A MelanieM Review: Hunter (Brawlers #4) by J.M. Dabney

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Welcome to Brawlers Bar…

If there was a way to completely destroy his life, Hunter Black would do it. He was a catastrophe waiting to happen. Survival was his only priority and having to leave his old life behind that meant a job of the legal variety. He’d found one as a bartender at Brawlers Bar and a safe place in a huge house with the rest of the bar crew who quickly became the family he’d never had. The one thing Hunter didn’t need was his old life tracking him down.

Deputy Wren Gramble hated his job and his weekend assignment of staking out a bar in the middle of nowhere waiting for drunks. Although he’d heard the homophobic and racist jokes going around about the crew and customers, he kept his head down and stuck to his job and nothing else. He despised being driven back into the closet, but he’d reached the end of the line and what he’d do if he earned another transfer he didn’t know.

Linus Trenton was considered the normal one in his family and according to the weird ones that meant he should be punished on a daily basis. He never came out one way or another, if he found someone attractive he was attracted. His life was complicated enough having a crush on the sweet and awkward Hunter but now he had to throw Wren into the mix. Linus didn’t have time for dating or romance, most of the time he didn’t even think about having a sex life, although, Wren and Hunter were ruining his calm.

Hunter was in lust with the handsome deputy the minute the man pulled him over, but a man like that wouldn’t give him the time of day. His friend, Linus, was another matter altogether. Hunter wanted both. His bosses made it work with their man, why couldn’t he? Could Hunter prove he wasn’t as much of a screw up as he appeared or would he have to call in backup to claim his men?

Hunter (Brawlers #4) by J.M. Dabney surprised me in many ways.  For me it seemed to hold  the least amount of angst that i’ve come to expect of the Dabney men and the Brawlers series.  Hunter is quiet to the point of utter silence, he’s so clumsy that he often poses a danger to himself and others, shy with a self esteem that seems to exist at basement level.  He’s bearish with long hair (how the cover missed a motherlode there) and everyone seems to want to look after him.  Surprisingly again, the author is stingy with Hunter’s backstory. At least with the others, we’ve gotten an idea of the circumstances that brought them to Brawler’s.  Here we just get the barest outline of jail time and some juvenile arrests, not nearly enough.

Those details are left for Linus Trenton and Deputy Wren Gramble, the two men vying for Hunter’s love and ending up as a threesome.  As the fourth book in the Brawlers series, it’s also the one that sees the most storyline involving the corruption within the Sheriff’s Department and how that affects Hunter, Linus, and Wren.  This book also sets the stage for my all time favorite stories and series, the Executioners.  So maybe, Hunter just had too much to do.

But whatever the case maybe I felt as though this threesome was missing some of that magic, or vivid relationship interactions that brought the other three stories alive.  Somehow I never felt as connected to these men as I did all the other couples (and it’s not due to the fact that it’s a menage – those can be very hot).   Maybe it was that it felt as though it happened too fast, or just that Hunter had ignored Linus and then he didn’t.  I’m not sure what the element here is that made me wishing for all the other couples stories again but the spark, that heat, never flared.  Sweet, happy even, yes….but never quite Brawlers red hot.

There are some really funny moments here to enjoy. I can always count on the author to supply those, usually along with some major angst which is missing here.  Dabney’s  wonderful dialog and  rough hewn characters are always something I look forward to and I needed to see Hunter get his HEA which he does.  Most importantly though, the author is tying up some story threads and setting the tone and overall plot in place for two of the best books of the connected series (all three), that would be Ghost and Joker.  I have listed all the series and stories below.

I don’t really consider any of these stories stand alone as they flow from one person to another, connecting, developing and using each as a foundation for the next.  So remarkable.   So one more jump backward to the Twirled World Ink series to see where it all began.

Whether it’s Hunter or the Brawlers series, I absolutely  recommend them all.  Then continue to  finish off all the series and wait for the rest to be released just like me!  I can hardly wait.

Cover art by Winterheart Designs is showing just the torso.  I think this is a miss as they could have included Hunter’s signature long hair.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

book, 160 pages
Published June 13th 2017 by Hostile Whispers Press
Series Brawlers #4

A MelanieM Review: Bull (Brawlers #3) by J.M. Dabney

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Welcome to Brawlers Bar…

They said men only get better with age, distinguished and all that BS, but Archer “Bulletproof” Woods hadn’t gotten better. At fifty-six he was still as much an asshole as he’d been in his twenties and thirties, hell, maybe he was worse. Being a bouncer at a bar called Brawlers suited him just fine and he even tolerated the rest of the crew who’d taken up residence in his house when they’d had nowhere else to go. He was big, growly and homely that kept the parade of men passing through Brawlers at arm’s length for the past decade. One night changed all that.

What he’d thought was happily ever after turned into a nearly five year nightmare. Gregory Charles appeared to have it all, a successful business, sophistication, and a perfect marriage. His friend and best employee, Landon, begged him to come out to a friend’s bar to celebrate Landon’s anniversary. What could it hurt? A night without contemplating the hell that would come down on him the moment he served his husband with divorce papers would do him good. That is until he met the brooding older man staring into a whiskey straight ignoring everyone around him.

Watching for trouble was his job and Gregory screamed mistake as soon as the long, lean and handsome man sat down beside him. But he also knew when someone was in over their head and Gregory needed someone to watch his back. That someone was Bull, only time would tell if he’d have to fight Gregory as much as the man after him.

Bull‘s story is the one I’ve been waiting for.  I’ve love the huge, hulking father figure ever since I became aware of the Brawlers and their extended family.  It’s Bull and his house whose been the home and focal point of so many of these stories.  And it’s been Bull who’s been such a steadying influence on those around him when everything felt like it was being destroyed for them.  Yet Bull was ever lonely, alpha among alphas, and you wanted to get the know the person called Bull.  In Bull (Brawlers #3) by J.M. Dabney I finally got that story.

The solitary man isn’t the one I was prepared to find.  He’s hardly anywhere close to the men he houses, although he  clearly understands them and the violence that drives them.  Instead Dabney gives us a man full of pain and loneliness, hating it, yet perhaps thinking that his time for something more has passed him by because of his age.  The sadness is overwhelming.  Then Gregory appears at Brawlers, helping to  celebrate Landon’s anniversary and a connection is made that changes everything.

Gregory is a complicated character (they all are here).  Explaining more about Gregory actually gives away too much of the the plot for my comfort, however, let’s just say trying to serve divorce papers to a husband isn’t always the easiest thing when the husband refuses to accept them.  This is a hurt/comfort story and deals with issues of domestic violence and control.

Bull’s situation (he’s divorced with a grown child he hasn’t seen in awhile) plus his age all determines the manner in which he views his actions towards Gregory and any possibility of a relationship.  Gregory’s own demons also need to be dealt with by Gregory himself and others.  Broken, bruised men are the heart of most of Dabney’s stories.  For most, life has made them hard and violent, but for some, it’s left it’s marks in other ways.

The relationship dynamics here make any romance unsure and slow as it should be.  I loved the struggle and the carefulness taken to ensure more pain wasn’t inflicted.   I like that there is an awareness of the age issue, it’s addressed, and they move forward. Was it a little rushed towards the end?  Perhaps, but the whole is darn near perfect.

I think Bull is one of my favorite Brawler books of the series.  Of course, I do love the whole series and the one that follows it.  I have them all listed below.  Check them all out and check them off as I review them.  I highly recommend them all.

Cover design by Winterheart Designs is perfect for Bull, how I love these covers.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1 edition, 199 pages
Published May 16th 2017 by Hostile Whispers Press, LLC (first published 2017)
ASINB06Y2GHQPH
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBrawlers #3

  • Executioners – third series

A MelanieM Review: Psycho (Brawlers, #2) by J.M. Dabney

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

Welcome to Brawlers Bar…

Life wasn’t easy when you were certifiable, Gerald “Psycho” Clemons lived on the fringes of society. Five years he hadn’t thought twice about riding with a group who saw most laws as flexible. When the leader of the group turned crazier than Psycho, he stepped in and made the man pay. He’d never been rewarded for his temper before, yet that’s what happened when he earned a permanent place and a job as a bouncer. Everyone walked a wide circle around him, and he liked it that way. One look from his cold black eyes and he had people backing up. Then he met a man who had to be crazier than him.

Decadence Bakery was Ben Morin’s dream come true, and he loved it, but he grew tired of his lonely existence. Six months earlier he’d turned on the open sign and hopefully changed his life for the better. Ben loved his small cottage in the middle of nowhere even with the 3 a.m. rumbling of motorcycles and loud music at the farm next door. Although one thing he didn’t love, was his new hobby of watching one of the terrifying men next door. What could a little harmless peek now and then hurt?

Sweet and older wasn’t his type, but Psycho couldn’t deny the need to possess the beautiful baker. It was stronger than even the insanity he barely kept at bay, could he have a man who looked passed it or would Ben run like all the rest?

J.M. Dabney’s explorations of the strange, sometimes twisted road to love between men who’ve been abused, hardened by life and their soulmates continues with Psycho.  The second story in the Brawler‘s series (see all connected series below), Psycho is employed at the Brawlers bar/club as one of their security men.  He does whatever it takes to keep the bar running smooth and it’s employees safe.  He’s also is one of those men barely under control at any given moment, only his boss Elijah, who seems to have ‘adopted’ him, easily brings Psycho back from the edge.

Dabney gives Psycho a profoundly disturbing, yet I suspect intentionally vague backhistory.  The author gives us just enough elements of Psycho’s background and upbringing if you can call it that to make one nauseous, letting the reader’s mind fill in the horrific blanks of how that could traumatize any child that survived it.  Yes, the name Psycho certainly fits the man.  It also makes his lack of socialization, verbal skills, and inability to recognize all the normal group/personal interactions and their subtleties understandable. It’s just all beyond him, and the rage that’s constantly with him is one consequence of that.

Here’s a brute whose actions and personality seem simple yet the truth is he’s anything but.  I loved that about this story (and series).  Dabney’s ability to create such brutalized, abused men, yet let us see beyond the surface into their backhistory into the trauma that made them, and the way in which they still find the person that accepts who they are,  despite their violence and still with the capacity for love.  Here Psycho’s man is Ben the baker.

Ben Morin isn’t quite the norm here.  Yes, he’s gotten out of a relationship and there will be some wonderful growth for him as a character, surprising growth.  Yet Ben, intelligent, accepting, loving Ben (with a little help), finds a new circle of friends and a home within the Brawlers circle and love, eventually, with Psycho.  There’s also an ex involved in a surprising thread here, but I won’t reveal who it is  and how it comes into play.  I was astonished myself how much I liked this aspect of the story.  And I admit I must have brushed over this when I came across it in the Executioners books.  Huh.  But watching these two get together is such a pleasure that sometimes I found myself just laughing out loud over the sheer joy and fun that was involved here.

Reading Psycho (Brawlers, #2) by J.M. Dabney was such a wild, wonderful experience!  I laughed so hard at places, wanted to cry over the abuse that made Psycho the man that he is, fanned myself a lot over the sexy scenes and was just so beyond happy at the HEA for all involved.  When it comes to a J.M. Dabney story, you get a village. By that I mean, all your beloved characters are going to make appearances, which is great by me.  I’m working myself backwards in the series but you don’t have to.  I’ve laid them all out for you below.  It certainly helps to know who everyone is because not only do they make appearances in each other’s stories and their relationships have matured (as they have) as the series advance.  The town of Powers, Georgia also undergoes a dramatic transformation from series one Twirled World Ink  to series three Executioners. So no, you really can’t call any of them standalones.  What I do call them is highly recommended.  Getting reading now!

Now onto Bull (Brawlers, #3), review coming soon.

Cover art by Winterheart Designs is terrific.  I just love the covers for this series, this one included.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1 edition, 119 pages
Published April 18th 2017 by Hostile Whispers Press, LLC (first published 2017)
ASINB06XV7TLTX
Edition Language English
SeriesBrawlers #2 setting Georgia (United States)

  • Executioners – third series

A MelanieM Review: Crave (Brawlers #1) by J.M. Dabney

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Welcome to Brawlers Bar…

A quick pit stop for a comfortable bed to sleep turned into an eight-year stay. Vincent “Crave” Butler hit the road the day after college graduation and hadn’t looked behind him since. He’d swore to never stop moving, but the night he drove into Powers, Georgia changed the course of his life. He’d hit a bar called Brawlers with its rundown exterior and pride flag beside the door, the next day he had a job. Second in command to the Head of Brawler security, Crave found the place he didn’t have to run from. No one would call Crave sane. He lived to make people as uncomfortable as possible just for his own twisted amusement. That all changed when a certain cute as fuck bartender walked in for an interview.

No one wanted Twitch Harrison around. He was small, femme and annoying on his best days, downright abhorrent on his bad ones. When college turned out to be a no-go, and the parents canceled his credit cards he’d needed a job. Walking into Brawlers, the roughest gay bar in his hometown, was like a game of pick the thing that didn’t belong—him. The two owners, Scary and Tank, hired him on and four years later he was still that thing that didn’t belong. No one made it more apparent than bouncer Crave Butler who didn’t hide the fact he barely tolerated Twitch’s presence.

Crave threatened every man who thought they’d get the pretty Twitch but would Twitch rather be in their beds than his? Only one way to find out and he hoped Twitch was ready for forever because that’s what Crave was determined to have.

Crave (Brawlers #1) marks the new start of my backwards journey towards the starting point of all of J.M Dabney’s interlocking series. I say new because (you all know I can start at the most awkward moments in a series) I actually found this author through their first story in their latest series The Executioners and that story blew me away.  That was Ghost, a remarkable introduction to the town of Powers, Georgia that was swiftly followed by the equally 5-star novel Joker (Executioners #2).  Yes, I was well hooked by the author, the town, and the backhistory of the people and couples I was meeting that I only had bits and pieces of.  Then I find out there’s not one but two preceding series that give me all the back stories and history I could want.  Be still my heart.  So here we go backward one series, one book at the time.

Brawlers is a bar/club and each story in the series is named after a guy who works there and forms a part of the Brawler family (note: Executioners is a band that plays in the club). J.M Dabney specializes in brutal, damaged men, people whose lives have been full of trauma and ugliness.  Their bodies often reflect the scars their lives have left on them emotionally and mentally.  Some are self abusers (cutters) and others have sealed themselves off, preferring isolation to emotional pain.  Crave is one of the huge, rough, scary ones.  Hired as a bouncer, he’s brutal, violent, loves to fight, and has his reasons to be this way.  The author is clear on this.  Her characters aren’t thugs but men twisted and harmed by life, redeemable under the facade. Unable to communicate like most people, when he does say anything, it’s with no filters and guaranteed to start a fight.  It’s very safe way to stay behind walls but it makes it hard when there’s someone you want to protect as Crave finds out with Twitch.

Twitch is tiny, complicated and in pain.  I fell in love with this character immediately. He telegraphs both his vulnerability and the utter devastation he feels. He’s trying in so many ways to work through the damage done to him by his upbringing and more. Twitch has found the unlikeliest of homes and support at Brawlers if his past will leave him alone.

Dabney takes these most unlikely of mates, brings them together in somewhat combustible circumstances (a bar like Brawlers  where fights are common and the local police are corrupt at this point in the series) and makes it believable and heart wrenching.  Both men damaged in very different ways and yet looking for real love and stability.  Crave is someone who not only know what those scars are on Twink’s wrists and sides, but recognizes what they stand for.  He understands the dark places he see in Twitch because he has them as well.   This is not an easy romance.  It can’t be with characters like these and surrounded by others just as broken or out of the norm as they are.  There are fights, misunderstandings, pain galore.

I also found it fascinating because as the first story in the second series, many of the elements that make Ghost and Joker so great are being laid down here, so I’m watching the evolution of a town and “family”,  one I’m already familiar with as I started with a present time novel.  So I’m getting a time capsule effect here.

J.M Dabney has three connected series. Twirled World Ink (a tattoo shop) which is the first series which spun off into Brawlers the bar/club and now into Executioners which is the band who plays at Brawlers.  All the characters appear in all the stories so it helps to read all the books. I see the potential for another here after the Executioners with a Security Company. Right now each has four books each.  I’ll be reviewing them all.  It’s quite the universe!  The stories are gripping, the sex is hot and the characters are unforgettable.

If you love your hurt/comfort, your damaged men looking for love, you will love this story, this series and this author.  Follow along as I lead you through the books and loves of the men of the connected series of J.M Dabney!

Cover art is perfect for Crave.  Love it.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 129 pages
Published March 21st 2017 by Hostile Whispers Press, LLC
  • Executioners – third series