A BJ Review: Chasing Death Metal Dreams by Kaje Harper

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Rating:  5 stars out of 5      ★★★★★

Chasing Death Metal Dreams coverThis story was written as a part of the M/M Romance Group’s “Love is an Open Road” event. Group members were asked to write a story prompt inspired by a photo of their choice. Authors of the group selected a photo and prompt that spoke to them and wrote a short story.

Dear Author,
I was sent to the US at the age of 10 by my father who could not accept me. You see I was misgendered at birth and I started fighting against my body at a young age. My father sent me to live with my cousin’s family along with enough money to pay my way for a few years. Little does he know he helped to fund the many surgeries and hormones to fulfill my dream of having my outside gender match the gender my brain has always known myself to be.

What do you think Author? Not many know of his secret. He is a gay man. Is he in a gang? Is he in a band? How will he find love? How will he be accepted?

Photo Description: A young bare-chested man stands staring boldly outward from below his raised arms, hands pressed together in his black hair, elbows winged out, colorful dagger tattoos on his forearms. Another tattoo near his neck forms swirl of dark curves with “Boy” over his left collarbone. His biceps are strong, his stomach and pecs flat, his nipples small, above a thin treasure trail leading downward. Below each nipple is the unmistakable, long-healed scar of top surgery.

Carlos Medina has spent years of sweat, pain, effort, and money becoming the man he is. He writes original songs, plays lead guitar, and wears his death metal front-man persona like armor. With an excellent drummer and a talented bassist, his band, KnifeSwitch, has what it takes to succeed, if they can just catch a break. But it’s been a long road already, and there’s still a mountain left to climb. Carlos isn’t looking for anything more in his personal life than an occasional hook-up with a hot guy, preferably outside the less-than-gay-friendly metal scene.

Nate Goldstein has no intention of dating a musician. His twin brother fronts a band, and he knows band guys are all busy, broke, and obsessed with their music. But Carlos catches his artist’s eye. Nate is wary – he has a history of picking the wrong guys. Still, he might be willing to break some personal rules to find out what’s behind Carlos’s dark gaze and imaginative lyrics.

Getting together the first time is easy and fun. The second time is more complicated. And when music, ambition, and personalities clash, the guys will have to decide if they have a future worth fighting for.

This is my favorite of the stories I’ve read from this year’s writing event so far. Let me tell you why. First off, main character Carlos. While there certainly isn’t a plethora of books with a trans man as a lead character, there are a decent amount both inside and outside of the m/m genre, and I’ve read a quite a few. Not many are this well done, and in only a few have I discovered a main character that truly engaged me. Carlos definitely did. He could be stand-offish, prickly, quick to anger and didn’t do relationships. He was very careful to keep his sexuality under wraps since it wasn’t widely accepted within the death metal circle. But Carlos was also so damned strong, and his determination to pursue his dreams, both musical and being his real inner self, spoke to me deeply. Then he met Nate.

Which brings us to the second reason this was a favorite. Nate is an artist with a wonderfully close, supportive and accepting family. Artist characters are a thing for me, so is long hair, which meant Nate was an instant hit with me. But like Carlos, Nate was a thoroughly nuanced character who despite being caring, sensitive, considerate, accepting and supportive, did also have his own issues of trust and insecurity to overcome.

When the sparks fly between these two, it’s far from insta-love. These two men each have baggage and obstacles to overcome. Their story swept me along very easily and naturally. I loved watching Carlos open up to Nate not just physically but also letting him in emotionally, which wasn’t something he’d done before. Watching the two very different men learn to trust each other was a thoroughly enjoyable journey.

The author handled the sexual scenes, even the sensitive ones, very well with just the right amount of details and explanations. The heat level was quite steamy. While I do understand why the sex scenes were mainly from Nate’s point of view, I still longed for one from Carlos’ and I think mainly this has to do with the fact that the other really well-done trans man main character book I’d read was from only the other MC’s point of view. Since this one was a dual-POV, my favorite, I’d held out that hope. I don’t consider that this took away from the story all that much, however, since each scene between the two moved their relationship along perfectly.

I’m not a metal music fan at all. In fact, I normally avoid books that deal with rock stars completely. But this wasn’t about stars, far from it, and I didn’t need to be into death metal to become invested in and enjoy these guys story. The author painted a clear picture of the struggle it takes to make it as they chased their dreams. Loved the sprinkled in song lyrics and the album cover and tattoo drawing descriptions. In fact, all the many facets of the story’s elements were thoroughly researched and expertly handled, making this story read wonderfully smooth and true for me. The pace wasn’t fast, but leisurely like a Sunday drive where in the journey itself is as important as the destination. Something to be savored mile-by-mile, word-by-word.

This story was written within a short timeframe and the limited guidelines of fitting into a given prompt, yet you could never tell that if you picked this up. Not from the stunning cover, and certainly not from the beautiful, well-rounded, well-written journey towards acceptance and love that this story takes us on. If you haven’t read this one yet, pick it up today. It definitely belies the saying “you get what you pay for”. This story rocks, or considering the death metal maybe I should say it growls.

The cover by BookCoverMasterClass.com is stunning and very well suited to the story. Definitely grabbed my attention.

Free story at  Goodreads MM Romance Group.com

Book Details:

ebook, 265 pages
Published August 2nd 2015 by MMRomanceGroup.com (first published August 1st 2015)
edition languageEnglish
charactersCarlos Medina, Nate Goldstein

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