Born Again Sinner by Daryl Banner

Title: Born Again Sinner       Word Count: 410 pgs
Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance

Blurb: “Cody Davis is gonna make a sinner out of me.”

Yes, I know exactly who he is.
The wounded soldier at the end of Willow Street. Intimidating. Devastatingly handsome. Muscular body chiseled from stone. Deep dark eyes that dare you to come near. Attitude for days.

And I just became his caregiver.

Everyone warned me to stay away from him – including my father, the respected minister of our small town of Spruce. But clearly I’m too stubborn to heed good advice, especially when Cody Davis is as frustratingly attractive – and persistent – as they come.

As the preacher’s son, I have strict morals I must live by. But each day spent with that aggravating hunk makes me question them. My safe and fragile world is turning upside-down, and I’m not sure I have the strength to stop it.

And even worse: I’m not sure I want to.

Temptation this bad never looked so good.
This soldier is gonna make a sinner out of me.

* This is a standalone male/male romance set in the same fictional small town as “Football Sundae”. Steam, humor, and a whole lot of southern sass guaranteed. *

My Review: The whole town of Spruce knows that Cody Davis has been injured and back home from the army. Most of the town gossips that he is a crazy recluse. Cody’s mom has been doing the best she can by hiring caregivers to take care of her son. She’s at her wit’s end after losing all the previous caregivers for one reason or another. As a last resort she hires Trey Arnold, the preacher’s son who is also a nurse’s assistant.

The first time Trey meets Cody he realises that Cody is ill-mannered and has a lot of unresolved anger issues. Cody makes it quite clear that he doesn’t need any help and he is happy living in his slovenly mess. Cody is very resistant the first few visits and tries to intimidate Trey at every turn. Trey persists and puts on a brave face and strong stance so that he can give Cody the help he needs.

Things come to a head when Trey pushes too hard and Cody lashes out by bringing up Trey’s dead mother. Trey tries hard not to cry but it is clear when he left how hurt he was. Cody knows right away that he has gone too far. He feels guilty for the way he has hurt Trey. This guilt intensifies when Trey doesn’t return for three days. Cody knows he has to make amends.

Cody shows up to church on Sunday and he can feel all eyes on him. People stare and watch him with pity. He is about to turn around and leave when he finally sees Trey. He gives Cody a smile and make room for him. Cody limps his way to the front and squeezes in beside Trey. This means the world to Trey and he knows this is Cody’s way of atoning for his harsh words. They are moving into another realm of the caregiver/ patient relationship that they have.

Trey and Cody goes out to eat and after Trey takes Cody to a nice little private lake. When Trey starts helping Cody with some water exercises for his injured leg, Cody’s body reacts to their physical closeness. Cody is trying to clue Trey in to the fact that he is very attracted to him. It isn’t until a few days later when Cody seeks him out at work that Trey realises that they are developing a stronger connection. One outside the cocoon of Cody’s home where prying eyes can see them now.

Cody is brash and he doesn’t beat around the bush. He shows Trey his attraction without flowers and subtle seduction. For once, Trey gives in to his secret wishes and his long repressed heart’s desires. Cody reveals to him the world of carnal pleasures and it doesn’t take long for Trey’s long held repression to turn to an overzealous passion. Cody finds it adorable and allows Trey to explore.Trey is torn between the morals he grew up believing and this newfound world where passions rules his every decision. When he unwittingly falls asleep at Cody’s , he panics. Trey lies to his father for the first time to cover where he has been. Immediately, he is ashamed of his actions.

Cody is trying to be a better person. He likes the person he is when he is around Trey. Cody feels worthy of all the attention and caring he receives from the ‘well -loved upstanding’ citizen such as Trey. When Cody shows up to the 50th anniversary at the church as Trey’s companion,people definitely take notice. By the time they get to the after-party at the prominent Strong ranch,tongues are certainly wagging.

We are revisited by previously loved characters Tanner and Billy Strong. They are living happily in wedded bliss. Cody finds that he is actually enjoying himself talking to Trey, Tanner and his husband while reminiscing about high school. The atmosphere is relaxed and he is enjoying being himself around other gay men. By the end of the night , Cody ends up staking his claim on Trey, revealing to Tanner their newfound relationship.

Trey tries to leave Cody to go home, because he doesn’t want his father suspicious. Half way there , he realizes that Cody has unlocked his true nature. He can no longer be the pious, self righteous puppet that he projected before. Trey is ready to give himself over to the passion unfurling inside him. He knows for sure that he is in love with Cody, but he doesn’t think Cody is ready for that kind of commitment. Trey knows that what they have will be worth the fight. After a wondrous night together, Trey goes home feeling high on life and ready to confess to his father about his relationship.

Everything goes to hell when he walks through the door. His father starts quoting scriptures about the prodigal son.Trey runs off, going to the only place he feels close to his mother who he knows loved him unconditionally. He has a bit of a come to Jesus moment, where he actually has a heartfelt conversation with the spirit of his mother. He falls out of a tree and hurts himself. Cody is surprised and worried when he gets a call from Trey’s father who is heartbroken and ashamed that he has run off his only son. He is apologetic and desperately needs Cody’s skills in finding Trey.

For the first time in his life, Cody truly knows what it means to be in love. Cody is hopelessly in love with Trey and he knows he need to find him at any cost. When Cody finds Trey , he is thankful that he is not too late. He struggles and stumbles through a vicious storm with the unconscious form of the love of his life. By the time they get to the hospital, they are both in need of medical attention. When they are reunited, they profess their love for each other, knowing that through their love they can conquer everything. I give this my ratings of 4- lose the underwear.

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Take A Chance ( Second Chances Bk.1) by Megs Pritchard

Title: Take a Chance Word Count: 225 pgs
Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance

Blurb: Can a chance encounter change your life?

Tom Carter
Kicked out at fifteen for being gay, Tom survived by selling his body on the streets. Four years later, Tom, now nineteen, doesn’t know how long he can continue living this life.
One night while out working, Tom sees a face from his past, one he had long forgotten. One he had used to fantasise about.
Seb Banks
Afraid of the reaction he will receive, Tom runs away hoping never to see him again. But Seb had other ideas.

Sebastian Banks
At twenty-five, Seb’s life is going exactly the way he had wanted. Having worked hard at University, Seb has been offered a permanent contract at a local solicitor.
While driving to a friend’s house to celebrate, Seb is shocked to find Tom, someone he hasn’t seen in years, on the streets, selling himself.
Feeling an overwhelming need to help Tom, Seb tracks him down and offers him a way out.
Is Tom willing to take a chance on Seb and accept his offer, or will his distrust of everyone from his past cause him to push Seb away?
Includes a sneak peek of book two, New Beginnings, Ben and Geoff’s story.

My Review: Tom has been existing and trying to survive on the streets of Manchester since he was 15 and his parents kicked him out. Like so many gay teenagers, he has been tossed out like yesterday’s trash by the people who were supposed to love and protect him. It’s been 4 long hard years, but through his wits and strong will Tom keeps on surviving.Tom has developed a system that gives him and his friends a modicum of security. They go out in pairs and one always looks for details of the cars that the other works.

It is on a night out that Tom recognizes someone from his past. Seb is the older brother of Tom’s former best friend. Tom is embarrassed and runs off. Seb is perplexed to see Tom and It is obvious that he is a prostitute now. Seb is out celebrating his full time position he has just secured. However, It is hard for him to enjoy his achievements, due to his worry for Tom. He can’t let it go and he goes out looking for Tom on another night. When he catches up with Tom, Seb questions him about his lifestyle choices. Tom laughs with derision telling Seb of how his parents threw him out for being gay. He also tells of how Seb’s own parents looked at him with contempt and disgust before slamming their door when he asked for their help.

When Seb confirms Tom’s story with his parents, he is dumbfounded by the vitriol and hate that they are spewing. He is sickened by their views on homosexuality and he knows he made the right decision in not owning up to his bisexuality. He finds Tom once again and tries to apologize. Tom is scared to open up past connections as he is afraid to reopen the wounds left on his soul by his past family and friends. Tom puts on a cloak of impudence that he knows will repel all of Seb’s offers of friendship.Seb is saddened by Tom’s reaction to his benevolence, but he has no choice but to let him walk away.

Seb is very persistent and he doesn’t want to leave Tom to pursue this dangerous path he is on. Tom is at an all time low and now that he’s seen Seb again, all the memories of the past and unfulfilled future dreams comes pouring in. Seb convinces Tom to come home with him for a warm bed and something to eat. It is hard for Tom to trust, but he gives in just this once. He rests peacefully that night, but as day lights he knows he can’t allow himself to get too comfortable. This is not his life. Tom leaves while Seb pleads with him not to go.

His first night back on the streets shows Tom how dangerous is the life he leads. He tries to walk away from a john who won’t take no for an answer.He is beaten, bruised and almost raped. He shows up at Seb’s who unquestionably helps to patch him up. Tom does the unthinkable by stealing from Seb’s wallet the next morning. From the moment he does it he feels physically ill, but he knows he needs to help the others get some food. Seb is disappointed, but moreover he is wrecked that Tom didn’t trust him and couldn’t be trusted himself.

Tom is waiting for Seb on his doorstep a few days later. Seb is furious, but he almost admires the strength it took to come back and apologize. Tom decides to trust in Seb’s offer to help. They have an idyllic few days where they get to know each other and Seb takes Tom shopping for some clothes amid protests.By the end of the day Tom feels almost normal, Seb makes him feel worthy. Things move from being platonic when Seb confesses that he is bisexual and Tom was his first crush.Seb goes slowly, not wanting Tom to be wary of his intentions. Tom feels precious and for the first time he receives pleasure just for himself.

As fun as it’s been Tom knows he needs to check on his housemates. He returns ,only to here that one has been missing for days. He is worried and asks for Seb’s help in searching some of the further places. He finds his friend Adam beaten and stabbed to death. He pulls away from Seb blaming himself for not being there for Adam. When his other housemate Ben points the finger and blames Tom as well, Tom regresses. What Seb finds is a drunken Tom who tries to use his body as a shield. He tries to seduce Seb treating him like a john and belittling his concerns.

Seb is upset and pushes him away. Their relationship seem to be a cycle of hurt/comfort. Tom continuously hurts Seb emotionally and Seb continues to forgive and comfort Tom. Tom shows up at Seb’s house to apologize. The dam breaks and he lets it all out. Tom rants about being soiled goods and allows himself to feel all the pain and humiliation he’s carried over the years. He cries for his friend but most of all for his fifteen year old self that never had a chance. Seb reassures Tom that he’s is not tainted or stained by his past. Seb sees him, not as a whore or a victim, but rather as a survivor. When they come together their passion ignites and it’s incendiary. Seb gives him back the power by handing over control of their pleasure to Tom. Seb opens up a new world for Tom where he is on the receiving end of pleasure for the first time.

Seb asks Tom to move in and tells him how much he loves him. To prove how serious he is , Seb calls his parents and tell them about Tom being in his life. They disown him right away, but Seb knows that Tom is definitely worth it. Before they can start settling in , Tom finds out that another friend Ben has gone missing. He goes to Seb’s work and Seb infers that Ben might have gone to the place where they found Adam’s body. Seb’s boss Geoff is very compassionate and decides to help. After they find Ben and take him to the hospital, Geoff suggests that Ben stay with him. In the meantime, Seb has asked the other two friends Matt and Luke to move in with them.They are all very skeptical, but they know this is a chance they can’t pass up.

It has been a long hard road for all these young men, but with the love of a strong man gateways are now opening up for them. Tom decides to open his heart to the one man who cared enough to pursue him , even when he didn’t want the help or believed in happily ever afters . Seb was the only one who ever looked at him without judgement. Tom gives himself over to the pleasure that Seb can provide. He experiences so many emotions, but the ones in the forefront are love and forgiveness. Love for Seb and forgiveness for himself, for all the things he believes has tainted his soul. I give this my ratings of 4- lose the underwear.

Guns N Boys 7: Gilded Agony by K.A. Merikan

Title: Guns N Boys: Gilded Agony Word Count:257
Genre:Contemporary Gay Mafia Romance

Blurb: “We are two halves of the same rotten apple.”

Deep in the Amazonian jungle, there is a mansion with a rose garden and a hen house where juicy tomatoes are the perfect shade of red, and marble countertops glisten. Inside, where even the shadows don’t reach, something is rotting, and the perfect facade can only hold the stench for so long.

Domenico promised his husband that he would keep him safe, keep him away from the bloodshed and the brutal world of cartel violence. But when a guest arrives to help retrieve a stolen transport of guns, something sinister sneaks into his home, something more dangerous than his enemies. Or has it been there all along, and he just hasn’t noticed?

Seth’s life is what others dream of. Endless leisure time filled with cocktails, a kitchen stocked with anything he wishes for, and a private pool in the sunshine. What’s missing is the man he shares it with, the man he fell in love with. If being cut off from the mafia business was what he wanted, then why is it so painfully lonely in paradise?

Desperate to be the supportive husband Domenico needs, Seth buries his rage, his violent urges, and the anger that simmers inside of him. But he can only hide in plain sight for so long, and when a guest invites him to play with fire, one misstep, one wrong move, could burn their safe haven to the ground.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS:
Themes: mafia, cartel, assassin, organized crime, family ties, domestic violence, inequality, betrayal, revenge

Genre: Dark, twisted M/M romance / crime thriller

Length: ~92,000 words (Book 7 in the series)

WARNING: Adult content. If you are easily offended, this book is not for you.
‘Guns n’ Boys’ is a gritty story of extreme violence, offensive language, abuse, and morally ambiguous protagonists as well as scorching hot, explicit love scenes. Behind the morbid facade, there is a splash of inappropriate dark humor, and a love story that will crawl under your skin.

My Review: The glorified title of ‘house husband’ has never been one coveted by Seth Villani- Acerbi, but that is exactly what his everyday life has turned into. Looking in from the outside, he has everything at his disposal. He has chickens, his own little garden and whatever else he doesn’t have ,there is money enough to buy it. Seth feels unfulfilled in his life and certain subjects are off limits between him and his husband Dom. Seth feels the tension in their relationship and drinks his loneliness away. When Dom seems to have forgotten their anniversary, Seth drinks until he passed out right after he puts away all the awesome food that he prepared for their intimate private dinner.

Domenico Acerbi feels like he is protecting Seth. He keeps his business dealings away from him and doesn’t talk about work. Taking over Toro’s operations has left a heavy burden for him to carryout. He needs to gain the respect of the people and he needs to prove that he can be a bigger badass than Toro, particularly to the Morenos who are even bigger drug kingpins. Not being able to unload his burdens has created a slight divide between him and Seth. Dom notices that Seth drinks more now and this leaves him feeling disappointed, especially when he comes home late on their anniversary to find his husband passed out . He doesn’t understand why his husband seems so ungrateful with the life of luxury he leads.

It soon becomes clear that Dom isn’t the only one who looks at Seth as his indolent trophy husband, so does Mark and Miguel. Mark is no longer a boy and has since taken on a more active role in the business as Dom’s right hand. This gives him the sense that he can mock Seth’s position as his resentment grows. Things boil over when a 5 million dollar gun shipment is stolen from right under their nose. Domenico is furious and certainly stressed. He feels two inches tall when he has to explain to the Morenos. When Dom feels as if Seth keeps bothering him with inconsequential party preparations, he blows up. Seth feels humiliated and like a stranger in his own home. He definitely sees the ‘fragile’ position he has been relegated to, especially when one of Toro’s men makes a slur comparing Seth to his wife.

Nero Moreno and one of his men Diego rolls into town for the party and also to search for the missing shipment. Diego can’t seem to take his eyes off Seth and corners him in the kitchen , making passes at him. Seth is dumbfounded by Diego’s interest mainly because he knows his husband is Dom. It’s obvious that Diego has a death wish, this titillates and piques Seth’s interest. It reminds him of how Dom was when they first met. Seth likes to flirt with danger, but he knows he can’t take it too far because he is very much devoted to his husband. It’s just his way of testing his appeal.

When Diego makes a disparaging comment about Seth’s lips to Dom, Dom shows him why he is now called Toro. Dom gives him a good thrashing, while barely even blinking. Going home to a darkened home, Dom is slightly worried when he sees movement by the pool. Seth chooses that night to draw Dom in with a sexy role play about him cheating with the pool boy. With his anger still simmering so close to the surface from his fight with Diego, Seth is unknowingly playing a dangerous game with Dom. Dom devours his sexy husband voraciously and unleashes his dominance over him. Dom plays around with breath play by pushing Seth’s head in the pool.He goes at him with such intensity and Seth loves it. The needy part of Seth demands this rough side of his lover. They both are in heaven, reconnecting in this most carnal way. Dom through out the idea of Seth wearing a cock cage and he is certainly intrigued.

Things are going great between the loving couple for a few days before everything goes to shit. They come home from a party to find their son Mark in their bed with an underage girl Lilli who Dom has said is off limits. Dom is infuriated at Mark’s stupidity. He gets really rough and punches him in the face. Seth jumps into the fray to stop Dom who pushes him hard causing him to hit his face. Seth is now incensed at his husband’s lack of self control. Now his face is swollen and bruised. Dom is apologetic, but the damage is done.

Seth is slowly stewing about all his mistreatment lately. He’s restless with the life he leads. When Diego comes by , Seth is surprised. He has enough sense not to let him into their home, but he still entertains him and feeds him cake. Diego take things much too far when he masturbates in front of Seth. Seth knows that a line has been crossed and he immediately shuts it down. He knows he can never let anything happen again. Seth feels really guilty and he treats Dom like a King when he gets home. Little does Seth know the events he has set in place through his actions.

Their lives are impacted by tragedy when Diego claims to have a tip on the missing shipment. Their world is about to implode. Diego throws Mark over a cliff after an argument ensued. By the time Mark comes out of the hospital , he has lost an eye. Seth is devastated that his son is hurt. Dom tries to understand what happened and questions Mark. Mark reveals that Diego said he was sleeping with Seth. Dom sees the guilt written all over Seth’s face. Unbeknownst to him , Seth has somehow led on this madman in believing that he is interested. Domenico is enraged and feels utterly betrayed. This time he doesn’t even think before he punches Seth, because he wants to pound him. His heart feels like it’s been ripped out with every revelation of his husband’s near infidelity. He doesn’t even care that Seth didn’t sleep with Diego, the intent was there.

Things get messier when they set a trap for Diego, using Seth as bait. Nothing goes as planned. Diego gets Lilli to get Seth to open the gates and then kills her. Seth tries to lure him away from his unprotected family in the house. Diego believes Seth is his and he is ready to collect. Domenico is blinded by rage when he witnesses his husband’s infidelity with Seth kneeling before Diego pleasuring him. He doesn’t realize that Seth is only doing this to survive. In the end its Seth who ends up killing Diego while Dom is severely injured.

Seth knows his life of complacency has ended. It was time for him to remember the man he was and accept all consequences of the life they lead. No longer could he pretend to be the ‘house husband’ cooking and cleaning. Their foundation has been rocked to the very core, which was built upon trust. Dom is disoriented as he doesn’t know what to believe of Seth anymore , a man who was his everything. A man who he thinks is ungrateful for the luxurious life he had. Dom put another nail in their coffin when he shoots all of Seth’s chickens, the only thing that gave him peace in recent times.Dom cannot see that somewhere along the way he stopped giving of himself, the most important thing that Seth craved. They have both made mistakes and it will be very hard to come back from these events.

It takes almost losing Seth when he boards a boat, for Dom to come to his senses. He realized that throughout the years, Seth has always remained faithful to him no matter how many men have tried. They have a serious talk and Seth explains the despair and how truly stifled he felt in their relationship in the last two years. Dom is saddened that his overprotective personality has led them down this road. They know that it’s going to take hard work to rebuild the trust on honesty that they one had. They need to re-engage and become attuned to each other feelings like they once was. They end up in Buenos Aires feeling more like themselves than in El Encanto. Seth has reclaimed agency in their relationship and Dom allows his man to flourish and appreciate all that entails. I give this my ratings of 4-lose the underwear. I love catching up with Dom and Seth, but I’m ready to delve into Mark’s story. Can’t wait!!!

Hearts in Chaos (Phoenix Club 2) by CJ Bishop

Title: Hearts in Chaos        Word Count: 105 pgs
Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance

Blurb:Devastated after learning his abuser (and the man he killed in self-defense) was Dr. Devlin Grant’s much beloved brother, Abel feels he can no longer have anything to do with the man because of his secret.

Now locked into his agreement with Horatio Kaplan – and suffering heart break over Devlin – Abel finds no purpose in his life except taking care of Savannah. When Devlin refuses to be put off and insists Abel tell him the truth of why he is suddenly pushing him away, Abel must make the hard decision of whether or not to expose the hideous acts of Devlin’s brother – and shatter the man’s heart.

Warning: This book contains homosexual relations and language not suitable for readers below 17yo.

NOTE: For those coming across the ‘Phoenix Club’ series sporadically, they were written in this order, and if possible, should be read accordingly, due to story lines that run through all the books :

ABEL
CALEB
ANGEL
GABRIEL
MAXWELL

My Review: Abel tries to outrun his demons and finally ends up at home where Cole is waiting for him. Cole is perplexed by the state that his friend is in, he watches helplessly as Abel sobs brokenly. Devlin is left reeling from confusion. He is dejected not knowing how to pick up the pieces or why Abel ran away. This goes on for days without any explanations on what is going on. There is something niggling at Devlin, but he can’t put his finger on what.

When Abel returns to work, Devlin shows up and refuses to leave without an answer. Abel is devastated, because he knows the truth will wreck this sweet man whose declarations of love is so profound. Abel also acknowledges to himself that he is head over heels in love with Devlin. The passion that he feels for Devlin is overwhelming and he can’t resist one more chance at intimacy with his soul mate that he can never claim. However, this changes nothing and Abel closes the door with a finality when he tells Devlin he is no longer welcomed at the club. Abel leaves with his heart in pieces, on his way to commence his arrangement with Kaplan.

Abel is about to taint his soul with yet another man determined to exploit his body. His time with Kaplan isn’t horrible, but the parallels to his past abuse is too real in his mind. Kaplan forces him to open his eyes and be in the moment with him. The hardest part for Abel is when Kaplan arouses  him and pleasures him. For Abel it is just  a sensory reaction, but he feels worse for it because he doesn’t want to enjoy an act that he has no choice but to do.

Abel’s friends Cole and Gabe are very worried about him, but Abel pushes them away. An unusual sort of detachment comes over Abel’s persona, but that’s his way of coping.Cole and Gabe find comfort in each other and continue to navigate the complexities of their own budding relationship. When Devlin overhears Abel paying twenty thousand dollars on his sister’s hospital bill, he knows something is very wrong. Devlin approaches Abel at the club and demands answers. Abel knows the only way to get rid of Devlin and his declarations of love is to give him a part of the truth. He tells Devlin how he played some rich man’s whore. Devlin is shattered as he still doesn’t understand why Abel would rebuff his help to continue on this unsavoury path. Abel thought he would feel a sense of relief, but instead he feels wrecked.

Abel is surprised to see Devlin at his doorstep a few days later. It seems like Devlin just won’t give up, but Abel knows that will all change if he finds out the truth. Cole and Gabe come over and encourage  Abel that its time to lay it all on the table. Abel tells the horrific tale of the abuse he experienced for years at the hands of Devlin’s brother and how he eventually killed him in self defense. Devlin is appalled and disgusted, but most of all he doesn’t believe Abel. He can’t reconcile the upstanding brother he knew to the monster that Abel describes. Although Abel knew what the outcome would be , he is still crushed and defeated when Devlin calls him a whore and storms out. Luckily, Cole and Gabe are there to pick up the pieces of Abel’s fragmented soul. But even that won’t be enough to help him regain what he has lost, his innocence but most of all the love of Devlin Grant. To be continued….. this one was filled with heartache and pain , but such tender moments as well. I give this my ratings of 4 – lose the underwear.

It Can’t Be You ( Phoenix Club 1) by CJ Bishop

Title: It Can’t be You            Word Count: 175 pgs
Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance

ABEL

Blurb:19-year-old Abel Sims – hot, sexy stripper – is a favorite at the gay strip club The Phoenix. Having no family but his 16-year-old sister, Savannah, and coming from the streets – The Phoenix club has become his home, the other boys his close-knit family.

Abel doesn’t trust the outside world and is content to remain within his safe haven. But when an overzealous customer sends Abel to the ER, he meets young, handsome Dr. Devlin Grant. The instant attraction he feels for the man stirs up the nightmares of his past, causing him to resist his new feelings. But when Savannah gets sick and ends up in Devlin’s care, it becomes impossible to avoid the doctor.

And just when his heart is ready to trust this new found love – Abel is confronted with a disturbing fact about the doctor that reaches deep into the past he has been hiding and running away from.

ABEL is an emotionally charged, sexy, heart-wrenching love story that will break your heart, then put it back together again.

Warning: This book contains homosexual relations and crude language not suitable for readers below 17yo.

NOTE: For those coming across the ‘Phoenix Club’ series sporadically, they were written in this order, and if possible, should be read accordingly, due to story lines that run through all the books :

ABEL
CALEB
ANGEL
GABRIEL
MAXWELL

My Review: Abel is one of the sexy young strippers at the Phoenix Club. He is only 19 yrs old , but he has lived a very rough life from an early age. He does his best for the only person that’s ever loved him, his sister Savannah. Savannah is 16 and very sickly. Abel has spent all his life protecting the very fragile young girl, but he wouldn’t trade it for anything. Abel was repeatedly rape by one of the counselors at the shelter they stayed at. Abel stayed quiet and endured his abuse, so that the counselor wouldn’t start on Savannah.

When he is hurt at work by an overzealous client who tried to rape him, his friend Cole takes him to the hospital. This is where his path crosses Dr. Devlin Grant. Devlin is very interested in the sexy young man, but he tries to maintain his professionalism. Devlin causes Abel’s heart rate to kick up a notch. Abel feels a frisson of fear, because for the first time he is attracted to someone and would like to pursue it. Abel knows he has too much baggage and he feels like his life is too tainted for a man like Devlin. He makes an effort to keep his disinterested facade in place. After all, Abel won’t have to see Devlin  once he leaves the hospital.  
                                                                                     

 Little does Abel know that their lives will be even more intertwined. When Abel’s beloved sister falls sick in the middle of the night, Abel calls his friend Cole who helps them to the hospital. Devlin happens to be the doctor on call. He is very surprised to see Abel so soon, the young man who has dominated his thoughts. After running a battery of tests, Devlin gives Abel the most devastating shocking news, Savannah is HIV positive. Abel feels gutted and his world starts imploding around him. Abel blames himself and scrambles to find an explanation for this diagnosis. He thinks back to one of the nights when they lived on the streets and went dumpster diving for food. Abel remembered  something pricked Savannah and she said it felt like a needle. Everything is clear to Abel now and he just knows he has to do whatever it takes to keep Savannah alive.  

A solution falls into Abel’s lap via an indecent proposal. His boss Max tells Abel about a proposition he has received on his behalf. Horatio Kaplan a wealthy client of the club wants to pay Abel handsomely to spend time with him sexually. Abel feels disgusted and dirty , but he knows there is no other way to pay for the care Savannah will need. Abel visits Savannah everyday in the hospital and he is always tortured by his ever growing feelings for the handsome doctor. Devlin starts developing serious feelings for Abel, but he soon realizes Abel has been hurt deeply and is very skittish.

Their first attempt at a coffee date goes horribly wrong when Devlin encourages Abel to have faith that his sister will be alright. This touches a nerve in Abel , because of all the memories it brings up of the horrendous injustice of the rapes that he endured when he was no more than a child. Devlin realizes that Abel’s outburst stems from a far deeper pain than him saying the wrong thing. His suspicions are tentatively confirmed by Savannah when she breaks down and tell him the life they have lived thus far. Devlin cries for these two beautiful souls who have sustained so much pain.   

Abel tries to keep his distance and pushes Devlin away as he knows its for the best. He is in no position to start any kind of relationship, when he is burdened with so many issues. Abel goes ahead and set up the parameters for the ‘arrangement’ he will be entering with Kaplan. Abel’s friends Cole and Gabe help him  in a most pleasurable way to get used to intimacy so that he won’t get a panic attack when he has consensual sex. It is Cole’s and Gabe’s  loving friendship that keeps his demons away. The only place Abel really feels safe is in the controlled environment of the strip club.

Abel is shocked and nervous when Devlin shows up in one of the private rooms in the club saying he wants to talk. Abel is so afraid of the hopes and dreams he sees reflected in Devlin’s eyes, but he is weakened by his desires to taste something good and wholesome for a change. Abel gives into his desires to take something just for himself. The spark between the two soon turns into an inferno and they both give into their carnal desires. Devlin leaves after with hopes and the promise of a lunch date. Abel doesn’t want to give Devlin false hope or hurt him, but he wants this.

Devlin proposes a way to help Abel take care of Savannah financially through a fund set up with insurance from his brother’s death. Abel feels a glimmer of hope to have an alternate plan. Devlin tells Abel the story of how his brother Craig was a counselor who was killed by one of the teenagers he tried to help. Immediately Abel’s hopes are dashed when he realizes that Devlin’s dead brother Craig and his former abuser is one and the same. It turns out that Abel is the teenager who killed him. To be continued…..I give this my ratings of 4- lose the underwear.

 

 

 

Violence Begets….. by PT Denys

Title : Violence  Begets….            Word Count : 282 pgs

Genre : Contemporary Gay Romance

Blurb : After a tragic accident devastates his family, 16-year-old Rick St. James starts his junior year of high school without any friends in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. When he meets Kevin Vincent, he’s too distracted by the promise of new friends to see that Kevin has secrets of his own.

Having created an environment where he’s feared and admired by his classmates, Kevin finds pleasure in using his good looks and violence to control and manipulate those around him. Secretly, he cruises the gay club scene, turning tricks to earn money so he can party and get high.

As Rick’s dad becomes increasingly violent and abusive at home, the two form a surprising and volatile trust. In this battle of wills, their precarious friendship will either keep their lives from blowing up around them or possibly light the fuse that will cause the explosion.

My Review :  This was a heartwrenching story about two teenage boys forging their love through the fires of hell.Their relationship is a dysfunctional mess that you are not sure if you want to champion it or dissolve it for both of their sakes. Kevin likes to control every situation  and holds the upper hand with his merry band of delinquents. He plays head games and rules with an iron fist so that he comes off as a tough guy. Deep down inside he is a scared tortured little boy who doesn’t know what love is. He takes in the new kid Rick, thinking that he would be an easy target who would dance to his tune. Although he is  malleable,  Rick doesn’t conform to most of Kevin’s plans. He poses a challenge and soon it turns into an obsessive game for Kevin to get Rick into his bed and seduced by his dominance. Rick fights this surprising attraction for Kevin for awhile,  but Kevin expects this reaction and he whittled away until he hooks Rick. 

Although Rick is still not comfortable to identify as gay,  his connection with Kevin is so strong, it’s undeniable. He is the only one that has seen the sweet, gentle side of Kevin,  he has also seen the horrible monsters that lurk inside his home. He realized that they can both relate to having abusive fathers. They have an affinity to each other that is based on the physical and emotional  pain they have had to endure.  They have both seen the horrors that can be perpetrated by the people who should love us unconditionally , our parents. The violence that they have internalized, overwhelm them at times causing them to hurt innocent people. They are characters that have been sullied by the horrendous acts that they have experienced. Their bond is sustained through the pain and desolation of the scars left by their fathers.

Both Kevin and Rick are carrying some heavy baggage. Rick’s father blames him for his brother’s death and suggests that it should have been Rick who perished.  The father is becoming increasingly more violent and brutalize his body with a belt frequently. Kevin’s pious father uses him as a punching bag. He beats him up at least once or twice per week since he was seven. It is really sad to see how immune these two young men have become to the atrocities inflicted by their fathers. Kevin is so adept at dealing with the pain, that he just shuts down his mental faculties as a means of self preservation and endures hour long beatings by his father. 

The turbulence that’s in their souls does not ease once they get together as a couple. It doesn’t take much to imbalance their  precarious realities.  If all they know is violence, can love ever truly be a part of their lives? Kevin spirals out of control when one of his twink hookups recognizes him. He hurts the innocent guy pretty badly, when he tries to out him. Rick tries to get the situation under control by revealing his love for Kevin . This stops Kevin in his tracks and he runs off and goes on a drug binge. I feel saddened and sickened for this poor  young man  who has so much potential,  but his heart is warped by violence.

Rick and Kevin’s relationship turns toxic , but only because Rick tries to push Kevin away to protect their secret love. It becomes a tragic love story when Kevin’s dad catches them kissing. For the first time ever,  they decide to protect each other, but this only causes Rick to become a target. Kevin’s father beats Rick senseless and he ends up in the hospital where he flatlines. Kevin is lost without Rick and after confronting his father , he committed suicide by overdosing on drugs, not knowing that Rick had been resuscitated. Kevin missed out on his chance of exploring the undying love that Rick would feel for him for years to come.

 The truth finally came out about both their fathers and they were punished. But the horrors that they inflicted on their sons can never be undone. This was truly a tale of love and life lost. Rick ended up becoming a counselor,  but he was never able to get over the only man who ever loved him and who he loves unreservedly. Violence  begat ….. love. I give this my ratings of 4 – for leaving me emotionally drained and giving me the fortitude to embrace love.

Quotes : 1. “When he goes to hit you, let your muscles go as limp as possible. The more you tense, the more your muscles contract and the force of the blow will be worse.”He let that sink in before rolling onto his back again, and resuming his cold stare-off with the ceiling. “It’s not going to get much better between now and when you get out of here,”he said after several minutes of silence. “The best you can hope for is to roll with the punches, literally. Then we’ll leave and won’t have to deal with any of this shit anymore.” ( It is very sad when victims have to resort to these coping techniques against lifelong abuse.)

2. “You will not make any,”he threatened calmly. He wrapped his hand around my small finger and I stared at him in dismay. His eyes, calculating and cold, betrayed nothing. I tried to pull away, but his grip tightened even more. His stare bore into mine as I slowly felt the tension on my hand increase, and then the searing pressure finally gave and my finger snapped back. I slammed my head back into the wall and bit my lip to keep from crying out. He enclosed my ring finger in his hand and repeated the slow, painful process of breaking it. My free fist flew to my mouth and I bit down to keep from screaming. My mind started scrambling for focus. He smiled but didn’t release me. He wrapped his fingers around my middle finger. “Next time I will break every one of your fingers,”he said gently before he released my hand and walked away.( Sometimes the monsters don’t only lurk in closets, they are the living , breathing ‘upstanding’ fathers. Such a betrayal of trust when your abuser is your father.)

3. “Just like the bruises, people only see what they wanna see. And if they see more, they would much rather hear a sugar-coated lie than the ugly truth that’s staring at ’em.”

….. “You see, people don’t want to believe there are monsters living next door, that there are innocent kids screaming for help. They want to believe the story of the dashing businessman rising to the occasion after the drug-addicted mother runs away. Even to the fuckers who work in the system, it’s just one more case to add to their already overworked asses. They don’t fucking care. Nobody does.

( This is so true and sadly it is more common than we would like to believe. Let’s open our eyes and see the different forms of abuse, we need to look deeper and see the true faces of the abusers. )

West Coast Boys 2: King of Rain by Michele Fogal

Title :  King of Rain              Word Count : 75,921

Genre : Contemporary Gay Romance

Blurb : Being uber-tall and broad made it easy for Logan to hide his sexuality and vulnerability behind armor made of strength, ambition, and emotional detachment. His mask of macho success was shattered when he discovered the friend he’s carried a secret torch for has a boyfriend, and everything he’s always wanted now belongs to someone else. Logan can’t pretend not to care anymore, as his rage erupts in a horrible act of revenge. It’s impossible to hide his demons, now that they’ve broken loose.

Since losing his sweet boyfriend, Jeremy’s loud and proud life of sex parties and clubbing feels empty. When he meets the dark and self-destructive Logan, Jeremy recognizes the demons he sees in Logan’s eyes. After all, he has plenty of his own.

Logan isn’t looking for love, he’s looking for punishment and release, but with Jeremy all three seem momentarily possible… until he learns his victim was Jeremy’s lost love. Logan doesn’t expect forgiveness and knows he doesn’t deserve a real life, but after a taste of intimate closeness, finding salvation alone will mean he has to change, or die trying.

My Review : This was a very interesting read for me. Who would have thought that you could take two hated characters and fuse them together and turn them into something totally beautiful. The two main characters are having their own version of a sexual identity crisis. Jeremy is reevaluating himself after some hard truths are revealed about his personality by his ex Skyler. After cheating on Skyler and breaking his heart, he is now ready to reignite the flame that they once had. Jeremy feels utterly rejected when Skyler tells him that he has moved on and is in love  with his new boyfriend Ryan. Skyler sees through his ploy and accuses Jeremy of being a cold lover who doesn’t let anyone get close to him. It takes Skyler saying all these things to make Jeremy realize that he uses sex as a shield and uses his sexuality so freely with so many guys  that no one guy can become attached.

 Jeremy tests this theory with a quick hook up with a fellow jogger in the park. The experience leaves him feeling so cold and worthless. He finally sees what Skyler saw in him and it is not pretty. Jeremy sees how meaningless his interactions have become and it causes him to feel brittle. His roommate Kodi seems to be the one constant thing in his life and he reiterates some of the same things that Skyler pointed out. Kodi is a big bear of a man who is rather gentle and he cuddles Jeremy whose sense of self has been shattered. He offers him the strength hoping that he will accept the truth and be more of a better person.

When we meet our second main character Logan, it is obvious to see that he is filled with rage and self anger. He deals with this by cutting,  this form of self harm helps him to feel calmer. Logan is also seeing a therapist,  but it is very hard for him to open up.  He is being forced to go to the therapist by his parents who recently found out that  he  almost sexually assaulted a young man. Logan doesn’t identify as being gay , but he’s had jerk off sessions with his best friend Ryan who happens to be Skyler’s boyfriend.  When Ryan rebuffed Logan’s  attention,  he decides that it’s all Skyler’s fault and decides to teach him a lesson. He goes over to Ryan’s house and attempted to force Skyler to give him a blowjob. Ryan is just in time to foil his plans. Needless to say,  their friendship has been irrevocably changed. 

Jeremy goes out clubbing but the environment feels so much colder now that he has gotten in touch with a part of himself he has tried to deny. He is just about to give up trolling,  when he sees him. There is something about the big guy with white blond hair that seems familiar. Soon he realizes that he has seen this guy on either Skyler or Ryan’s Facebook page. He quickly snatches Logan out the door. There is something about Logan that calls to something in him. Logan is a bit hesitant,  but he goes home with this stranger. With his cuffs and his whip, Jeremy demands Logan’s submission. He forces him to accept and let go of some of the wrongs he has done. Logan realizes that he has gained a sense of freedom that he has never known. Jeremy allows him to become in tuned with his body and acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with getting pleasure from the unexplored territories of his body that he associates with being gay. They both exorcize their demons with Jeremy taking care of Logan and Logan accepting himself for who he truly is. Logan recognizes that although it might seem as if Jeremy has the upper hand in their interactions,  they are both being vulnerable and scared together. Jeremy teaches Logan about his body while Logan teaches Jeremy to open up his heart.

After their first night together, they decide to become exclusive  boyfriends.  A little bit soon, but probably just what they both needed. They both have inner demons that feed off each other and seems to make them both stronger as individuals. Logan starts owning his sexual identity and he comes out to his father and he sets the rumour mill aflame when he takes Jeremy to one of his football games. They take baby steps and ease into things gently. They have a prolific need to become immersed in each other’s lives. This is how Logan ended up going clubbing with his boyfriend and meeting Jeremy’s friends/ fuck buddies. While they are there, they run into  Skyler and Ryan and it is definitely not a happy reunion.  It is disastrous and forces Logan to flee when he’s faced with the broken bonds of friendship that he had with Ryan and Skyler’s fear of him.

Logan acknowledges the monster living inside him that has damaged not only his friendship, but which can be blamed for the discord between him and his family. He decides  once and for all to vanquish that part of himself by comitting suicide. He sends off an email apologizing and explaining his actions to his former best friend Ryan and goes to the canyon to do the deed. When he gets there, he decides that he wants to live, he just wants that destructive part of himself gone. He immersed himself in water and he comes up feeling like he has been baptized and his sins washed away.

Logan comes  home to find all the people who have loved or cared for him at some point in his life in his living room. Judging by the state he is in , it is clear to see what happened. They all come to conclusion that there are quite a few bonds that need repairing in this group. Logan’s family and Jeremy decides to go to a therapy session with him. It is very overwhelming and enlightening for Logan who now understands that you can’t look at your ‘self’ as being one dimensional. We all have to embrace all our ‘selves’ and shape them into a cohesive community within our bodies that works for each individual.

It was Skyler who truly helped him to put things in perspective when he sent him a link to a video by Sara Bareilles called Brave. It was very insightful because it allowed Logan to see that even when you think you are a freak, be brave and own it. I’ve always thought that we are all messed up in some way and sometimes we hide our tortured souls under our flesh. We just have to compartmentalize and accept all facets of ourselves; it is what truly makes us unique. I really enjoyed these characters who are flawed and will have to keep on working on their ‘selves’ and their love for each other. I give this my ratings of 5 –  not only because you will want to lose the underwear, but it is such a profound issue that we all struggle with at times,  Our Self Identity .