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

A MelanieM Review: Cherish the Land (Lang Downs #5) by Ariel Tachna

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Sequel to Conquer the Flames
Lang Downs: Book Five

Cherish the Land coverSeth Simms never wanted to be a cowboy, although to listen to his best friend, Jason Thompson, tell it, he isn’t one. He just happens to have lucked out in coming to live on Lang Downs with his brother ten years ago. He found enough stability to finish high school and go off to university, but he never really believed Lang Downs would be the same haven for him that it had become for so many others. He’s too messed up in the head. No one would accept someone with his issues.

All his life, Jason has had one goal: to come home to Lang Downs as resident veterinarian when they need his skills and jackaroo when they don’t. And it means he gets to spend time with Seth during his occasional visits, even though his dream of going from friends to lovers is hopeless since Seth is straight.

When Seth unexpectedly comes home to stay, Jason takes it as the boon it is. But juggling a relationship with another jackaroo and his friendship with Seth isn’t easy, and that’s before Jason realizes how deep Seth’s issues run and how dangerously Seth chooses to cope with them.

With Ariel Tachna’s Cherish The Land, another heartwarming series comes to a close and does so beautifully.  I have never been to Australia (a long held desire) but I have felt like I have been transported there by several authors and their incredible stories, including Ariel Tachna’s Lang Downs series.  My introduction to Lang Downs, a cattle station in the Northern Territory, came with Inherit the Sky (Lang Downs, #1).  With that story Ariel Tachna brought Lang Downs Station, the men that love and live on it, and the “close to nature” lifestyle inherent with living on land that is both beautiful and extreme.  By the end of that amazing story, I felt that not only did I know these men but that I had  spent actual time at Lang Downs, getting a feel for the land and the roll call of seasons that sweep over it.

Now through five stories, it  comes to an end, and it sort of breaks my heart to let  it and all these couples go.   But just as in nature, there is a natural cycle to things, so it happens here.  Tachna takes most of the loose plot stories and floating characters and brings them home, whether to Lang Downs or somewhere close by and does it in the manner that all the previous stories have been written-gentle, persuasive and loving.

There are no explosions here, just a narrative that moves with the unstoppable progression and a quietness that is so unflinching, so natural that the events seem as though they were written in the red dust of the land covers all that enters it. Lang Downs has always been a sanctuary…for gay men, for those in need of safety and acceptance.  Seth Simms accepted that haven once, with his brother, Chris Simms of Chase the Stars (Lang Downs #2) years ago.  But he left for heartbreaking reasons.  And those same reasons are now pulling him home.  Seth is a vulnerable character, his fears deep and his pain secret. Its affect on him has become one of shame and withdrawal.  I had forgotten over the course of the series how complicated Seth was and this story renews that believable characterization once more.

Jason Thompson was an original member of the first story along with his family.  He has grown tremendously (including his age as well as depth) as each book appeared and fully takes his place as a main character here.  I have always loved him and his family, never more so than in the events that occur here with Seth, who is such a damaged soul.

All the couples get pulled into the tragedy that occurs (all too commonplace in the removed outback), and the situation as it works itself out and resolves was one that I had hoped would lead to an all new series, not an end to this one.  Ah well….

What happens involves the adjacent station run by the rigid and homophobic brother of Jeremy Taylor who now lives at Lang Downs, along with his lover, manager Sam Emery of Outlast the Night (Lang Downs #3).  Also involved?  Thorne Lachlan and Ian Duncan of Conquer the Flames (Lang Downs #4).   Each has an important role  at Lang Downs and each has an important part to play as this final installment rolls out.  Did I say how much I will miss them all?  Yes indeed, and that includes all the various dogs, cats and horses that have appeared to become part of the family as well.

Did all the loose plot threads get resolved?  Did all the characters find their HEA?  No, realistically so. And while that lead to a small amount of frustration with this story, it also serves to keep hope alive that Ariel Tachna might revisit this series once more to update us on all the lives and goings on of the people of Lang Downs and beyond.  Hope is good, right?

Haven’t read this series yet?  Need a new contemporary saga to fall in love with?  I absolutely recommend Ariel Tachna’s  Lang  Downs series and Cherish the Land (Lang Downs #5).  The writing is evocative and seamless.  The images deeply moving and sometimes emotionally shattering.  And the love these men feel for each other and the land flows off the pages and into your hearts in stories you won’t easily forget in books its hard to put down.  Here’s hoping this won’t be the last time to journey to Lang Downs and men I adore.

Cover art by  Anne Cain is simply beautiful as it has been for each book in the series.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press  eBook & Paperback | All Romance (ARe) |  Amazon  | Buy It here

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Published June 8th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press LLC
ISBN139781634760881
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com
seriesLang Downs #5

Books in the Lang Downs Series in the order they were written and should be read are:

  • Inherit the Sky (Lang Downs, #1)
  • Chase the Stars (Lang Downs, #2)
  • Outlast the Night (Lang Downs #3)
  • Conquer the Flames (Lang Downs #4)
  • Cherish the Land (Lang Downs #5) – series finale