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

A BJ Review: Human Choices (Guardians of the Leythe #2.0) by Jaye McKenna

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Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

Human Choices coverKhy has been held prisoner for years, drugged, bound with a collar around his neck that keeps him from using his leythe energy, and forced to serve Master Rikard. Treated like a slave during the day and enduring agony at night as his power is ripped from him for Rikard’s nefarious use, Khy has little memory of any other life. Until one day his master is called away on urgent business, and Khy is left alone. When the drugs wear off, he makes a break for freedom while he can.

He meets Jaedin, a former ranger who is still mourning the loss of his beloved Talon five years after his death, in the town of Rosefire. When Jaedin steps in to help Khy, he finds himself haunted by voices and in an attempt to rid himself of them, sets off in search of Khy thinking he has cursed him.

This was written from a photo and prompt for the Love’s Landscapes series of DRitC. The author did an absolutely amazing job with incorporating the prompt and the photo so truly perfectly into the story that was written. I initially read this story (which is second in a series) before having read the first book. I enjoyed it then, but this past week I went back and read it after reading book one, and it came to life much fuller and more completely since I now had a background on Varien and Tor.

The world building in this series is excellent, and all of the characters are well drawn. I cared about them and what would happen to them immediately. Plenty of angst (this author’s guys tend to go through the wringer a bit, which I love!) Totally rooting for Khy to have a HEA although the whole thing with Jaedin near the start did piss me off while at the same time I found it interesting. This story is tagged as non-con, but its a different take on the non-con trope. Almost a reversal. I won’t spoil that by explaining, but give it a read and see.

So back to the world building. There are so many elements of this series that I find pretty damn cool about its world, well, I mean in addition to the magic and the hot long-haired guys, of course.

* The Fireskye, made me think of the Northern Lights (which have always fascinated me)! Only even more cool. 

* The Black? Is it death? Hell? Both? Something else. 

* The leythe itself and how it runs through what is turning into quite a complex history.

I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting Tor and Ash from book one. And while I loved the new guys (especially Jaedin), I am still most drawn to Ashnavayarian, I hope he continues to appear in this series as I find him quite fascinating as he grows and changes—which he’s done a lot of from book one to this story! And I loved the little bits of him and Tor’s continuing relationship that peek through in this near the end.

An engrossing fantasy with magic, angst, and a fascinating world. I highly recommend this, but must say I think you might enjoy it even more if you read Human Frailties, Human Strengths first. I know I did.

The cover by Cinchbug is nicely representative of the story.

Sales Links:  Free here at Goodreads M/M Romance Group

Book Details:

ebook, 141 pages
Published June 7th 2014 by M/M Romance Group @ Goodreads
edition languageEnglish
series: Guardians of the Leythe #2.0, Love’s Landscapes, Don’t Read in the Closet Events , more
characters: Jaedin (Human Choices), Khy (Human Choices), Ashnavayarian “Ash/Varian”, Tor MacAran

A BJ Review: Fidelity by Lia Black

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Rating:  5 stars out of 5

How far can a man go in the name of faith?

Fidelity cover

While most of his order choose a female, Father Gareth De’Aubyn chose the handsome Fidelity as his guardian and fell in love with his angel during his prayers. When he leaves the Crusaders to minister to the very people his armies once threatened, his beloved angel falls from the Heavens in his search for him. Soon Gareth finds himself at death’s door and calls to the Creator for aide in protecting his flock. But its Fydelis, no longer an angel but now the demonic aspect of regret and toy of the Sunderer, who comes to his rescue. In exchange for help, Gareth must promise his soul to the Sunderer, god of the underworld. Bargain made, its Fydelis who must lead his love, the man he thought had abandoned him, on his task of collecting twenty strong and stubborn souls. Their journey together tests everything they thought they knew about faith, love, and fidelity.

Well-written with excellent pacing, this story had me enthralled from the gripping first scene onward. Being that I was quite swamped in real life when I read this, I didn’t breeze through it as I most assuredly would have if I’d had time. On retrospect, I actually don’t regret that. It allowed me to savor the story, and cuddle these lovely broken guys in my mind over a matter of days rather than hours. And this is a story well-worth savoring, let me tell you!

If you enjoy dark stories about broken boys, like I do, my advice is… read this book right now. There isn’t just one but two deliciously damaged men here, broken at the start and falling to pieces all along the journey’s way. Two men both in love, both thinking they’d been abandoned by the other, now united on the lurid task set before them, one knowing who the other is, one in the dark.

Usually early on in a good story, I’m locked into one of the characters so much that my heart bleeds and breaks for him, this is that times two. I’d be hard pressed to say which of these guys touched me more. Gareth who wants so much to help others and do what he thinks is right that he even scourges his back to keep himself from having impure urges; or Fydelis who has suffered so much at the hands of the gruesome Sunderer.

Dark and not for the faint-hearted, one particular scene at the beginning took my breath away with its grisly, shocking cruelty. But amidst the bloody battle scenes, there is humor, small joys, and sweet tenderness. Amidst the dismantling, we are put back together. The ride to get there is gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, and painful to read at parts. And I bloody well loved it. All of it.

From the first book I read by this author, I was hooked. She’s now firmly one of my two favorite m/m authors. I’d be hard pressed to choose between Black and Lanyon. But Lia Black somehow (by magic?) looks into my head and heart and gives me what I love, pushes my buttons, presses my boundaries, and does it every single time.

The cover is a stunner, just gorgeous. From the seal of the order, the stern and righteous Gareth in his armor with sword, Fydelis as a young long haired human and the wings in the background… its just absolutely perfect. Bravo!

Sales Link:  Amazon  Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 213 pages
Published May 1st 2015 by VineDark/ BlackHouse Press
ASINB00W4BS5R8
edition languageEnglish