Wednesday, April 19, 2017

[ARC Review]: "Back Piece"

romance novel covers, contemporary romance, m/m romance, Back Piece by L.A. Witt
Back Piece by L.A. Witt
Publisher: Swerve (April 25, 2017)
Series: Skin Deep Inc., 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance -- M/M

Colin Spencer is a tattoo artist with a past he’d prefer to keep a secret. Actually, he has a few secrets that he’d rather people didn’t know about, which is why Colin doesn’t do commitment. But when a shy sailor approaches him at the gym, Colin finds this guy pushing all his buttons.

Growing up in a conservative family, then escaping with the Navy, Daniel Moore is an unsure virgin who feels like he can’t share his true self with anyone. Seeing Colin—and his tattoos—at the gym are the sign Daniel needs to finally get those tattoos he’s always wanted, and maybe try his hand at flirting.

As Colin and Daniel spend more time together, their awkward hesitations turn into a deep passion neither expected. But with both men harboring secrets, will their relationship be able to survive their insecurities and become something beautiful?

Back Piece is a sexy, emotional journey of two people learning to love and finding acceptance for who they really are.

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He was a sucker for military men. Sometimes quite literally. And that little hint of shyness? The way Daniel blushed and averted his eyes when he tried to talk to Colin? That was Colin’s Achilles’ heel. Hot men were great. Adorable guys? Want.

Back Piece starts with a scene at the local gym, where Colin and Daniel meet one day. Daniel, a Navy man (not a SEAL for once – he’s an aviation mechanic/engineer) is there with some of his fellow shipmates. Colin, a tattoo artist whose shop is just down the block, is there working with his personal trainer. Colin’s not sure that Daniel is gay, so he doesn’t make a move, but he’s not against sneaking a peek at the man during his workout. Daniel’s doing the same, both intrigued by the man himself and by all his amazing tattoos on display. Daniel’s been wanting to get a tattoo, and this seems like fate: ask the hot artist to give him one . . . and maybe a bit more than that.

Was this karma for taking so long to find someone? It was like the universe was saying, Sorry about keeping you a virgin for twenty-six years. Here’s an ex-porn star with tattoos and a six-pack. Enjoy. 

Don’t mind if I do.

Daniel is a virgin. He grew up in a super conservative and religious family and small town, and while he’s known since he was young that he liked guys and not girls, he never acted on his sexuality. He left town the minute he graduated and went directly into the Navy, and while he was lucky enough to be mostly surrounded by men and women who were not homophobic shits, he still didn’t explore his sexuality. By that point, he was too embarrassed that he had less sexual experience than most teenagers. Now he’s 26 and beyond tempted by Colin, inexperience be damned. He really does want a tatt – first a small one that shows off his time in the Navy – and Colin’s work is amazing. But he definitely wants more than just Colin’s ink on his skin – he wants his hands and mouth, too. And Colin is more than happy to give him all of that.

While Daniel has some minor demons he’s fighting, in the form of the knowledge that his family would disown him if they found out he’s gay and having to constantly fight the message he was taught growing up (that homosexuality is a sin), Colin is the one fighting so much more.

Now, part of this might be a bit of a spoiler – not so much about the plot, but about Colin’s character, so read the next two paragraphs at your own discretion.

Colin’s a bit older than Daniel (in his 30s). When Colin was younger, he was a porn star. Though there are always some who look down on him for that – including some of his previous partners – his past porn career didn’t damage him. But there was something that he was battling before, during, and after, that did. Colin has an eating disorder, and when it’s not in check, he’ll avoid eating and workout until he collapses. The disorder was at its worse when he was still in the industry and was with an ex, an older porn director, who constantly made him feel like shit for not looking thin and fit enough. In the years since then, he’s move past porn, apprenticed as a tattoo artist, and then opened his own shop. He’s also had a few other bad bouts fighting his disorder, but overall he’s reached a good place thanks to consistent therapy, his physical trainer/dietician, and the support of his brother. But none of that cures him, and it never will. He constantly has to fight to stay healthy, to beat down the demons still whispering that he needs to do more, eat less, be “better”.

It’s rare that you see eating disorders in men discussed – both in society and in romance – but yes, it DOES happen. (In fact, the only other romance hero with an eating disorder that I’ve read is in Courtney Milan’s Trade Me.) I’m glad that Witt wrote this story, and frankly we need more like it, need to see how damaging eating disorders are and how they can affect anyone, regardless of gender (or anything else, for that matter).

Okay, end of the spoilery parts. Moving on!

I really enjoyed Back Piece. I loved the scenes while Daniel was getting tattooed. I really loved his design for the giant back piece (I won’t spoil it). I thought it fit him and his story so well and sounded pretty damn cool on top of that.

Colin opened his eyes and looked up at Daniel. Their gazes locked, and they both grinned. Jesus, he was gorgeous. Especially like this. 

Colin lifted himself up on one elbow, grabbed the back of Daniel’s neck, and dragged him into a needy, breathless kiss. Daniel could barely remember how to thrust or kiss, but somehow his body knew, and his hips kept moving with Colin’s, and his lips and tongue did the same, and he didn’t know or care who was in control of anything as long as they didn’t stop. 

With a gasp, Colin broke the kiss. “Oh fuck. Fuck.” He dropped back to the mattress, eyes squeezed shut and his back lifting up.

Witt does NOT hold back the heat here. These two are hot as hell together, while the scenes are also very intimate and sensual, too. Their first time (anal) was especially memorable because of its sweet and tender intimacy that was weaved in with the off-the-charts heat. Each scene was as sexy, if not more so, than the last, and you might need a cold shower or two. Even better, I loved that these two were versatile. Though there are more scenes with Daniel bottoming than Colin, it’s not an exclusive deal, and both men love it all. I always appreciate vers couples; while there’s nothing at all wrong with someone only wanting one or the other, thus creating a straight forward top/bottom relationship, I do love having the variety – and it’s been a few months, I think, since I read a M/M with vers heroes.

As much as I loved these two and their story, I must admit that it’s a bit slow and the pacing is inconsistent, especially for the ending, which was quite abrupt. I wanted to see more page time of them happily together before “The End” came up. I felt like it went from the last-minute blow-up to a quick make-up just to drop the HEA curtain on the last few pages. The HEA is solid and believable, don’t worry about that, but I wanted to see a bit more from the ending – or rather, a bit more before the ending.

Related to the pacing, this is a story that has almost no conflict or angst, nor much of a plot driving it forward. I liked the story, truly, but I’m also able to see how this story could be boring to some. Even I had the thought a time or two, as the entire book pretty much cycles between the tattoo sessions, hot sex (which I have no complaints about!), and both men constantly rehashing the same thoughts and guilt trips. Rinse and repeat. Ultimately this didn’t ruin the book for me, because I did like these two, and the chemistry (read: sex), as well as Witt’s writing. But I do want to point it out because it might be too slow for other readers to truly get in to.

Back Piece is a hot read with two men that you’ll love, but the story was also a bit meandering, with very little thrown in to keep it moving forward, and the last 10% was a bit of a disappointment, a last-ditch effort to add some conflict before wrapping it up (a bit too quickly/neatly) for the HEA. Even with these few flaws in the execution, I still very much enjoyed this one, and look forward to seeing where the series goes.


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I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley.

*Note: The quotes used belong to L.A. Witt; TBQ's Book Palace does not claim them. Any mistakes or typos in the quotes are my own fault.

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Until Next Time,


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