They also announce Big Gay Fiction Podcast’s inclusion in the new Frolic Podcast Network and they talk about their appearance this past week on Smart Podcast, Trashy Books.
Will wraps up his month of paranormal reading with The Fall by X. Aratare. Jeff reviews the first two books in Lily Morton’s Mixed Messages series–Rule Breaker and Deal Breaker. He also reviews Hellion, the third book in the 415 Ink series by Rhys Ford.
Jeff talks with K.C. Burn as part of the Coastal Magic Featured Author series. K.C. discusses her writing and what got her started, her love of Coastal Magic and the books she’d recommend to readers who are discovering her work.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links includes affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase.
- NaNoWriMo website
- Big Gay Author Podcast website
- LGBT Romance Community Comes Together at GayRomLit on Frolic website
- 374. Artisanal Podcasting Under the Big Gay Umbrella: A Conversation with Jeff Adams and Will Knauss on Smart Podcast, Trashy Books
- The Fall by X. Aratare on Amazon
- Rule Breaker by Lily Morton on Amazon
- Deal Breaker by Lily Morton on Amazon
- Hellion by Rhys Ford on Amazon
- K.C. Burn Interview
- K.C. Burn: website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon
- Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey on Amazon
- Mary Calmes on Amazon
- Amy Lane on Amazon
- The Price of Temptation by M.J. Pearson on Amazon
- Josh Lanyon on Amazon
- Heaven Sent by Jet Mykles on Amazon
- Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings on Amazon
- Galactic Alliance series by K.C. Burn on Amazon
- North on Drummond by K.C. Burn on Amazon
- Cop Out by K.C. Burn on Amazon
- A Cowboy’s Christmas Luck by K.C. Burn on Amazon
- Darcy Stark on Audible
- Coastal Magic Convention website
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Frolic Podcast Network website
Interview Transcript – K.C. Burn
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: K.C., welcome to the podcast, it is so awesome to have you here.
K.C.: Thank you. I’m so pleased to be here.
Jeff: Now for those who may not know you introduce yourself and what you write.
K.C.: I’m K.C. burn and I write gay romance of several different flavors – contemporary, paranormal and sci-fi.
Jeff: That’s a lot of flavors. What drives you towards one versus the other? Is it the muse at the time?
K.C.: Partly the muse at the time partly, you know contemporary sells better. You don’t want to be all about the money, but it does sell better so, you know, you can get your name out there little bit better and create a following and then you can sort of have your art house books – paranormal, sci-fi.
Jeff: I like that branding strategy – calling everything that is not contemporary art house.
K.C.: You know, like the big movie stars do for sure.
Jeff: For sure. Now. Do you have a particular place where you like to write?
K.C.: Not anymore. No, I mean because when we moved to California our space got severely constricted, so no longer have a dedicated office and a dedicated couch for my own writing purposes.
So I just make do. We have an office but it’s shared with my husband. So it kind of sucks.
Jeff: We have separate offices too and it makes all the difference.
K.C.: It does.
Jeff: From a genre point of view is there one that you are more drawn to, paranormal or sci-fi while the contemporary kind of does its thing?
K.C.: I like all them. I mean, it’s not that you know, I wouldn’t write them if I didn’t like them, but sci-fi is kind of where my heart is I guess, you know, I mean like Star Wars is the first movie I remember seeing the theater and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was the second movie I remember seeing the theater so I was indoctrinated early.
Jeff: And you started with some really good films there because both of those are just classics of their genre.
K.C.: Although I still have a phobia – bugs in my ear from “Star Trek.”.
Jeff: Absolutely, because that’s like one of the creepiest things ever.
What was your gateway to gay romance as a reader? And then what moved you into writing it?
K.C.: Well, that’s kind of funny question, actually. I didn’t really know it existed as a genre when I started writing it. The first book i remember reading with a sort of a gay romance plot line was “Magic’s Pawn” by Mercedes Lackey. Loved it to pieces and I read it when it first came out. It was like 16, 17 years old thereabouts. Loved it, but it didn’t really click that there was a genre. Probably there was, maybe it wasn’t at the time when that came out. I’ve been writing for a really long time.
So not been published obviously, but I’ve been writing for a very long time. I started incorporating gay romance subplots and eventually, I got to the point where I was actually frustrated with myself because I was getting embarrassed writing sex scenes. I thought that was dumb because I don’t really feel like I’m necessarily repressed, but I didn’t like this sort of sensation that I was embarrassed. So, I’m like, I’m going to write books full of sex. Erotic romance full of sex. I started writing. I worked on a plot and I realized the conflict will be stronger if they were two guys. I wrote that and then I started really actively looking, and I mean I read some manages and things like that, but I hadn’t really had any awareness of it as a genre at the time.
Jeff: Do you have any particular favorites in the genre, author inspirations if you will.
K.C.: Yeah, I mean, you know, Mary Calmes and Amy Lane I love to pieces. One of the earliest ones I did end up reading, which is when I was looking for an agent / publisher when I first had my under the bed book that will never see the light of day but had a gay romance plot in it ,was M.J. Pearson’s “The Price of Temptation,” which was a Regency gay romance and I thought that was kind of cool. So that was very influential for me. And then Josh Lanyon, I like the mystery so Josh Lanyon was an early mystery writer that I enjoyed. The one who did “Heaven Sent” and I totally am blanking and …Jet Mykles. That was also very influential for me. That “Heaven Sent” series.
Jeff: And you mentioned you’ve written for a long time and not published. I think most of us have done that, whole years of not publishing. What got you into wanting to write in general?
K.C.: Well, when I was ten years old, my dad bought me a copy of David Eddings’s “Pawn of Prophecy” and after reading that book, I knew that was what I wanted to do – become an author. Took me a while to get there. But that was that was the minute I knew.
Jeff: That’s so cool when there’s like the gateway book that makes you say I want to be the author.
What are some of your favorite tropes over time that you like to explore in your writing?
K.C.: I have a hard time figuring out where themes and tropes begin, but I tend to have either fish out of water or betrayal themes / tropes in my books. One or both will be in my books.
I’ve explored other ones. Gay for you I’ve done and I’ve done enemies to lovers and the secret baby with the dog instead of a baby, but I don’t tend to stick to any one trope besides the fish out of water and betrayal.
Jeff: Those are classics. Of course, it’s hard to go wrong with the fish out of water or betrayal. You mentioned earlier really liking mystery and then reading that historical that kind of got you into the idea of reading more gay romance. Have you thought about exploring those as a writer and doing mysteries or doing a historical?
K.C.: Historical, my first book that I completed was a 500-page Regency romance that broke a lot of rules and a lot of rules I probably shouldn’t have broken. The experience was it was good, but I don’t think I would go back to it. But mystery yeah, I’ve dabbled – I’ve skirted the Cozy mystery and I’ve done the same with romantic suspense, you know, I haven’t committed really to them, but I enjoyed I enjoyed them.
I would like to do that a little bit. More in-depth but really what I want to do is Epic Fantasy.
Jeff: Epic Fantasy and sci-fi scares me with all the world-building and potential if not research at least really documenting what the world is.
K.C.: There is a lot of that but there’s also a lot of flexibility in that you’re making stuff up.
You know, I mean you have to have basis in reality. But are you still making stuff up? I don’t believe my Sci-Fi series the “Galactic Alliance”, basically humans have expanded through the universe and ended up butting up against alien Empire which eventually caused problems and what have you. My aliens, I base that on, I have an anthropology degree, so I based my aliens on what if a different type of creature went through the evolutionary steps that humans did in terms of becoming sentient and upright and what have you. I didn’t do a lot of research for it though, I just kind of extrapolated, I didn’t do a lot of research and I don’t really have a heavy hand with it in the books, but I just kind of have this idea in my head. That’s what needs to be there and then go. I like the readers to make it real for themselves.
Jeff: To that end, are you kind of a plotter or pantser as you’re doing some of these things that involve so much world-building
K.C.: Pantser absolute pantser. One of my books, “North on Drummond,” it’s my romantic / paranormal / cozy mystery, there’s a huge whodunit aspect to it and it’s ninety nine thousand words, and I didn’t know until I was seventy thousand words into it until I actually knew who done it. I just wrote.
Jeff: That’s amazing because to me, especially like romantic suspense / mystery, there’s so much planting the seeds of whodunit. Did you go back in revision and seed?
K.C.: I had five people who could have done it and then I just kind of worked with that. And then near the end it sort of became obvious who probably, well to me anyway, who should have done it.
I try not to read reviews. But the ones that I did read, I didn’t see anybody going, “ah-ha! I guessed on page three who it was” so I’m hoping it was not obvious to everyone else.
Jeff: That’s very cool though. Because in some ways I guess it could actually avert people knowing potentially too early because if you didn’t know as you were writing that you don’t over seed at that point because that’s one of the things too I think is such a balance of seeding enough so people don’t go “really?” But not seeding too much that they get it too early.
K.C.: Yeah, I worried about that because you know. But you know what’s going on, how heavy-handed are your clues? Like are they, you know, hitting people over the head with a hammer or is it, you know, just a feather dusting of clues like it’s sometimes hard to tell where you’re Landing when you’re writing it.
I’m a pantser at heart. It seems the way to do it. I’m like these are the five. He’s the
Jeff: five topics like you’re playing clue at that point.
Jeff: getting to who it is.
Jeff: That’s cool. I may have to approach a mystery like that sometime and see if I can actually turn that part of my brain off and just try to go forward and play a little bit that way. I’m intrigued by that.
K.C.: Are you a plotter then
Jeff: the more I write the more of a plotter I become and now I’d like to have my outline that may go a little sideways sometimes and then I fix the outline, but I like to start with it.
K.C.: I have tried a lot of plotting tricks and trades and things like that, and usually I end up writing just a few things, and then I have I’ve literally had outlines and say and then something happens like that is not very useful.
Jeff: That’s when you just put your pantser hat back on and go for it again. Fill in the blank here.
Now coming up in February, you’re headed to the beach. You’re making a return trip to Coastal Magic and we were talking before we hit record that you’ve actually been to every one except the one where you moved from, Florida to California. What keeps you coming back?
K.C.: One of the things that I really like is that I discovered at Coastal Magic is I like doing panels. I did not really realize that until Coastal Magic – like having that interplay with other authors on answering the same questions or having a discussion about things. At Coastal Magic, Jennifer doesn’t segregate us. You know, there’s no LGBT panels. I mean, there are the occasional LGBT panels, but it’s not the only place where I can be on a panel. I’ve been on a panel with New York Times Best Sellers. I’ve been on a panel… a sweet to spicy, sort of, in terms of how steamy is your writing? And of course it was a supposed to be an array of spiciness, steaminess, sexiness. I don’t know whatever.
I was on this panel with an inspirational author and I was the spicy one, it’s nice to have this sort of mix of people on panels that you don’t normally see.
Jeff: How would you describe it for readers who might be headed there?
K.C.: It’s really easy to get face time with authors and there’s some big names.
I’m not certainly not one of them, but there’s some big names that come to Coastal Magic and you can get face time with them. You can talk to them, get to know them a little bit, even if it’s just through panel or what have you, but I mean, it’s a very intimate sort of conference.
Jeff: For someone who’s coming to Coastal and maybe discovering you for the first time. What would you recommend is like the gateway book or series for K.C. Burn?
K.C.: Well, I props that do you want props
Jeff: sure props are good.
K.C.: “Cop Out.” is probably my most popular, it is definitely my most popular book and I believe it has brought in people to the genre before but it’s contemporary, gay for you. It’s about a cop who comes out.
“North on Drummond” is the that paranormal cozy mystery / romantic suspense. If you know that’s more the way your tastes run, its light sprinkling of paranormal in it, but it’s a fun book in my opinion.
Jeff: I’m curious. What’s the paranormal aspect to it? Because I love romantic suspense these days and I’m thinking I need to pick this up with his paranormal undertone.
K.C.: Well, so what this is, it’s a small fictional town in Florida called Sandy Bottom Bay, which has been voted the second most haunted town in, Florida. A big city cop sort of comes home to live and meets up with a Tarot reader / con artist. Well his whole family’s con artists. Then the so-called psychic ends up getting hit on the head and becomes actually a psychic.
Jeff: Nice turn of events for the psychic to get bonked on the head actually get the power.
K.C.: Yeah, so to try and convince the cop and everyone else that his visions are real and so, it’s light – a light paranormal. I mean psychics are you know? Very light paranormal in my opinion.
Jeff: Yep, I’m definitely intrigued. So what’s coming up for you? Like new books? What’s in your work in progress pile? Tell us tell us some things we’ve got to look forward to.
K.C.: I’m trying desperately to get a Christmas story for this Christmas. Only time will tell whether it actually happens. I have about five or six other manuscripts started. Not finished – which is not my usual mode of working. But the two that I’m looking at right now – sequel to “North on Drummond.” Where his friend ends up getting possessed. So we’ll see how that goes. And then also I’ve got a contemporary where law enforcement are trying to teach celebrities how to solve a crime in a reality show. Those are the two that I’m sort of focusing on besides the Christmas story right now.
Jeff: And of course you did put a Christmas story out last year. Tell people what that’s about because this comes out towards the in October towards the end of October we get into the season for the Christmas stories.
K.C.: It’s called “A Cowboy’s Christmas Luck” and it’s basically about a cowboy who’s down on his luck and is trapped in Vegas alone for Christmas and a magic coin pops into existence and changes his luck and make his Christmas, you know better, basically changed his life around and then this one I’m working on is sort of in the same series that the coin is – what I’m using to tie several stories together. So the coin will be showing up/will be featured in the next story.
“Cowboy’s Christmas Luck” I’m going to also try and have out an audio in November. My narrator is working on it now.
Jeff: Who do we have to look forward to in doing the narration?
K.C.: Darcy Stark. He’s the one who has done a bunch of my books for Dreamspinner. I really enjoy his narration. He’s also done “North on Drummond” for me on audio.
Jeff: Very cool, and the coin that you mentioned, is it just is it tying your Christmas stories together, or does it weave in other places in your in your writing?
K.C.: No, it’s actually like a Christmas coin. It looks like just like a fake sort of cheap metal coin that is a decoration almost, and they find this coin and that’s what changes there their luck.
The coin is the magic. The tinyest sprinkle of paranormal. I like that
Jeff: Christmas is the right time to have that kind of paranormal after all.
How can readers keep up with you online to find out what’s coming and all the good stuff that’s going on?
K.C.: I’m terrible at social media, I’ll say that right now.
I have Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, but I’m sporadic about using them. If you go to my website kcburn.com, you can sign up for my newsletter which I only send out when there’s new releases. So it hasn’t gone out as much as I would like this year. That’s what I use for my primary announcement venue. On my website you can find my links to Facebook and Twitter and maybe Instagram. It’s been a while since I’ve updated my website.
Jeff: Okay. Awesome. We will link to everything in the shownotes page, so that folks can find the books that we’ve talked about and find your website and your newsletter link and K.C. we look forward to seeing you at Coastal magic come February. Thanks so much for hanging out with us.
K.C.: Thank you so much for having me.
Here’s the text of this week’s book reviews:
The Fall by X. Aratare. Reviewed by Will.
I’m in a bit of a conundrum. I read a really amazing book. The problem is that I’m not quite sure how to talk about it, while at the same time getting you excited and wanting to read it without spoiling the heck out of it.
This past week I read The Fall by X. Aratare. I reviewed The Vampire’s Club at the beginning of the month and when I read the description for this particular book I had to pick it up right away. It was so unique and so interesting. I wanted to dive in, especially for the month of October. Like I said, the problem is that it’s so unique and so interesting. It’s kind of a gay gothic horror romance. That’s part Lovecraft, part like Hammer Horror movie. That ticks off a whole lot of boxes for me personally. The story itself hinges on the discovery of nefarious goings-on and things that go bump in the night. That kind of thing. It’s not like a regular romance review where most people know, I just, spoil the hell out of them because we all know what a romance book is going to be about. So much of this story is about that sort of unknown dread that’s lurking around the corner that I don’t feel I can do it tremendous justice.
I’m going to give it a shot.
So The Fall by X. Aratare is about a guy named Carter and he is a foreman at a coal mine. One day very deep in the mine they discover a door, an ornately carved door. A door that looks incredibly ancient and they don’t know what to make out of it. So he goes back topside to tell the mine’s owner a guy named Armand and Armand lives on a big house on the hill overlooking the small West Virginia coal mining town. He goes up there and he tells Armand all about it .This guy is a teeny bit eccentric and he is known for being an occult enthusiast. So he is definitely intrigued and decides to go down to the mine and see what is what. Carter takes him down there and Armand is duly intrigued and says that he wants to stay and study the door Carter can go back up to town. When he does he goes and visits Armand’s son Etienne.
Now Etienne is unfortunately a little bit sickly. He suffers from asthma, and essentially can’t go anywhere near the mine and even when he leaves the house it becomes a problem for him. Essentially he is housebound and the only friend he has in town is Carter who comes and visits him. The two of them share an unspoken love for one another and it’s this night that they’re actually alone, at home that they finally confessed their true feelings for one another and it’s really sweet and very romantic.
So, Armand has closed the mine for the day and Carter and everyone else in town has the day off. He decides to spend some time hanging out with Etienne little bit more while his father is away. They end up spending the night together for the very first time and it’s wonderful. It’s everything they could have ever hoped for and they make big plans to someday leave the small town.
Carter manages to get his pants on just in time when Armand returns the next morning. He spent all night in the mine and he insists that Carter can go home now. Everything’s fine and he’ll take care of Etienne, who’s taken a sudden turn for the worse. He’s looking a little bit sick.
Carter leaves, but as he’s walking through town there’s a really strange sulfurous fog that is enveloped everyone and everything. He traces this fog back to the mine. So he goes down and discovers that the door is now open and when he goes through it is a porthole to somewhere otherworldly.
Here’s where things get very Lovecraftian. Someone who looks like Armand–Is it him? Or is it not? We don’t know–explains to Carter that they are at the Falls of Oblivion. This is where the unnamed one lives and dark mysterious things happen there. Carter is given a choice. He makes the right one and escapes the mine but worried about his lover he goes back to the house on the hill where poor Etienne is having to deal with his own paranormal strangeness. His father has revealed himself not to be who Etienne thought he was. So our two heroes have to fight for their lives and eventually escaped the town but at what cost to everyone else in the world.
There’s so much good about this book. It’s sweetly romantic. It is creepy and interesting. What I like most about this book is that in certain moments there is a certain palpable sense of otherworldly dread, which I think is so difficult to convey in the written word. It’s one thing if you’re watching a scary movie and they’ve got special effects or visuals or music and all that other stuff to convey a certain mood or feeling. But with just words on a page, I think it takes a distinct talent in order to convey a specific emotion, especially one like fear or dread or what’s around that corner.
So I really really enjoyed The Fall by X. Aratare. As the author explains at the beginning of the book, this particular story is a standalone, but it actually serves as a jumping off point for a whole other world of stories because nothing this author does is small. If you go to their website, you’ll see the numerous series and books and serials. It’s kind of an amazing body of work. So I highly recommend The Fall if you’re in the mood for a creepy gothic read.
Rule Breaker by Lily Morton and Deal Breaker by Lily Morton. Reviewed by Jeff.
Lily Morton’s Mixed Messages series is one of those series that I’m rather embarrassed that I haven’t read already because of the amount of praise its received. And, oh man, do I understand that praise. It was Joel Leslie who finally got me to dive into these because he’s the voice of the audiobooks, which were released earlier this year. These books, and the narration, are crazy, amazing, awesome!
In Rule Breaker, we meet Dylan, a beleaguered assistant to Gabe. While Dylan does everything he can to get the job done right, he endures insults, sarcasm and an unending stream of criticism about everything from coffee to memos. Dylan’s daydreams are filled with creative ways he could murder Gabe. Unfortunately, Dylan also finds his boss attractive, but he never considers acting on it since Gabe’s terrible behavior makes it impossible to want the man in a romantic way. Gabe certainly doesn’t think of Dylan this way either. Instead he wonders why he hasn’t tried to get a better assistant.
Everything changes one day when Gabe gets sick. Dylan goes to Gabe’s house to help his boss with basics–like soup and making sure he rests–and in the moment’s of taking care of him, Dylan catches another side of Gabe. Someone who can be warm and charming, but if that goes on too long he shuts down.
Lily’s rom-com take on this romance is soooo very good. The vibe starts right off as each chapter opens with a hilarious memo between Gabe and Dylan. Anyone who has spent any time in an office setting will love these missives and will probably want Lily to ghost write some for them.
What I really loved about Rule Breaker is how it’s a rom-com that’s got some serious dramatic weight behind it. Yes, the banter between Gabe and Dylan is priceless but then there’s a beautifully done shift from banter to more romantic, get-to-know-you talk. Even more powerful are the true heart to hearts that happen as Gabe reveals more about why he’s closed off. Dylan, a major romantic, wants to help Gabe out of his shell but it is far from easy because Gabe can turn prickly at a moment’s notice. To deal with their attraction, while trying to keep pesky emotions at bay, they decide to keep things at arm’s length with no strings attached. Dylan plays along even though it’s really not what he wants.
One of my favorites sequences in this book is while Dylan is home with his parents for Christmas. The love in Dylan’s family flows off the page and when Gabe shows up rather unexpectedly–he’d been invited but he of course declined–he sees why Dylan is the way he is. Gabe and Dylan come alive here, around Dylan’s family. It warmed my heart so much, and the books moves from rom-com more into lushly romantic. Unfortunately, Gabe eventually gets overwhelmed and runs away in one of the most gut wrenching moments I’ve ever read. And it gets bleaker before it gets better. Lily’s a master and designing blacker than black moments.
Following on that though is a tremendous ending that gives Dylan and Gabe their happy ever after. I loved it so, so much.
I went right into book two, Deal Maker. This book is about Jude, Dylan’s friend who is a model. Jude is forced out of his flat when a bathtub comes crashing through his ceiling. He ends up at the home of famous actor Asa, who is just starting to get back into acting after years out of the spotlight raising his son, Billy. At first Jude was just going to stay at the house, but he ends up taking a job as Asa’s assistant and makes a deal to stay through the summer, enough time for his place to be fixed up.
Asa isn’t thrilled to have hired a model who reminds him so much of a former love. It’s even more complicated when Jude plays into the stereotype Asa’s expecting and plays dumb. It’s hilarious the way Jude answer’s a batch of Asa’s fan mail (samples of which show up at the beginning of each chapter). What makes this deception even better is that other members of the household staff are in on the ruse too, and eventually Asa is too.
Jude can’t play dumb for long though and as his true self comes out, sparks fly between him and Asa. The parts of this story that made me ridiculously happy are with Billy. The way Jude bonds with the boy and the time Asa, Jude and Billy spend as a sort of family, really make this book soar. Billy is one of my favorite kids to ever appear in a romance–and boy does Joel bring this young man perfectly to life…it’s a cherry on top of excellent narration.
The rom-com vibe continues in this book and that means some snappy dialogue for everyone. The happenings that fuse Jude and Asa together were amazing and perfect and made me swoon. But watch out for Lily to bring it all crashing down. She made my heart clinch yet again but the grand gesture to set everything right was spot on.
I’m head over heels for Lily’s writing and can’t recommend enough these Mixed Messages books for anyone who may not have picked them up yet. I was glad to hear from Joel that Risk Taker, book three in the series, will be along in audio in December. I can’t wait!
Hellion by Rhys Ford. Reviewed by Jeff.
I’ve been a fan of the 415 Ink series since the beginning. This tale of found family, brothers who formed a bond coming up through the foster care system, has been epically good. Hellion is the book I’ve been waiting for. Ivo has been an intriguing character from what we’ve seen leading up to his book–he deeply cares for his brothers, won’t take shit from anyone and has an amazing style, which often includes shoes or boots with an impressive heel. To say he’s an enigma might be an understatement. Digging into his story was far better than I could’ve imagined.
As the story opens, we get a flashback at a teenaged Ivo held by the police. Seems Ivo beat someone who was trying to take advantage of him. He hesitantly explains everything to a cop, hoping that he can just go home because he’d rather not explain to Bear what happened. Ivo found the cop attractive and the cop was intrigued by Ivo’s demeanor and dress.
Jump to the present, the cop, Ruan turns up at the brother’s house to discuss a matter from the previous book and Ivo remembers everything about this guy. Ruan remembers too… and he can’t help but notice the man Ivo’s become. From that point these guys can’t stop thinking about one another and can’t stop running into each other either–as if the universe was dragging them together.
This has become my favorite book in the 415 Ink series so far and it’s because it really plays with expectations. I thought this book was going to be the most angst-filled of the trio so far. Yes, all the brothers have been through a lot and Gus and Mace’s stories had some seriously dark moments. To me, Ivo was probably the darkest one of all and yet he turned out to have a steely outer shell with a teddy bear inner core. Rhys’s way of revealing Ivo made for an incredible read. Ivo’s had a helluva life, and he’s not going to apologize to anyone for making them feel uncomfortable around him, but he’s also an amazing, caring individual.
Ruan was a wonderfully complex character as well. A long time cop in San Francisco, he’s seen everything the city has to offer. He wanted to protect Ivo that night they first met, and he wants to protect the man he’s become too. What takes him a minute to understand is that Ivo doesn’t need protection. He’s also not sure what to make of Ivo’s self expression, which includes the heels, bending gender norms of dress and how he can look so masculine while having layers of feminine too. For Ruan, he’s played his life trying to not draw attention to the fact he’s gay and it’s difficult for him to wrap his mind around Ivo living life so out and proud.
There are several key moments where Ruan has to confront his deeply held beliefs–sometimes in a fiery, demanding matter and others with a calm discussion. It was great to hear from Ivo why he dresses the way he does, and in particular the heels. My favorite scenes involve Ivo and Ruan at a tattoo event that Ivo has to attend for the shop. For me, much of the foundation for their future happened there and I loved it so very much.
The brothers, of course, put Ruan through a few paces to make sure he’s okay for their youngest brother. They are fiercely protective of Ivo and won’t hesitate to take on a cop to keep one of their own safe. They are awesome and I love them all.
I adore how Rhys made a quiet, subtle yet super powerful story here after a couple of very emotional books. The message about being true to yourself while opening your heart was laid out in a beautiful way. Ivo and Ruan have a ways to go in their journeys for sure. I imagine a lot of discussions happening between them as they continue to learn more about each other, but I have no doubt they’re bond will always be super strong for a lasting HEA.
Of course I highly recommend Hellion and the other books in the 415 Ink series. I’m already looking forward to the next one.