This book sucker punched me from the very beginning. Ethan's struggle, his admission in front of the Bellagio fountain, how he insinuated himself behind Randy's protective walls... all of it was expertly handled. I had moments where I couldn't put it down, I had to see what was next, and even the complex descriptions concerning money flow through a casino were fascinating.
A desperate man praying for a sign at a roulette wheel in Vegas is not a new story, but Cullinan took it and turned it on its ear. The wheel wasn't the sign he needed. Randy was. Randy, who showed up at a crucial time and took Ethan in hand, proved to be Ethan's good luck charm despite getting him mixed up with a dangerous man.
The vacillating emotions that Randy and Ethan go through of course lead to misunderstandings and poor communication, but it's true to how people behave. It was a pleasure to watch Ethan come into his own from beginning to end, and to watch a stoic and badass Randy melt in the process.
I completely adored Sam (I have a thing for the bouncy, excitable, fragile types) and even having not read the first book of this series (hadn't realized it was a series until after I started reading) I was able to understand the relationship Mitch and Sam had with Randy. What made me like Ethan more was that he didn't plunk himself down in Randy's life and start making demands, starting with changing his dynamic in Mitch and Sam's lives. He observed, and folded what he knew to be true of them into his acceptance of the man Randy was. It was fantastic.
The poker descriptions were good enough to take someone who's never sat down at a table and help them understand what was happening in the games, with one exception: when stating what cards were shown, I didn't understand what the added letters were behind the card designation, and I've played a good deal of Texas Hold 'Em. Example: 2q 10q 7e 9r 8w. I figured the letters had to do with the suits, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what, and I was too lazy to google. However, while it slowed my reading down, it didn't preclude me from understanding the outcomes. Just something I noticed. Cullinan still managed to take what could have been dry description of a poker game and make it interesting, about the people who played more than the cards themselves, their tells, their mistakes, and what it said about them as people. Another book by her that I am glad to have purchased.