Title: The Adorned
Author: John Tristan
Length: 101k words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Indentured Slavery, Sexual Slavery, Tattoos, Art/Artists, Magic, Major Class Distinctions, Alternate World Historical, Slow Burn, Revolution, Netgalley
Rating: LOVED it!!!!
My name is Etan, and I am Adorned.
A living piece of art, I exist to please the divine rulers of Kered. With nowhere to turn after my father died, I tried my luck in the capital city. Little did I know how quickly I would be robbed, beaten and forced to sell myself into servitude. But I was lucky enough to gain the attention of Roberd Tallisk, an irascible but intriguing tattoo artist who offered to mark me with enchanted ink for the enjoyment of the nobles. I was given a chance to better my station in life, and I could not refuse.
But the divine rulers want not only the art but the body that bears it. In their company I can rise above the dregs of society and experience a life most only dream of, at the cost of suffering their every desire as a pawn in games of lavish intrigue. Their attention is flattering, but I find I’d rather have Tallisk’s.
Caught between factions, I learn that a revolution is brewing, one that could ruin Kered–and Roberd and myself along with it…
I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yesterday. I started reading it in the early morning and I couldn’t put it down — I read all day. And to be honest I was a little worried after I requested it because I had previously read a book by John Tristan that I DNF’ed and I think it might have been his first book. I just couldn’t get into the writing and I kinda liked it but also didn’t. So I couldn’t believe that I had none of the same issues with this book that I did with that earlier book. And if this author keeps writing books like this then I’ll definitely stick around and keep reading!
When his father dies with a multitude of debts, Etan is forced to sell his home and all his belongings and travel to the capital city of Kered to look for work. His only skills are his ability to read and write, and while those are rare abilities for a country boy, with no money to garner an apprenticeship, his only choice is manual labor, something he’s unable to do because of a sickness as a child that stunted his growth. He’s pale and petite, and saved by a man in a rickshaw when beaten in the street. The man offers to send him to a place to stay, where he learns after a few days is a home for indentured servants. His only option thereafter is to sign away his rights and work for this man in trade for a place to stay and food to eat.
When the man sees Etan without bruises and washes he almost doesn’t recognize him, but he has an even better idea of work for him. Etan is introduced to Roberd Tallisk, a tattoo artist whose patron is the head of the Council, run by the Blooded, the ruling class of Kered society who possess magic believed descended from the gods themselves. There, Etan’s slave bond is bartered between the two men when Tallisk agrees to take Etan on as his new work of art, an Adorned. The Adorned have always mystified those of the lower classes. They’re those of beauty who are tattooed by master tattoo artists with enchanted ink to become living works of art for the pleasure of the Blooded. Their art is not allowed to be seen by those who aren’t Blooded or the artist. And no one else but the tattoo artists are allowed to wear ink.
Etan’s new life seems wonderful and exciting. He’s protected now for life with gifts of riches from patrons and by the ink he wears on his skin. But there is also an aspect of being Adorned that he never expected. He soon learns the hard price to pay when he starts to mingle with the elite of Keren society and exactly what they expect from him. And he finds himself a pawn, a sort of Mata Hari in the political play between two warring factions for the future of the Keren society.
There are two things that I love most about this story and they go behind the tattoo art (which is super cool) and a lot of the other little details that made this story come alive for me. First is the epic quality of the story. We really get to see Etan’s life played out over a lot of major changes in his life that also herald major changes for the whole world. We meet Etan when he’s young, still living at home with his father and before he’s had to completely depend on himself and we get to see how he changes over time. I typically prefer characters who are alive, present and very decisive about their lives in fiction, especially in fantasy worlds. Etan is alive and present, certainly, but he’s also like a piece of detritus in a massive current once he makes it to the city. He’s buffered on all sides by those making choices for him. I can’t see him acting any other way certainly, as someone who has very little choices, but he’s also very internal and cautious. I didn’t see those parts of his personality changing until much later because it was such a slow change, but Etan grows as the world changes around him and as he needs to take more of his own care for himself.
The second thing I really loved was the cast of characters. We meet a multitude of secondary characters, most of whom are a good sort, and a faction of those who are good people who make some bad choices. As the world in the story changes, it reveals the best and worst of the characters and each of them are made to understand their regrets, in particular Isadel and Lord Haqan Loren. All of them, however, are well rounded characters that we get to know rather well. And this was done sometimes in a rather subtle fashion. The writing requires the reader to be present and active in piecing the world together and in drawing connections, and I can’t tell you how often I find myself wishing for writing like that.
You might not find this story to be perfect, or it might not impact you as much as it did me. Part of how you feel about it, in the end, will depend on what you like most in your romance books. The relationship between Etan and Tallisk is very slow to build and it takes almost the full length of the novel for the two to really come together. The bulk of the story is rather Etan’s journey and finding himself, someone who still feels like a country boy, realizing that he’s a good person with heart amid vultures who would pick at him until there’s nothing left. He has to realize what he really wants out of life, if it is security or love and if those things are separate.
I finished the book wanting more, sad that the story ended and hoping there was a way a sequel could be written, lol. I don’t think that’s really possible. But I know now that I’ll definitely keep my eye on book by John Tristan and I hope that it isn’t too long from now that I find another book that I get so lost in.
Posted by Cole in 101-125k, 6 LOVE IT!, Authors S-U, Fantasy, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Alternate World Historical, Art, Artists, Carina, Class Distinctions, Indentured Slavery, John Tristan, Magic, Netgalley, Revolution, Sexual Slavery, Slow Burn, Tattoos
Title: Black Dog Blues (Kai Gracen #1)
Author: Rhys Ford
Publisher: Self Published (Coffee Squirrel Press)
Length: 92,479 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Series, Urban Fantasy, Fae/Elves, Futuristic, Post-Apoc, California, Graphic Violence (and other…things), Blood & Gore, Dragons, Past Abuse, Action/Adventure, Unusual Creatures, Magic, Tattoos
Rating: Really Liked It
Ever since he’d been part of the pot in a high-stakes poker game, elfin outcast Kai Gracen figured he’d used up any good karma he had when Dempsey, a human Stalker, won the hand and took him in. Following the violent merge of Earth and Underhill, the human and elfin races were left with a messy, monster-ridden world and Stalkers were often the only cavalry willing to ride to someone’s rescue when something shadowy and dark moved into the neighbourhood.
There certainly were no shortage of monsters or people stupidly willing to become lunch for one.
It was a hard life but one Kai liked. And he was good at it. Killing monsters was easy. Especially since he was one himself.
After an accident retired Dempsey out, Kai set up permanent shop in San Diego, contracting out to the local SoCalGov depot. It was a decent life, filled with bounty, a few friends and most importantly, no other elfin around to remind him he wasn’t really human.
That was until a sidhe lord named Ryder arrives in San Diego and Kai is conscripted to do a job for Ryder’s fledgling Dawn Court. It was supposed to a simple run; head up the coast during dragon-mating season to retrieve a pregnant human woman seeking sanctuary with the new Court then back to San Diego. Easy, quick and best of all, profitable. But Ryder’s “simple” run leads to massive trouble and Kai ends up being caught in the middle of a deadly bloodline feud he has no hope of escaping.
No one ever got rich by being a Stalker. But then hardly any of them got old either. The way things were looking, it didn’t look like Kai was going to be the exception.
Pretty much all of you who read my reviews know that for the most part I’m rather reluctant to read anything angsty or intense. My tastes change and fluctuate of course, but for the last year to year and a half I’ve mostly left those alone. So somehow, I suppose because at the time I didn’t really know Rhys Ford’s writing all that well, I got into her writing even though she really flirts with the edge for me at times, no matter how much I end up liking the books. It takes me a bit of mental cheerleading to work myself into the frame of mind to start her books, and really it’s mostly the anticipation; fearing that the book will get too intense for me is more than half the battle, because I usually don’t mind as much once I start reading. But now that I know I’ll read anything by this author, it still means that I’m nervous starting her books. I was actually most excited about this one, mostly because I was really interested to see how she’d deal with urban fantasy when most of her writing that I’m familiar with are contemporary mysteries. And once I started, I was immediately sucked into it. Even though it was in many parts intense — it was just a different kind of intensity than I expected.
Kai Gracen is an anomaly among the lower denizens of San Diego. Taken in by Dempsey when only a feral elfin boy, the grizzled and uncouth hunter raised Kai in his shadow, among the human hunters of the black dogs, the spawn of the unsidhe that threaten the human population and whose hides earn money from the government. After a war between humans and the elfin races (both sidhe and unsidhe), the land is split between areas for each race to inhabit, with land specifically designated for the elfin to set up their courts. It also left the world full of monsters and beasties like the black dogs, making travel between those areas often difficult and dangerous.
As a hunter, Kai is skilled and extremely knowledgable about the area, which is why he’s called into the local government depot (where he gets paid for his kills) to take a non-negotiable contract to ferry a new elfin lord up the coast during dragon mating season. The run through Pendle is dangerous even without the complications that the sidhe lord brings, the first being their passenger on return. Ryder, the sidhe lord, is new to San Diego, setting up a new court (the Dawn Court). He needs to retrieve a pregnant human from the sidhe city in Los Angeles and needs Kai to take him, serving as guide and bodyguard.
This book drew me immediately in. It feels… literally jam-packed with action and plot. It’s almost as if there’s no stopping. And after reading the book and then seeing that it’s only just shy of 100k words. Honestly, I felt as if I’d read twice that. There’s so much to this story, starting with the world and the characters. This book does well as the first of a new series to set up the world, but so much of it is in great detail. It is rather smartly done, too. We don’t need a history lesson, because while we don’t really know how the war between the humans and elfin came about or how it played out, it’s fairly self-explanatory by how the world is set up. Both races have their positive and negative qualities, and Kai is uniquely placed to give us perspective on both of them, while having his own unique one about where the two races collide. Over the course of the book we learn quite a bit about his history, which is fairly graphic in detail but shows the evil and the good in the world. And also, there is so much world, plot, characterization that this story really can’t have it all. The romance is really non-existent in this book, except in the sense as a prelude to future stories and in the building of the relationship between Kai and Ryder. But I appreciated that there wasn’t a rush and that Rhys Ford didn’t (perhaps) bow to pressure to include it too early.
I’ve gone the route of deciding to urge you to read this yourself rather than really dig in and explore the book in my review. I would actually love to do that, but there’s honestly just way too much to talk about. And I was really surprised by how well balanced all of that was. I felt like Rhys showed quite a bit of restraint in parts of the book, which makes me eager to see what she’ll write for the sequel… there’s just so much more story left to tell.
I will say that if you might be squeamish about blood and gore this might be a difficult read for you. I was expecting more emotionally intense writing than what I got, but I didn’t expect so many physically intense scenes. There’s one scene that made even me sick to my stomach (which… I don’t know that that has ever happened to me actually), where… Well, all I’ll say is that Kai gets something really nasty in his mouth. And the blood and gore was a few times almost comical, like a Tarantino movie. I really enjoyed that part of it, though some people really might not.
But, in all, this was a really fantastic read. While I applaud the author’s decision to take the romance slow (which is really needed because of Kai’s emotional growth throughout the book), I would have liked maybe a bit more connection between him and Ryder before the ending of the book. It got there, sortof, before the end, but for a book that for most of reading it I wasn’t sure if it even was going to develop into a romance, I wanted a bit more assurance of the direction their relationship was moving in before we left them for a year or however long it takes before the sequel is ready to read.
Beautifully and smartly written. And, I think, one of the best books so far this year. Definitely recommended!
Posted by Cole in 5 Really Like It, 76-100k, Authors D-F, Fantasy, Futuristic, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None Tags: Action/Adventure, Blood & Gore, California, Dragons, Fae/Elves, Futuristic, Graphic Violence, Kai Gracen, Magic, Past Abuse, Post Apocalyptic, Rhys Ford, Self Published, Series, Tattoos, Unusual Creatures, Urban Fantasy
Title: Tats of Honor
Author: Vona Logan
Length: 26,966 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Grieving Partner, Grief, Best Friends, Suicide, On Vacation, GFY/OFY, Bisexual, New Zealand, Tattoos, Insta-Love
Rating: Not Feelin’ It
Kegan Andrews wears his heart on his sleeve, or rather his skin—his tattoo is a testimony to those he’s loved and lost. The losses are piling up—like his young cousin’s suicide and his fiancée’s betrayal. He needs perspective, and the New Zealand trip he planned months ago seems to promise him that. Then Kegan meets Dominic, a man wrapped in so much grief and guilt it’s as if his own heart died two years ago with his long-time partner.
Dominic can’t move on—can’t even imagine it until Kegan jumpstarts his frozen heart. Dominic knows Kegan isn’t gay, so he fights his growing feelings, but Kegan embraces his new self-knowledge about whom he might love. Will Dominic stay mired in the safety of past heartbreak and become a distant memory etched into Kegan’s skin, or will he risk himself for the promise of a new beginning?
Kegan lands in New Zealand alone and lost. He’d been looking forward to getting away with his fiancee after his cousin and best friend committed suicide. His grief is wrapped up in his love for his fiancee, especially when she ditches him at the gate for the restroom only to leave the airport, and Kegan to realize that he’s been left while flying over the Pacific. The loss is compounded by the fact that Kegan knows that his fiancee was the main reason he removed himself from his cousin’s life. He doesn’t understand how he could let himself choose a cheating and selfish woman over his best friend, and the thought that his actions might have contributed to his cousin’s loneliness at the time he needed him most… it’s almost more than he can bear. Kegan decides to take his vacation traveling around New Zealand alone and figure out his life and what he really wants.
Dominic is a Kiwi. We meet him first as he moves into a new house, finally leaving the home of he and his late partner. It’s been two years, but Dominic is a shadow of the man he used to be. He has no problem admitting that he wish he’d died as well. Moving on without him is too hard. His best friend Lisa surprises him by coming to stay with him for a week, and it is during that week — while Lisa drags him out of the house day after day — that the two stop at a restaurant and end up sharing a table with a lonely American traveler, named Kegan.
The two guys have an immediate chemistry, but it takes both of them willing to move on and embrace a new time in their lives to have any chance at a relationship.
Of course, my biggest problem here was the insta-love. I mean, I would say that this ends in an HFN, but some might say an HEA. I just had a problem believing that after spending so little time together they could fall in love enough to propagate an around the world move to be together and also in that time have been able to move on with their pasts. I get that Kegan could maybe do it. I liked that the author made his move to New Zealand not only to be with Dominic, but also as a fresh start in his life and career. I could see him making the decision that he needed a fresh injection into his life and he might make that leap because he needed a chance anyway. But I didn’t understand Dominic at the end of the story. There’s a part right at the end, where Dominic… I guess he sees the ghost of his dead partner. It was a strange paranormal twist that I only partly grasped. But, I understood the message which was that he wanted Dominic to move on. It seemed like an easy way to make it okay for Dominic to let go and be okay for him to fall in love, when in reality it just seemed to rushed for me to accept and without a lot of the work he’d need to undertake. He was just so messed up in the beginning.
I’m sorry to say that I can’t really recommend this. I’ve read one other story by this author which I enjoyed — Return to Destiny — but this story felt a bit unfinished to me. I think that I actually would have enjoyed learning more about Dominic’s partner. In books like this that explore a new relationship after one person’s (or two) previous partner died, I usually feel like it’s important for the new love interest to learn about the previous one. And certainly, I think it might have helped this relationship between Dominic and Kegan to develop at a faster pace (since the time line was so short) because Dominic could let go of some fears and memories and share them with Kegan. I don’t know, just a thought. But I definitely would have liked to know more about him. It would have shown us even more about Dominic.
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 2 Not Feelin' It, Authors J-L, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Best Friends, Bisexual, Dreamspinner Press, GFY/OFY, Grief, Grieving Partner, Insta-Love, New Zealand, On Vacation, Suicide, Tattoos, Vona Logan
Title: Covet thy Neighbor (Tucker Springs #4)
Author: LA Witt
Length: 46,100 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Series, Religion, Priests, Tattoos!
Rating: Pretty Good
Opposites attract, but heaven help these two.
Tattoo artist Seth Wheeler thinks he’s struck gold when Darren Romero rents the apartment across the hall. The new guy is gorgeous, witty, and single, plus he’s just the right blend of bold and flirtatious. Perfect.
Except then Darren reveals that he moved to Tucker Springs to take a job as the youth pastor at the New Light Church. Seth is not only an atheist, but was thrown out by his ultra-religious family when he came out. He tends to avoid believers, not out of judgment but out of self-preservation.
But Darren doesn’t give up easily, and he steadily chips away at Seth’s defenses. Darren is everything Seth wants in a man . . . except for that one massive detail he just can’t overlook. Is Darren’s religion the real problem, or is it just a convenient smoke screen to keep him from facing deeper fears? It’s either see the light, or risk pushing Darren away forever.
I was quasi-curious about this one because the books in the series before this have been luke-warm, in my opinion. They weren’t bad, not at all, but none of them really affected me either. And I’m naturally curious, yet likewise nervous about reading a book where a character is a priest, or if religion is a heavy topic. I know that a lot of you are as well. But even though it came into play pretty heavily in this book, it wasn’t dogmatic in any way. In fact, religion wasn’t the issue really. Put anything in place of religion in this case and it would have served the same purpose. Religion in this book is simply a placeholder for any issue that affects Seth in a way to impede his romantic life and serve as a road-block in developing relationships. The fact that Darren is a youth pastor just forces him to face his demons head-first. Though he tries pretty hard not to 😉
A shitty childhood in a right-wing fundamentalist family leaves Seth with a lot of emotional damage as an adult. He’s made his own life, but only by running away and putting the past behind him. And the past firmly consists of anything associated with religion. When Darren moves to Tucker Springs and into the apartment across from him, it’s like he’s been smacked in the face with the world’s best attempt at hotness. Darren is gorgeous, and even more he’s … nice. Not exactly what Seth was expecting.
The two don’t waste time jumping into bed, and though they catalogue their relationship as friends, their chemistry keeps pulling them together for hot one-offs that leave them awkwardly shuffling across the hall in the morning. When Seth finds out that Darren is a youth pastor, it turns everything on it’s head. Only, he’s already somewhat attached. And the rest of him can’t say no when confronted with the perfect male specimen.
I wouldn’t call this book angsty, really. But that’s really only because it didn’t bother me. And I’m entirely angst-phobic — so you can trust me, I swear. But this story does have a fair amount of it. It’s more of a character journey with a side of romance, because the person that is really changing and growing (that we see front and center) is Seth, who has to face his issues in order to have a relationship with Darren. In that sense, we get to know Seth quite a bit better than Darren, though that didn’t bother me so much. It is natural when we get the point of view of only one character.
I think the most important thing that you, as a reader needs to know in making your decision about whether to buy/read this book, is how the religion aspect comes across, and I think I explained that pretty well. There’s really no reason to discount this book because of such a sticky subject. Otherwise, I found this novella to be well in line with the other stories in this series, and if you’ve enjoyed them, then you should definitely go for this one. For me, like the others, it was good, but not great.
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 41-75k, Authors V-Z, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: LA Witt, Netgalley, Priests, Religion, Riptide Publishing, Series, Tattoos, Tucker Springs
Title: Love in the Spotlight
Author: Zoe Lynne
Publisher: Silver Stream Press (Silver Publishing)
Length: 30,439 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Young Adult Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Musicians/Rockers, Closeted, Coming Out, Opposites Attract, Tattoos, Piercings, Light and Sweet, College
Rating: Pretty Good
A mutual love for pancakes and hot maple syrup–not that flavored crap–opens the door to a relationship Steven never expected to find. But will Thorne stand up to his homophobic bandmates so he can finally have true love?
There’s nothing in the world Steven won’t do for his best friend Becca, including ditching his schoolwork just to escort her to some club so she can chase down her dream boy who happens to be the drummer in some kind of band. He didn’t expect to set eyes on the most Godly creation under the stars, and sure didn’t expect that gorgeous hunk of man with the voice of an angel.
A mutual love for pancakes and hot maple syrup–not that flavored crap–opens the door to a relationship Steven never expected to find when he agreed to go out with Becca that night. But will Thorne stand-up to his homophobic bandmates so he can finally find love?
CONTENT ADVISORY: This title contains both M/M and M/F romantic situations.
Just a Note: The content advisory in the blurb says that this book contains m/f romantic situations, they’re not sexual situations. You should take that line literally; I was waiting for an m/f sexual scene, but all it really alludes to is Steven’s best friend Becca and her relationship with the drummer of Thorne’s band, Dillon.
It’s been a while since I’ve read anything by this author, and by that I mean Allison Cassatta. This is the first book I’ve read by her pseudonym Zoe Lynne, but I really enjoyed it. All I really knew going into it (because I’m terrible about actually reading blurbs, and if I do it’s as if I didn’t even pay attention) was that it was an m/m young adult romance about a rocker type character and had to do with coming out. And really, that’s the gist of it. It sounds like any old book you have read before, and in many ways it is — that made it a comfortable read for me. Still, I liked the characters and that made it stand out more to me as I was reading. Comfortable, but not boring.
The gist of it is about two relationships and their intersection: Steven and his bestie for forever Becca, and Steven and his super-crush Thorne. A secondary relationship, between Becca and Dillon is what brings the two guys together. Becca meets Dillon and has a major crush and drags Steven out of his solitude (which Steven thinks of as being a good student) to see his band play. Steven is a bit uncomfortable to be honest. In a very real-life move for a twenty year old, Steven has very firm ideas about who he is and what he likes. He’s a bit of a kid playing adult — he’s studios, relishes being a preppy pretty boy and doesn’t consider taking himself out of the box he’s placed himself in and considering anything slightly dirty or different. But, that has worked for him. That self-imposed solitude has helped him get over and alternately hang onto his last boyfriend, high school sweetheart Jason.
The club the band is playing at, however, is dirty and seedy and definitely not a place that Steven feels like he fits at. When he sees Thorne, however, just before the band goes on, he’s mesmerized by the man’s dark beauty. Steven’s feelings surprise himself. Thorne is covered in tattoos and piercings, and definitely has a bad boy vibe going on. They’re complete opposites, but Steven doesn’t care and the man’s voice and stage presence simply serve to make him even more smitten. When both Steven and Thorne are dragged along by the new pair Becca and Dillon to a diner after the show, they’re forced together so the other two can be by themselves. Steven is nervous and excited, but Thorne just seems awkward and endearingly shy. But common circumstance bring the two together, and Steven hopes that he can help Thorne become more honest and comfortable with himself. And if that happens to bring them together more often, more the better for Steven!
I thought that the length of this story served the plot, character growth and romance rather well. That means that, at 30k words it isn’t an overly involved plot. The story mainly revolves around the direct romance between Steven and Thorne, the friendship between Steven and Becca, and the resolution of Steven’s past relationship with Jason. Out of the more realistic aspects of these relationships, I thought the portrayal of the friendship between Steven and Becca to be really well done. They’re at the age when they’re really exploring having a new relationship at the same time, both with different situations and they find it hard to reconcile bringing new people into the shared relationship they have. Jealousy abounds and feelings are hurt, but more isn’t made of it than should be and the way they resolve their differences showed just how good friends they are and how much they care about each other.
If I had any complaints, I’d say that the style of narration wasn’t my favorite. Steven examines his feelings rather thoroughly, dissecting and analyzing. It suits the story and the character very well, it’s just something that tends to be a little tedious for me personally. I think the best compliment to the author from this story, though, is that I felt the ages of the characters quite keenly. For a young adult story that’s paramount and the first thing I look for. Readers looking for a sweet, no sex story should give this one a try!
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 4 Pretty Good, Authors J-L, Contemporary, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, YA Tags: Closeted, College, Coming Out, Light & Sweet, Musicians, Opposites Attract, Piercings, Silver Stream Press, Tattoos, Zoe Lynne
Title: Metal Heart
Author: Meredith Shayne
Length: 89,044 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary, Recent Historical Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Rockers, Second Chances, 1990s, Drug Abuse, Famous, Australia, Flashbacks (one long one, first half of the book), Tattoos, The Big Mis
Rating: So So
Scott King swore off rock stardom after his band, King Phoenix, crashed and burned. Now in his forties, Scott lives a quiet life as a music producer and session guitarist. But in a box hidden in his wardrobe lie the relics of the past he left behind—a past filled with drugs, booze, and broken hearts. For sixteen years, Scott has had no contact with his former bandmates, so when he’s asked to play at a benefit gig for King Phoenix’s old sound man, his world turns upside down. A King Phoenix reunion means a run-in with Scott’s ex, Ash Walker—and sixteen years ago, believing Ash wanted to leave the band, Scott OD’d and almost died.
Since then, Scott has ruthlessly suppressed his feelings. As a result, he’s completely unprepared for the impact of seeing Ash again, or for dealing with his emotions about the band’s demise. He definitely didn’t expect Ash to want to start up where they left off. Now Scott has to decide between his safe existence and the twenty-year-old love song that could cost him his sobriety—and his heart.
I had to request this for review as soon as I could because, hello.. rocker book! I, like many of you, just can’t get enough of them and it seems like there’s one every month or so that comes out (sometimes fewer, actually) and it just enough to curb my appetite until another is released. So, I started reading this as soon as I got it and it did it’s job in getting me to next month’s (hopeful) fix. I didn’t, however, love it — and the reasons are purely subjective. I’ll outline those, because in this instance I’m sure that what I don’t like about the book is something that some others will.
This story is split into two major parts. The first half of the book takes place in the 90s and covers the genesis of the band King Phoenix and the relationship between Scott and Ash. The second half of the book details their rise from ashes, not necessarily professionally, but personally. I was worried at first, because the book starts with a prologue in the present day and then jumps back to the beginning of their story (the 90s) in the first chapter, and I’m really not a fan of flashbacks. I always get nervous when I feel one coming because it takes a very talented author to juggle the art of jumping back and forth in time and lose the momentum of the story. Thankfully, this dodged that by cleanly breaking the book into two halves, which mostly worked for me, but wasn’t without adding to another difficulty I had with the story.
I felt at odds much of reading the first half. The story covers several years in the rise of the band, from their initial formation, through their bar playing days and then into superstardom and world tours. That is a large chunk of time and much of it was glossed over. I felt a bit like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place, unable to decide if I wanted more or not. Because so much time as glossed over, much of this was exposition — the author detailing what has happened since the last shift forward a few months or a year ago and then a swift narration of where things stand. More often than not there was a summary of events rather than a scene in present time. That frustrated me, because I never felt like I really got to know Scott and Ash as a couple. However, I was also thankful in a way, because they were both so.messed.up that I was reluctant for the story to completely drop into their lives. By the time of their real success their relationship has become a casualty of the rock and roll lifestyle and fears of band breakup, and I just couldn’t decide whether I could have dealt with the real angst of that situation. As it is, we see it, but because we’re somewhat removed from the situation — only getting pieces of them here and there over months and years — it isn’t nearly as intense as it could have been.
So I was happy, in a sense, when time jumped forward to the present around the halfway mark in the book. The situation the band was in, like a pressure cooker growing more dense and dangerous, was ready to explode. And I was happy I didn’t have to read the direct fallout of that. That meant, however, that the characters went their separate ways, which saved all that hurt that was never dealt with for another time. And those feelings just fester over the years. I think that this was what I had a hard time reading the most. While the author doesn’t create a classic Big Mis situation, it does have many of those hallmarks, which was frustrating for me. The Big Mis(understanding) is, of course, where characters have a falling out for lack of a better term over a miscommunication, or misunderstanding and only deal with it later, realizing how stupid they were (along with us realizing how stupid they were). And I felt like though this were a real situation, not something stupid which is where the term The Big Mis is usually awarded, it hinges on a technicality, a decision made by a few very secondary characters. I don’t think this will actually bother many readers as much as it did me, and many might not consider it a Big Mis situation at all. But the effect of those decisions by the characters and the author in how the book is paced and structured directly correlated to the amount of angst, which is my hot button.
So, that’s why this was a difficult read for me. There are parts that I certainly liked. The last bit of the book was a nice read for me, one a lot of the issues between Scott and Ash were worked out, but I never quite settled into the book and I never really warmed up to the characters. So, if you like your rocker books with a bit of angst, and maybe a tale of second chances and characters making up for past mistakes, then I’d say give this a try. And try not to gauge my feelings about the amount of angst in a book against yours, I’m probably way more sensitive than you 😉
Posted by Cole in 3 So So, 76-100k, Authors S-U, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: 1990s, Australia, Dreamspinner Press, Drug Use, Famous, Flashbacks, Meredith Shayne, Musicians, Second Chances, Tattoos, The Big Mis