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Realize

Men of Hidden Creek Season 4, Book 2)
Narrated by: Nick J. Russo
Length: 7 hrs and 48 mins
Categories: Romance, LGBT
4.5 out of 5 stars (44 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"What we have can’t be faked."

Max Jackson’s life is pretty close to perfect - except that he’s secretly in love with his straight best friend and roommate. He’s got his dream job and a family he secretly pretends are his own. But they aren’t...no matter how much he might wish it were true.

After the tragic death of his wife, Parker Wilson didn’t have time to wallow in grief - not when he had two young children to raise. He’s not looking for romance or a new partner. He doesn’t need one anyway...he has his life-long buddy Max to help him through every struggle.

When Parker loses his job and can’t afford his daughter’s pricey insulin, Max suggests fake marriage for insurance coverage. Since he’s already a second parent to Parker’s cute kids, it should be easy...until the marriage becomes a little too real.

Welcome to Hidden Creek, Texas, where the heart knows what it wants, and where true love lives happily ever after. Every Men of Hidden Creek novel can be enjoyed on its own, but keep an eye out for familiar faces around town! This audiobook contains dad jokes, a pair of kids that will steal your heart, and more heat than a Texas summer.

©2019 Susan Hawke (P)2019 Susan Hawke

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Spoilers included in review

(Spoiler alert – if you want no accidental surprises revealed skip this review!)

So, the set up for this is good. There is a very plausible reason for Parker and Max to get married (sadly – our medical system is truly fucked up). The two MCs are buddies so that makes sense and Max has had a crush on Parker a long time.

Things that made me crazy: Max’s family and their support which was pretty unfounded. While it was nice, I kind of wanted them to protect Max more and make sure he wasn’t setting himself up for a heartbreak with Parker.

Parker’s discovery of his “demisexuality”. Sure, I think he totally was a demisexual this whole time, but when he and Max start to explore their relationship he is WAY too confident. Not freaked out enough. Takes the lead where I think he would not naturally lead. He’s also not worried about the kids enough.

Once they started “hooking up” I was a little too jaded to appreciate the rest of the story.

From that point on it was really sickly sweet with a lot of strangely scorching sex and I just didn’t buy in.

So… on the one hand if that’s your jam and you can ignore the elephant in the room – you might enjoy this a lot.

I really love Nick Russo and in fact would not have even looked at this had it not been for him and he was as wonderful as always so… there’s that.

For the story I’d give it a weak 3 of 5 stars for the set up and first half. For the narration a 5 and an overall weak 4 – but it’s maybe only a 3.5.

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Great Continuation of Hidden Creek

After Parker's wife died in a house fire, he didn't really have time to deal with much of anything. He had two young children to care for, with the help of his best friend Max. Max has been in love with Parker forever. But when Parker's life was upturned with the house fire, Max didn't hesitate to step in to help and offer a place to live and to help raise Parker's young children. But after Parker looses his job, and can no longer afford his daughters medication, Max suggests a fake marriage for the insurance. But when the marriage and feelings start to feel a little real, can the two men figure out what they want?
This is the perfect friends to lovers, fake marriage book! I absolutely LOVED Max and Parker (and of course the kids!) It was nice to see Parker's sexuality discussed not as a "gay for you" but rather him being demisexual. It's rare for me to find books with characters that are demisexual and the descriptions of Parker's relationships were absolutely perfect.
The narration was absolutely amazing. Nick J Russo did a perfect job at bringing these two to life and allowing their unique personalities to show through. Each of the Hidden Creek audiobooks is even more amazing than the last!
I hope to see more of Max and Parker in the other books from this series!

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Love this Series

I received an ARC of this audio for my honest review. Parker becomes a single father when his wife dies in the house fire after she went back in to save the cat. Parker is angry because she was safe and didn't have to die. Max has had a secret crush on his straight friend since college. When Parker's daughter's health takes a turn for the worse he winds up losing his job. Max makes him an offer he can't refuse by deciding to marry him so they would all be covered under his insurance and the daughter can get the medication she needs. Parker starts to realize that Max is more than just his best friend. Can't wait for the next book.

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A sweet love story

This book hits a bunch of my favorite tropes: friends to lover, marriage of convenience, and gay for you. Well, maybe not quite gay for you but damn close. This book also begins with tragedy. Parker’s wife is dies tragically and he’s left with his two young children, Cindy and Teddy. He turns to his best friend Max for a safe place to land. A safe place to raise his kids. A safe place to wall himself away from pain. And Max is up for the challenge. He’s happy to take in Parker and the kids. He’s always been Uncle Max (as well as godfather), but now he takes on the role of co-parent and he couldn’t be happier.

See, Max is in love with Parker. Has been for as long as he can remember. He sat back and watched his best friend marry a wonderful woman. Watched them build a life together while raising two young children. Yearned from afar and went about his life, all the while knowing Parker was just out of reach – as a romantic partner, anyway.

Things change about two years after Parker’s wife’s death. His daughter Cindy has been diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes and Parker is doing okay until he loses his job. This is where I, as a Canadian, get downright pissed. Parker loses his health insurance and has to go on a different plan that costs a fortune and doesn’t even cover the medicine Cindy needs. We’re not perfect up here with Universal Healthcare, but at least the loss of a job isn’t a potential death sentence. I’ve heard the stories – people rationing their insulin because they can’t afford it. People setting up Go Fund Me pages so they can get basic lifesaving drugs. People dying tragically when all else fails. Makes my heart hurt and hits a nerve with me.

But I digress.

Parker has an option. Max offers to marry him. Cindy will immediately be covered. All problems solved, right? Max knows this means giving up the few hookups he’s managed over the years and taking on celibacy but he’ll do it. For Parker and the kids? He’ll do anything.

After the wedding, Max’s well-meaning family set him up with several ‘dates’ with Parker and soon their bond deepens. Eventually Parker sees Max differently. Eventually their relationship shifts. There are a few sweet moments along the way, to be sure. As Max settles into the more permanent role as co-parent, he helps each child prepare for fun events at the local fair. There were some precious scenes, to be sure.

I must say I’d love to meet Greta and Bolt. Just sayin’.

I enjoyed this book tremendously. It was sweet. I’ve said that, right? Just a nice story with very little drama after the first scene. I got all kind of good feelings and the ‘dark’ moment wasn’t that dark and wasn’t even internal to the couple.

Nick J. Russo narrated the book and I was so pleased. He’s fun to listen to and always does a good job. He helped me love this book. And I did, love it that is. So, needless to say, I can highly recommend the book.

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Sweet

Really enjoyed this one from Susan Hawke and narrated by the amazing Nick J Russo! I adore GFY stories and this one was very well done! Not a lot of angst and fun main characters, it has been one of my favorites in this ongoing series! Nick did a lovely job with narration, as usual!

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Sweet friends-to-lovers romance

I'm still fairly new to the Men of Hidden Creek series, having only listened to the first audiobook in this series's latest season, but that certainly didn't take away from my overall listening enjoyment of Realize, the second audiobook for season four. Written by Susan Hawke and narrated by Nick J. Russo, this was a sweet story about two best friends--one who loses his wife and the mother of his children and the other who steps in and becomes the greatest source of support for his best friend and his two godchildren. But this is also more than just a friends-to-lovers story. This is also a story about family and friendship and overcoming the odds for as long as someone has your back.

After losing both their house and his wife to a horrible fire, Parker Wilson and his two children, Cindy and Teddy, were taken in by Max Jackson, Parker's best friend. Three years later and the two twenty-year-olds have created a true home for the now eight-year-old Cindy and six-year-old Teddy. When Parker loses his job--and along with it his health insurance--he isn't sure how he can afford to pay for Cindy's expensive diabetes medication. The one possible solution? That Parker and Max get married so that Parker and the kids can get on Max's health plan. It shouldn't be too difficult to be fake husbands, right? But what if one--or both--of them starts wishing that what they shared was real?

Susan Hawke, as usual, never ceases to bring me in with her beautifully written love stories, and she's done it again with this Men of Hidden Creek contribution of hers. Aside from the heaviness in the beginning of the book, this is a fairly lighthearted read with Max and Parker working like a well-oiled machine when it comes to taking care of Cindy and Teddy. There's Parker trying to figure out his sexuality, but there isn't any unnecessary drama attached to it, thank goodness! With Nick J. Russo doing yet another stellar job as narrator, the story is truly brought to life and made for one of my favorite listening experiences this year. Realize is an audiobook not to be missed. Five stars! ♥

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Cute story!

This book is full of love and laughter, with some tears thrown in occasionally. I liked the slow burn love story of best friends Max and Parker, who became so much more once they entered a marriage of convenience. The interaction between the men was sweet and eventually sexy, and their relationships with Parker's kids Teddy and Cindy were funny and heartwarming. I also appreciated the attention given to explaining and celebrating demisexuality.
The narrator's terrific performance made a good story even better. I really enjoyed this audiobook.

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  • AG
  • 08-30-19

Nice Story

This was a nice story. I loved how Max supported Parker and his kids since the night of his wife’s death with no reason other than Parker is his best friend and he loves them. It’s a little heart breaking that Parker is still living there years later and never really moved past that night.

I liked these guys but didn’t feel very invested in the story, I am not good with a lot of the multiple author series but wanted to give this a try. I felt things were really hunky dory for most of the book, even Parker realizing his feelings for Max wasn’t a big deal. Any complication was quickly resolved but seriously how long was this fair, it felt like it went on for weeks! I felt like I was losing track of time along with the story trying to figure out how much time was passing.

As usual, Nick Russo did a very nice job of narrating I just think it was the story that didn’t connect with me.

I received a copy of this book and am giving an honest review.

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Love this!

This is such an amazing friends to lovers and so many other tropes that I just absolutely love. Max and Parker are so perfect for each other. Then Nick J Russo does another amazing job with this story. I just love how he brings the emotions and just everything about the characters to life. I can't get over how amazing this is to listen too.

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Lovely feel good story with awesome narration

Parker and Max have been best friends since they were about 10. They are super close, so when Parker's wife dies in a fire, Max jumps right in the support and help Parker and his 2 adorable kids. The book started super sad, but it really set us up to see how strong the relationship was between Max and Parker as best friends. Over the next 3-4 years, they live together as friends. A medical situation requiring medications not covered by his insurance causes Max and Parker to decide to get married for the insurance. They remain friends while married for a while until Parker starts to all of a sudden see Max in a different light. Their transition from married besties to partners in every way was very slow, but once it happened, there was no hesitation or doubt on the part of either guy. I loved their relationship with each other and with their kids. It was clear from page one how much they both adored each other and the kids, and they were the perfect family. Despite the sadness at the beginning, it was a genuinely feel-good book. I really loved it. I also listened to this on audiobook, and it was so well done. I loved the character's voices.

I am voluntarily reviewing an ARC provided by LesCourt Author Services

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  • alias11
  • 09-01-19

Wonderful story!

I loved this wonderful new book in the Hidden Creek series. It's a beautiful friends to lovers romance with just the right amounts of pain, loss, grief, friendship, support, and lots of love. There is a healthy dose of funny throughout, as well, as you would expect from Ms. Hawke. Lovely, sweet characters, including two adorable kids to fall in love with, help to make this a must read.

Nick Russo's narration is sooo good. The relationship comes so slow and natural that it just feels right, and the narrator does a fantastic job of expressing the characters' emotions. Don't miss it!

I received a copy of this audiobook for free and am voluntarily leaving this honest review.

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  • Fortuna
  • 09-01-19

I’m loving this series!

So far, so great with this multi author series. I loved this story from Susan Hawke, it’s a troupe I love - friends to lovers with a healthy dose of GFY / OFY.

It’s a sad beginning but don’t let that put you off. It’s a lovely, sweet tale that’ll warm your heart.

I really like Nick j Russo as a narrator, it’s easy to differentiate his characters and there’s no one too whiney!

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  • Mari Cardenas
  • 08-31-19

One of my new favorites!

I'm not sure if it was the kind of GFY/Demi vibe, the really well-done friends to lovers and the awesome chemistry between Max and Parker, the slow, realistic way in which Parker finally fell for Max or Parker 's adorable kids and Max's awesome family, or maybe it was a combination of it all coupled with Nick J. Russo's fabulous narration, but this book hit me right on the feels.

I cried, I laughed, I sighed, I cried some more (actually I teared up quite a bit, despite this book being relatively low-angst, so keep those Kleenex close), and I simply couldn't put this one down. It's just amazing and nothing I could say could make it justice, so just grab it and prepare to fall in love with this fantastic story!

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  • choccygrl
  • 08-31-19

Very sweet

This story starts with a tragedy but becomes a very sweet and gentle friends to lovers story. It's about realising who's the most important person in your life, and discovering things about yourself and love.
Narrator gave another excellent performance.

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  • Allison's Book Corner
  • 08-31-19

Loved it

I really enjoyed this book.
This is a great series, and this book is no exception.
I love the characters, and I loved listening their story.
As always, Susan has written a must listen audiobook.

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  • Sabbath
  • 08-31-19

Lovely

I found this book to an absolute gem. Everything about this book is a fantastic evolution On multiple levels. I found Parker and Max to be engaging main characters and I really enjoyed their dynamic. Truly a book not to be missed! Russo’s narration is a wonderful mix of engaging and humor that brings these characters to life.

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  • Kirsty Mc
  • 08-29-19

Friends to partners after a tragedy

Max and Parker have been friends for years. Together through thick and thin, the good times and the bad. Max is there for Parker at the hardest time in Parker’s life - when he lost his wife, and in the years after...helping Parker to bring up Cindy and Teddy. And Max has loved Parker for years. Poor Parker has been through too much - from his wife’s death and onwards, and is oblivious to Max’s more than great friendship feelings. And Max would never do anything to jeopardise that friendship. But when the need for a fake marriage occurs - it might just be the best thing in both of their lives, and in the lives of Cindy and Teddy.

I loved how oblivious Parker was to everything - and what the explanation for this is. I love Max and how he stuck to the friendship he had had with Parker for years, and how he was there for Parker and the kids. Teddy and Cindy were adorable and there were some really sweet moments with the whole family. Hidden Creek is always such a good place to be!

I don’t think I’ve listened to much (if anything) from Nick Russo. His narrating was good and he captured the characters well. I enjoyed it and would certainly listen to more by him.

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  • Dee Slate
  • 08-29-19

The feeling when friendship develops into love!

A touching story :)
Parker tragically loses his wife and is left raising their 2 children. He has lost his home and has to move in with his close friend, Max. Max has been in love with Parker for a while, so he is only too happy to have them live with him; his only wish is that they become a real family. Fast forward a few years - Parker loses his job and needs to be able to provide medical care for his daughter, so he and Max marry. Their bond grows from friendship to dawning attraction (on Parker's side), to mutual affection and more.
The narration is expertly handled by Nick Russo - he portrays both the adult and kid voices very well. He brings the characters to life with infusing them with the pain of losing a wife, mum, the joys of being a family with your best friend and the passion of falling in love with said BF.
A really lovely story and great listen :)

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  • Gwen
  • 08-28-19

Slow burn kinda love

Best friends for a lifetime. Max and Parker have been there for each other through thick and thin. Max is always the savior, the protector. When Parker loses his wife and home in one instant, Max is there for him. Close proximity, best friends to lovers and all kinds of sweetness in between. Loved it. Couldn’t wait to get to the happy ending which was more than I ever expected. This book made me sigh and laugh and have a few cries, my favorite kind of rollercoaster.

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  • Trio
  • 08-28-19

A Tragic Start Ends in a Lovely Romance

This one starts out incredibly sad, but have faith in Susan Hawke to produce a very happy ending in Realize, the second episode of Season 4, Men of Hidden Creek.

Lifelong friends, Max has been carrying a torch for his bestie Parker for as long as he can remember. Always there for Max, Parker truly steps up after tragedy strikes. His understanding and endless support brings the men closer, and a health scare solidifies their connection.

As the men become comfortable with their new level of intimacy, Parker starts to recognize his feelings are changing. Subtle differences, like noticing Max’s incredible physique and a growing appreciation for his affection for his children, have Parker wondering if he might have deeper feelings for his friend.

It’s wonderful how patient Max is, and his willingness to take it slow with Parker is very romantic. Coming to realize he is demisexual is a wake-up call for Paker which really rocks his world. Moving on from his tragedy is difficult on many levels, and Max’s support is invaluable.

Nick J. Russo brings this one to life! There’s a wide range of characters - between the children, Max’s sister DJ, and the in-laws Mr. Russo really shows his range. He brings out the playfulness and lighthearted exchanges and treats the premise with the reverence it deserves. Seriously, that opening scene is a heartbreaker. I really enjoyed his performance in Realize.

an audiobook copy of Realize (Men of Hidden Creek - Season 4, #2) was provided for the purpose of my review