4.5, rounded up.
Started this book with some apprehension, follow ups aren't always as good. You're missing that whole tingle-your-toes first-time-for-everything tension, so often what you get is fabricated misunderstandings or MCs that suddenly get lobotomized and become TSTL. Or at least too stupid to be in a relationship.
The latter bit may seem like it is the case for Joe here, but it is so absolutely in character, that he even had me convinced he was doing the right thing for a long time. The way everything blows up in his face is riveting, the way he tries to deal with it is painful to watch without getting all angsty (tsk, missed opportunity there, James). Even the way the mystery plays out at the end had me drop my jaw for a second. Not something that happens a lot when reading m/m with mystery elements.
In short, Joe is one of my favorite MCs ever in this genre, and I usually don't like the ones with the accents. Very alpha, but so not a bad boy. I love his voice. I love the way he sees the world. (And Kabe).
This story isn't done. We need to see the fight for Joe's job, we need to see Joe's parents come back, we need to take on the State of Utah! (something Joe would never volunteer for). We need to see more of Joe's marble crumble. I hope James is busy writing these stories, else I may have to start up the cyberstalking.