Monday, July 30, 2018

Kat's Review: Blaze

Remember, since this is a Royal Pick, come back on August 30th for a chance to win an ecopy of your own!

Blaze by Jocelynn Drake and Rinda Elliott
Publisher: Jocelynn Drake (June 22, 2018)
Series: Unbreakable Bonds, 5 [but book 2 for this couple]
Genre: Contemporary Romance -- M/M

The rings have been selected.
The champagne placed on ice.
The cake decorated.

And the pre-wedding sex is off the charts...

Lucas Vallois and Andrei Hadeon are finally ready to walk down the aisle. There’s just one small problem.

A ghost from Lucas’s past shows up days before the wedding, desperate for help. Against his better judgement, Lucas and his best friend, Ashton Frost, plan a fast trip back to the one place they swore they’d never go: their hometown in Oklahoma. But the danger is worse than they expected.

Now, they’re in a race to track down a killer, keep a young girl safe, and get Lucas back in time to say, “I do.”

Where to Buy*:
Kindle (KU title)
More Info:

Kat's Review:

I don’t usually like to read series that are still in progress, just like I prefer TV shows that have ended. Basically, I don’t want to wait. (And as someone who used to record episodes of The X-Files on the VCR and watch them at 5am the next morning, I know about waiting. Why the subterfuge? I was grounded. Don’t judge me.) Anyway, all of this to say, this is a series I will wait for. I will wait for, re-read all the previous books for, and devour each new release in less than 24 hours.

What is so great about this series? Why do I love it so much? 1) Jude, and 2) the titular unbreakable bond between the main four protags. Jude is the partner of Ashton Frost, aka Snow, and their story is featured in the second book, Shatter. They’re not the focus of Blaze, but I mention them because there was not nearly enough Jude/Snow in this book. MOAR Jude! 

Moving on, I also love how this found family interacts. In an era that has only barely moved on from straight men continually shouting “no homo!” when they express affection for their fellow straight men, it’s irresistible to see men embrace each other and verbally express their feelings for each other. Even Lucas, who is the focus of Blaze and is generally stoic, always has time for terms of endearment for Snow, Rowe, and Ian, his brothers.

So, the plot of this book centers around Lucas’s origins and unfinished business from his past, and also the wind-up to marrying Andrei. Lucas and Andrei’s first story was the first book of the series, Shiver, and one thing that grated on me in that story (and which was also sprinkled through the first four books) was everyone else’s claim that Lucas liked to think he was bi, but really he was gay. And I’ve always been here thinking, stop with the bi erasure, and let the man identify how he wants! I don’t think Jocelynn Drake and Rinda Elliott were intending to do that; after all, Andrei is bisexual, and that’s handled quite well. But it’s not until Blaze, when we learn a lot more about how Lucas grew up, and we really see that his choices to date women and even have sex with them, were probably more about performing others’ expectations for him, rather than his real desires. Lucas can obviously identify however he wants, but I think, from his narrative perspective and his behavior, Blaze shows that he’s mostly gay; not opposed to dating women or having sex with them if he needs to, but definitely prefers men. I wish Drake and Elliott had included more nuance to Shiver, but I appreciated seeing it in Blaze.

Without going into too much plot detail, Lucas and Snow take a trip to their hometown of Collinsville, Oklahoma, a place to which they both swore they would never return, when Lucas’s sister, Nicole makes a plea for help for her daughter, Taylor. The reason Taylor is in danger, and the mystery of the book is along the lines of Erin Brockovich. There’s suspense and murder, and while it’s not the grand arc of the first four books, it’s nice to not have to think about a shitbag pedophile who traffics children for sex. 

Really, the main conflict of Blaze is Lucas (and also Snow to an extent) dealing with the ghosts of the past. Nicole and Lucas did not part on good terms. She did not step up and side with him against their terrible parents, and he holds a lot of bitterness about it (in the style of Telltale Games, “Lucas will remember that”). We learn a lot about what drove Lucas and Snow out of Collinsville, and why Lucas is so fiercely protective of and devoted to his found family. In getting to know Taylor, and Adult Nicole, Lucas opens up to the possibility of folding them into his circle, which is a nice addition of women to the Dude Convention.

While much of the action takes place in Oklahoma, there are also important tangential plot threads.  Lucas has demonstrated commitment problems and issues with communication in the past, so when the quick jaunt to OK goes longer than expected (because of course it does), Andrei gets understandably concerned that the wedding might be pushed back. Traveling south himself, Andrei is confronted with some hard truths about who he is and what he’s capable of.  It’s a HFN/HEA, though, so we do get that sweet sweet wedding payoff.

I don’t always like books that feature already established couples. I like the beginnings of relationships - the tension, the will-they-won’t-they-fuck-on-this-counter-right-now. Reading Blaze felt like more a continuation of everyone’s stories, though the focus was on Lucas and Andrei. Drake and Elliott do a great job of developing characters throughout the series, even if people aren’t the main protags. (We see this too in their spinoff series, Ward Security.)  Blaze has both hot sex and sweet moments with characters we’ve grown to love. And humor, too - especially from Noah and Rowe. But not nearly enough Jude. Luckily, they’re planning a book #6. :)


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Source: Bought

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Thanks for the review, Kat! I'm putting this series on my list now -- the opening page for this book caught my attention. ;) Luckily the entire series is on KU!


Until Next Time,

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