A MelanieM Review: Between Bloody Lips (The Valentino Family #2) by Sai Fox

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

 

Who is Nicolai Valentino?

Some think him a devoted son, a ruthless killer, a vicious monster. The heir of the infamous Valentino family, Nico is a man with blood-stained hands and a heart of ice.

To Gabriel Delatto, Nico is more than that: a childhood friend, a passionate lover, a misunderstood soul, a man whose cold, calculated outward exterior protects the broken man inside. Nico is his best friend, his lover, his other half—his better half.

But how much of that is true? And how much is just lies whispered between bloody lips?

New York to Tokyo—Gabriel is willing to follow his lover to the ends of the earth to find out what Nico is running from.

Or, maybe, what is Nico running to?

Author Note: Please be advised that there are sexual scenes of explicit graphic nature, including BDSM themes, within the following story. These are done between two parties over the age of 18.

There are scenes involving non-consensual BDSM themes and mentions of past physical and mental child abuse and graphic material that may not be suitable for all audiences.

To be honest, after reading the first story in this series I wasn’t at all sure I was going to continue with the series.  I thought that book,On Hands and Knees, was lacking in world building and a foundation for the characters and the characters relationship necessary to the story and  overall arc.  But there was just enough intrigue and interest for me to continue and I’m so glad I did because this?  This novel?  It’s a completely different animal.

Between Bloody Lips (The Valentino Family #2) by Sai Fox to be sure builds on the somewhat nebulous storyline of the prior book, picking up right after the events there.  But here everything is so much more fleshed out.  What was a disadvantage in the first story becomes a strength here, and that would be the tortured narrative of Gabriel Delatto, whose mind and memory never seem little more than a shaky thing ready to fly apart, and it’s threatening to do so without it’s anchor, Nico.

Gabe is running after an elusive Nico, ending up in Japan,  with an elusive criminal underworld filled with layers he can’t comprehend, and the reader is there floundering  with him.  This is a dark, angst filled story.  Both Gabe, Nico and some of the others here have come from a tormented, background of systematic child abuse and it has left both men deeply scars and in many ways twisted and wounded beyond repair.  They seek through BDSM, cutting, and more, relief through pain, humiliation, and submission.  While some of these scenes read as BDSM others read as self harm, and others still more are non con, violent dub con, and more.  As I said this is a violent world of criminals and the dark nature of others, the author has realistically shown that.  So be warned.

As the story progresses and we sift through Gabe’s tortured mind along with his efforts to understand Nico’s predicament and his own, we start to form our own ideas of what is behind Nico’s running and the some of the layers start to come together but it does not prepare us for the startling revelations towards the end.

I cannot go into details here except to say this is an exceptional book, from the characters to the convoluted, labyrinthine story.  Everything finally comes together in one smashing, stunning climax that is worth both books.

Plus for once, I enjoyed the fact that the author did not take these tortured men and miraculously “cure” them.   Or promise a HEA, no matter what that blurb says.  No.  They can’t be promised that given who and what they are.  A HFN is realistic and yes, there are still questions we might not know the answers to, but that feels real too given the circumstances here as well.

For me I wish Sai Fox had run both books together for one brilliant story because that’s what this second novel becomes.  Just brilliant.    And one, if your stomach can handle the abuse, cutting, and everything, is worth it all.  I highly recommend it.

 

Cover art by Samantha Garrett is dark and stunning, just like the storyline.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 380 pages
Published May 11th 2019
ASIN B07NK6JJ5G
Edition Language English

Book Blast for Between Bloody Lips (The Valentino Family #2) by Sai Fox (excerpt and giveaway)

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BOOK BLAST

Book Title: Between Bloody Lips (The Valentino Family, Book 2)

Author: Sai Fox

Publisher: Independently Published

Cover Artist: Samantha Garrett

Release Date: May 11th, 2019

Genre/s: Mystery/Thriller/Erotic M/M Romance

Trope/s: BDSM, best friends to lovers, forbidden romance,

Themes: how far will you go to save the one you love, redemption, forgiveness, unquestioning love

Heat Rating: 5 flames

Length: 64,000 words/ 370 pages

Add on Goodreads 

 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Blurb

Who is Nicolai Valentino?

Some think him a devoted son, a ruthless killer, a vicious monster. The heir of the infamous Valentino family, Nico is a man with blood-stained hands and a heart of ice.

To Gabriel Delatto, Nico is more than that: a childhood friend, a passionate lover, a misunderstood soul, a man whose cold, calculated outward exterior protects the broken man inside. Nico is his best friend, his lover, his other half—his better half.

But how much of that is true? And how much is just lies whispered between bloody lips?

New York to Tokyo—Gabriel is willing to follow his lover to the ends of the earth to find out what Nico is running from.

Or, maybe, what is Nico running to?

 

Excerpt

Nico was beautiful in his fear.

Nico’s hair was mussed, sweat dripping down from his hairline to the collar of his shirt, his pendant standing stark against his throat. There was blood splattered across his cheeks like macabre freckles, a dribble just below his nose making its way down his bottom lip.

Gabriel didn’t know if it was his or someone else’s, but it looked exquisite against his skin.

What would Nico’s blood have tasted like? What would Nico’s fear have tasted like?

It didn’t matter. Gabriel would have kissed it away if he could.

If he could, Gabriel would have done many things differently.

If he could.

If he could

This was all wrong.

“Stop, Gabriel.”

The air in the house was like an oven, nary a breeze to give either of them comfort. Despite the distance between them, a chasm that only seemed to grow wider, Gabriel could all but feel the heat from Nico’s mouth against his.

Nico was fire and Gabriel…

Gabriel was just the kindling.

They were so close—all Gabriel had to do was reach out. All it would take was a hand around Nico’s collar and he could crush his lips against Nico’s. They could fall into each other’s arms as they always had, always would.

That would have been right.

That would have been good.

But there was something pink and gelatinous smeared across the front of Nico’s shirt, something that Gabriel knew intrinsically belonged in someone’s head, not spread across Nico’s white button-up.

Nico’s hands shook like leaves on trees just before the hurricane ripped them off and scattered them across the sea.

When their eyes met, Gabriel turned away his head as though someone struck him.

Nico’s unbridled fear staring back at him through piercing dark blue eyes made his stomach churn.

That wasn’t how Nico was supposed to stare at him. That wasn’t what they had, that wasn’t who they were supposed to be.

Why was Nico so scared?

Why was Nico scared of him?

“Gabriel—Gabe—”

Gabriel could hear the words, feel the cold metal in his hand. He knew that there was something wrong with this scene, knew that this wasn’t how any of this was supposed to go. He could feel the heaviness of the gun, the cloying smell of blood and shit, the sweat on his brow, the panic clawing through his stomach—

“Gabriel—please. Please, listen to me. You don’t have to do this. I know you, Gabriel. I know you. This isn’t you. This isn’t you.”

“Get out of the way, Nico.”

It was his voice.

He could feel the hum of the words leaving his throat, how his lungs exhaled with every syllable. He could feel the way his lips touched, how they formed words, how his tongue clinked against his teeth.

He could feel it, feel all of it, just as he could feel the metal, hard and cold, gripped in his hand.

“You can’t do this. you have to stop—” Nico reached out for his arm, but it met nothing but air.

Gabriel tried to lower his hand, tried to loosen his grip on the gun, but he couldn’t.

He couldn’t.

“Don’t make me hurt you.”

“Gabriel—you’re better than this. You’re more than this!”

Was he?

“My hands are bloodier than yours.”

Gabriel wanted his hand to shake, but it was steady.

It was too steady.

“Baby. Please. If you do this… you can’t come back from this.”

He wanted to let go, wanted to scream, wanted to say something—anything.

Why couldn’t he stop himself? Why couldn’t he let go? Why did it feel as though he were a marionette, a puppet with someone else pulling his strings?

I don’t want this. I don’t want to do this. Please. Please. Nico—please—

“Gabriel… I love you.”

It was a whisper between bloody lips.

“I love you. Please don’t do thi—”

Gabriel pulled the trigger.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.

Silence.

 

About the Author

Sai Fox was born and raised in New York City, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that there’s an ever-present coffee cup on her desk as she writes well into the night. A chronic insomniac, some of her best ideas come to her right before heading off to bed.

Currently residing in Tokyo, Sai finds most of her time spent writing, reading, and wandering the strange and intoxicating streets that tell thousands of stories… with a cup of coffee. There is always a cup of coffee.

Sai has been writing fiction for well over a decade, enjoying the ability to push boundaries of society and sexuality through her work.

 

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Giveaway

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A MelanieM Review: On Hands and Knees (The Valentino Family) by Sai Fox

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Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5

Nicolai Valentino is the almost perfect heir to the Valentino Family—impeccably dressed, devilishly handsome, impossibly cold, and absolutely dedicated to a family that scorns his very existence. Born to the infamous Boss and a Japanese woman of no consequence, Nico must fight for respect in a blood-thirsty world that would be much happier to see him with a hole in his head.

Blood runs thick in the Valentino Family. To them, Nico’s little better than water.

Gabriel Delatto is Nico’s right-hand man, his childhood friend, and under the darkness of their ruby red sheets, his lover. But more than that, Gabriel holds the secret to unlocking who Nico really is—the true Nico, not the mask beginning to crack around the edges.

But there is a pleasure in that pain, he knows. There is only ever pleasure when it comes to Nico, even if it comes from the crack of a whip or on the edge of a blade.

But there’s someone lurking in the darkness, something that neither Nico nor Gabriel truly understand, But there is one thing they do know—

It isn’t afraid to bite.

I had a tough time with the rating on this story for several reasons. On Hands and Knees (The Valentino Family) by Sai Fox was a new title and author for me so you all know I immediately read the author bio and information.  She’s been writing for years. She’s currently living in Japan. Pluses. That leads me to more pluses and minuses of this story.

I’m drawn to stories with complex, dark characters and this promised two.  As I got into the novel, there are multiple mysteries surrounding both main characters of Nico and Gabriel, their traumatic childhoods, and yes, even a present timeline going back 6 months.  The author presents clues but nothing more.  There is really only the barest of world building here and little character framework other than their twined childhoods after a certain age, an implied horrific “Training” they endured by The Family as kids, and the present romantic/physical relationship which is barely tolerated,  and that might end at any moment, It also includes a D/s element (spanking, whipping) .

The story is heavy on sex, light on  layered character development.  We are more told how crazy Nico is than shown except for one rather mild example.

What the story relies on is promise.  The narrative offer is held out for more.  More revelations, more character growth and depth.  Of the two men, Gabriel is easier to relate to but you should be able to relate to both and that really doesn’t happen here imo.  Nico just isn’t given the dimension he needs outside of the sex scenes.

Then there is the issue with the editing.

Here is an example:

“There were scars crisscrossing his skin, leaving perfectly puckered and raised lines for Gabriel to stare down at in complete and utter awe. They were mostly pale brown, not deep enough to leave lasting damage or scar but enough for Nico to feel.

Uh, wut?

Well, the author meant bruises or welts from the whipping from a belt earlier that morning but used the word “scars” instead.  That’s only the first of many such errors.  Plus these two men are supposed to be keeping their relationship on the down-low yet plenty of people within the organization have heard the “screaming” going on from their sessions.

Sigh.

Yes, an editor, a really good editor is clearly needed here.

The story ends on a cliffhanger with a new element introduced that’s interesting but makes little sense with what the author has already told us.

I have no idea if I’m going further with this series or not.  Probably with one more story just to see how the cliffhanger is resolved.

I will leave someone else to comment about the timing of the sessions (in an office right before an important meeting of the Mafia), the lack of safe words etc., and other aspects of the D/s relationship.  I think I’ve covered plenty here.   If this sounds like this is the story for you, the buy links are listed below.

 

Cover Artist: Samantha Garrett, the cover art is ok.  The font is easy to read but the graphics are dark and murky which may be what the artist was going for but it loses something in the composition.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US 

Amazon UK 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 232 pages
Published June 1st 2018
ASINB07D92HV75
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Valentino Family

Author Note: Please be advised that there are sexual scenes of explicit graphic nature, including spanking, within the following story. These are done in a fully consensual manner between two parties over the age of 18

Retro Review Tour and Giveaway for On Hands and Knees (The Valentino Family) by Sai Fox

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RETRO REVIEW TOUR

Book Title: On Hands and Knees

Author: Sai Fox

Publisher: Self-Published

Cover Artist: Samantha Garrett

Release Date: June 1, 2018

Genre/s: Mystery, Thriller, BDSM

Heat Rating: 5 flames

Length: 40 000 words/ 226 pages

It is the first book of a series, with additional books due to be released in the summer.

Add on Goodreads

Tagline

Valentino blood runs black.

Blurb

Nicolai Valentino is the almost perfect heir to the Valentino Family—impeccably dressed, devilishly handsome, impossibly cold, and absolutely dedicated to a family that scorns his very existence. Born to the infamous Boss and a Japanese woman of no consequence, Nico must fight for respect in a blood-thirsty world that would be much happier to see him with a hole in his head.

Blood runs thick in the Valentino Family. To them, Nico’s little better than water.

Gabriel Delatto is Nico’s right-hand man, his childhood friend, and under the darkness of their ruby red sheets, his lover. But more than that, Gabriel holds the secret to unlocking who Nico really is—the true Nico, not the mask beginning to crack around the edges.

But there is a pleasure in that pain, he knows. There is only ever pleasure when it comes to Nico, even if it comes from the crack of a whip or on the edge of a blade.

But there’s someone lurking in the darkness, something that neither Nico nor Gabriel truly understand. But there is one thing they do know—

It isn’t afraid to bite.

 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US 

Amazon UK 

 

About the Author

Sai Fox was born and raised in New York City, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that there’s an ever present coffee cup on her desk as she writes well into the night. A chronic insomniac, some of her best ideas come to her right before heading off to bed.

Currently residing in Tokyo, Sai finds most of her time spent writing, reading, and wandering the strange and intoxicating streets that tell thousands of stories… with a cup of coffee. There is always a cup of coffee.

Sai has been writing fiction for well over a decade, enjoying the ability to push boundaries of society and sexuality through her work.

 

Author Links

Blog/Website

Facebook

Twitter

 

RETRO REVIEW TOUR SCHEDULE

 

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions