. He wants to be more than a soldier. However, suffering from PTSD and having some serious anxiety attacks is hindering his progress. Beck comes into his life when it was chaotic and muddled. But, sometimes we find beauty in our messy circumstances.

Mark: Exactly Lisa, you would think that Dax would have enough on his plate coping with his trauma and getting his issues straight. But I guess life is always good a throwing curve balls when we least expect them and Dax definitely didn’t see this one coming. However, when Dax receives the letter from Delaney his former lover in the Army that was the point in the book where I choked up. What a beautiful moment! However, I just felt that I needed more of Dax’s and Delaney’s backstory, their relationship and how things developed just to have pushed me over the edge emotionally that little bit more which for me personally is why it didn’t quite hit the five star mark at that moment, but it was almost there. I felt if there was more on Dax’s backstory I could have connected a lot more with this beautiful moment and the letter from Delaney.

Lisa: I definitely agree, Mark. The letter from Delaney was one of the more heart-warming and emotionally touching moments in the book for me as well. I also agree that I would have liked more of a backstory when it came to Dax and Delaney. It seemed like they shared a very profound connection. I am not sure I can pinpoint why this book was not quite a five star read for me. I truly enjoyed it and found it to be a very moving tale of love. When it comes to my five star reads, they are usually based on how I feel when I finish the book. While I loved this book very much, I could not quite put it in my five star category.

Mark: As for Beck, well I never thought I would find a tattoo artist sexy, but this one I did and that is coming from someone who has never really appreciated I guess the art that goes into tattoos and possibly too chicken to get one - lol! However, what I loved with this character was the contrast. The tattoos gave him a kind of no nonsense, tough man exterior, but inside he was loving and caring and seemed to be a man with a big heart that could take the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. He and his sister who is in drug rehab at the time he meets Dax, never had what anyone could call a loving childhood. In actual fact considering what Beck and his sister experienced at the hand of their mother I’m surprised that Becks turned out to be the loving and caring adult that he is. Unfortunately, it did have the effect that his sister ended up going off the rails, but his love for his younger sister after they had stuck through the worst imaginable experiences as children shone through and I found this so admirable.

“Dax is the antithesis of everything I appear to be, but he’s the completion of everything I want to be.” ~Beck

Lisa: Ah, Beck. Sigh! I loved loved loved him. I DO appreciate the fine art of tattoos - particularly when they are on sexy males. LOL! I also loved how different Dax and Beck appeared to be. Dax was this honourable soldier who had served his country and Beck is this rough and gritty tattoo artist with a harsh upbringing. Despite Beck’s difficult childhood and the reality he faces with his sister, he truly is a man with a great heart. He has stood by his sister and loves her through thick and thin. Like Dax, he has a lot on his plate and his life is extremely stressful. The last thing he needs is a complication like falling for a sexy ex-soldier. But how can Beck walk away from a man whose broken spirit calls out to his own?

Mark: When these two guys meet for the first time in Beck’s tattoo shop then the usual game of attraction starts. Beck doesn’t reckon that Dax the big, beefy soldier boy could be gay and therefore mistakes Chloe for his girlfriend. Well, all the usual second guessing starts as Dax is a customer and Beck has to remain professional. But all the innuendos are there too. As always it it takes Chloe and Beck’s upbeat colleague and best friend Lexie to get the truth out of Chloe. I just loved these girls. Yes, don’t ask me why but it is quite normal that a lot of gay men have a female BFF! And here it just felt so right and realistic at least based on my experiences with my BFF. Loved the whole dynamics going on between the four of them.
Well, this is a story that gets on track eventually relationship wise, but more one of two steps forward and one back. Keeps things interesting and made for some really heart wrenching break-ups and miscommunication before they finally get their act together. At times I could have slapped the pair of them and banged their heads together for being so mule headed. Geez, sometimes they drove me to distraction, but all within reason when you consider the past experiences these guys have had.

Lisa: I loved how Beck and Dax fell into one another - the insecurities, the awkward beginning, the desire, the passion. It was all there and so realistically done. Let’s face it, how many of us start lasting relationships effortlessly and flawlessly? Anything real and worth it is always going to be messy, mistakes will be made and the awkwardness is simply part of it all. Beck is at a time in his life where his responsibilities are likely more than he can handle and starting a relationship with someone should be far off his radar. But the connection he feels with Dax is not one he can ignore. Both Dax and Beck are attempting to move on from their pasts and heal. They both want to focus on their respective futures. Both men find solace in each other. The question becomes whether that is enough? Amidst their chaotic and hectic lives, can they hang on to one another without causing the other to fall?

Mark: Dax eventually comes out to his family, not the way he had planned, well he never planned it at all really, but the truth will out. I found again this was dealt with realistically and with great sensitivity and had me choking up, especially the conversations with his mother towards the end. This is what was needed for Dax to go get his man. The love and support of a family is so important. I have no idea who Melissa talked too, where she got her info from about the experiences a lot of gay men go through when coming out to family and friends, but it couldn’t have been handled better. In a perfect and accepting world I guess the term “coming out” should really be a redundant one as no one should be made to feel that their sexuality is some dirty little secret. But I guess we have some way to go on that one.

Lisa: I am obviously not coming at this story as a gay man, but I do think that this author handled Dax’s “coming out” to his family beautifully. I can only imagine how hard that must be and how much courage it takes to open up to your family, particularly your parents. I agree with you, Mark. The fact that individuals actually have a hard time expressing who they truly are to their families is sad and should not happen in the first place. I am glad Melissa Collins gave Dax what he needed, the love and acceptance of his family. Those precious moments he had with his mother had me a little teary. As a mother myself of two young children, moments between mothers and their children (no matter how old they are) always pull at my heartstrings.

Mark: I also loved how Beck wanted to care for his niece and give her a childhood he never had. This is the part of the reason he was reluctant to commit to Dax entirely as he didn’t want Victoria taking to Dax only for him to disappear again. The child had been through enough with her mother, Beck’s sister. He gets legal custody and all’s well that ends well, Victoria totally accepts and loves Dax and Beck’s gets over his fears that Dax will leave. It was so lovely to feel the love that these two men had for this little girl and I’m sure she would have a happy and solid childhood with these two guys, if not a little spoilt I reckon - lol! Goes to show once again that family is love! No matter whether you have a mum and dad, two dads or two mums. Lisa what’s your take on this as a mum?

Lisa: I adored Victoria. She definitely took the story up a notch for me. Bring a small child into the mix and you have me. LOL! I absolutely adored how Beck fought for his niece and was determined to give her all that she needed. She came first for him. I also loved how quickly Dax succumbed to Victoria’s charms. He didn’t stand a chance against that sweet girl. I am in complete accordance with you, Mark. Love is love. No matter what. Both Beck and Dax loved little Victoria unconditionally. In the end that is all that really matters. As a mother I take care of my kids and provide them with their needs and wants. However, above all else, the most important thing I can provide for them is my unconditional love and acceptance. That is what family should be.


Mark: So all in all I loved this book from beginning to end, an emotional journey with these two for sure. I loved the way that each chapter alternates between Dax’s standpoint and Beck’s standpoint. I know this may not sit well with some readers, but for me it was perfect and gives a balanced view letting you understand more the emotions, thoughts and deliberations of each character. This will definitely not be the last M/M read for me from Melissa Collins and I’ll certainly be at the front of the queue to grab the next one that comes out.

Lisa: I also loved On Solid Ground. It is a beautiful tale about embracing love even when it comes at you at the most inopportune time in your life. When I finished the book after reading the epilogue I had a huge smile on my face. That is the sign of a wonderful romance, a book that leaves me happily sighing. This is my first book by Melissa Collins and it most certainly will not be my last.

"We don't become united; it's as if we've always been united somehow and these movements simply remind us that our other half was always out there."


****An advance reading copy of On Solid Ground by Melissa Collins was generously provided to me in exchange for an honest review.