Double Blind is the sequel to Heidi Cullinan's much adored Special Delivery. It took me three months to pick up Double Blind after finishing Special Delivery. The delay was in part because I thought Special Delivery was good, but it didn't knock my socks off; and in part because the cover is horrible, and the sypnopsis is relatively vague. Cullinan would do herself a huge favor fixing both of those; neither comes close to doing the book justice.
Special Delivery and Double Blind contain some of the same characters, but it is easily possible to follow Double Blind without having read Special Delivery, and in fact, due to the notable differences between the two, I would recommend considering them as two separate books, rather than as a series. Those readers that are looking for a sequel similar in tone, style, and focus are likely to be disappointed.
Both books are incredibly character driven, however Special Delivery, Sam and Mitch's romance, explores character development through the lens of exploration and acceptance of sexuality. Double Blind on the other hand uses poker as a metaphor to explore and develop characters. Although it does include some of the same sexual practices (menange and more, light BDSM, etc.), sexual exploration and acceptance are a relaitvely minor part of the story. (In fact, Double Blind reminded me strongly of Jennifer Crusie's Faking It, in both tone and plot device, with poker taking the place of confidence games.)
Double Blind is the story of Randy Jensen (from Special Delivery) and Ethan Ellison. Sam and Mitch from Special Delivery are secondary characters, and although there is some further development of their characters and relationship, their presence serves primarily to help develop Randy and Ethan's characters and relationship. For me, going along for the ride while the characters explored and developed was a can't-put-it-down read. Randy and Ethan are both far from perfect, abeit in quite different ways. Randy needs to figure out how to grow up, and open himself to love, and Ethan needs to conquer depression and heartbreak as he figures out in the most basic sense who he is. As the story progresses they don't suddenly have all the answers, and there are the highest of highs and the lowest of lows along the way, but it is a pleasure to take the trip with them. And although they still don't have all, or even most, of the answers at the end, their understanding that they've got each other and they can keep figuring it out together makes for a far more satisfying ending.
At first glance Randy seems quite different than he was in Special Delivery. However that is because in that book his character was most notable when he is first introduced to Sam. Once the three settle in together, and Randy accepts Sam, his character seems to change, but at the same time fades into the background, because Special Delivery is not his story. We're given another glimpse of him at the end of Special Delivery when he calls Sam, and his character at that point is much more consistent with what I think Cullinan meant to develop over the course of their weekend together, and what we see here in Double Blind.
In various discussions I have heard some complains about the main plot. I must admit that the main story strains credibility a bit, but I actually found it far more believable than the last three romances I read involving an openly gay cowboy in the middle of OK; a billionaire and a waiter; and a cop and a burglar. Just as/more importantly, I enjoyed it quite a bit, and it served exactly its purpose- moving the plot along and acting as a vehicle for character development.
Double Blind is one of the best books I've read this year, and I highly recommend it.
1/19 Note- While discussing the book with a friend, she commented that at first glance Randy seems to be quite a different character than he was in Special Delivery. Although I think that's true to a certain degree, I think it's primarily because he was mostly out of focus in Special Delivery. In that book his character was most notable when he is first introduced to Sam. Once Randy accepts Sam, and Mitch forgives Randy, Randy's character changes to something far more similar to what he is in Double Blind. But at the same time, he fades into the background because Special Delivery is not his story. We're given another glimpse of him at the end of Special Delivery when he calls Sam, and at that point the changes are even more obvious.