Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
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
- Executioners – third series