About Hearts Under Fire
by H.J. Raine & Kelly Wyre
283 pages / 80500 words
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Ten years ago, Maxwell you-can-just-call-me Clark thought he would spend
his life as a military man. But his world turned into a nightmare when a
suicide bomber destroyed Clark's career. It's been a long road to recovery,
littered with surgery, alcohol, and secrets, but Clark finally has peace.
His bar, Glow, is the place to be in the city of New Amsterdam, the son of
the mayor employs Clark as a confidential information man, and Clark’s side
venture as part-owner of a BDSM club is quite the profitable release.
Clark’s life is a good one, so long as no one gets too close.
Then a man walks into Glow who will forever change Clark’s rules and
reality. Thinking Professor Daniel Germain is just another handsome face
ripe for Clark’s kind of good time, Clark puts on his smoothest moves. When
the professor turns him down, Clark goes on the hunt, and what he discovers
shows him that even the deepest wounds can be healed by submitting to love.
Angela Benedetti, author of A Hidden Magic, writes: It all starts in a
Two guys meet, and it's clear from the back-and-forthing that there's
something between them. An attraction, a chemistry, that indefinable
something that pulls two people toward one another when they've just met.
Unfortunately, Clark and Daniel are both tops. Doms, actually, which...
makes things awkward.
I've seen this set-up before, although not often. What I liked about Raine
and Wyre's handling of the situation is that they didn't have anyone do a
major about-face, discovering that wow, he's been a "natural" bottom all
along but never realized it, nor did they give us a multi-chapter retraining
phase, nor anything similar. What we're given is two guys who are massively
into one another and figure out how to make it work. Yeah, there's some
backstory involved, but it's all smooth and believable, and neither of the
characters gets a personality transplant along the way.
Supporting characters came across as individuals without taking over the
action. Lucian Gray, in particular, was entertaining when he swept in and
out for his scene; he feels like someone I'd love to watch, although
probably from a distance. Clark's bar employees, for the short time they're
on stage, made an impression, as did the other staff and members at Clark's
club, and Daniel's grad students and cop friends. If the authors intend to
write any sequels about other characters, there are plenty to choose from,
but I never got the impression that future protags were being shoved onto
the stage wearing Buy My Book! T-shirts -- kudos for that.
The sex is hot and plentiful, and fits the two characters very well. I
enjoyed the external action, once it got going, and wouldn't mind seeing
some sequels along those lines, not that I'm hinting to the authors or
anything. All around, this is a fun, sexy read.
Gay? Clark blinked. Of course Clark was gay. The
bartender went still for a moment -- a leftover from training that taught
him that moving when confused or startled could get one killed. He replayed
the conversation, forced the bullshit bits about his eye and the past away
from his thoughts, and finally caught up to the rumor business.
Under normal circumstances, Clark thought he might be more upset that
somebody got him off his game -- even for a split second or two. But some
weird additional heat was mixing in with the desire to get this man alone in
a dark room and learn what his skin tasted like.
"Oh? Do you?" Clark said as he leaned back in and brushed his thumb over the
back Daniel's right hand. "I've acquired a taste for it myself."
"Have you, now?" Daniel asked. He caught the wandering hand with his left
and tried to turn it over. The lightness of Clark's skin against the
darkness of Daniel's hand fascinated Clark, and want stirred in Clark's
bloodstream and groin like some grinning cat poised over a cornered mouse.
Clark hummed and pressed his thumb into Daniel's palm for a light squeeze
with a hint of very short nail. Clark relented and let the other man move
his hand as he liked.
"I guess I've had a taste for it ever since I remember," Daniel said. He
spread Clark's fingers on the bar and traced the life and health lines as if
divining things from Clark's skin. "That is part of my trepidation over the
wedding. They've never physically beaten me up about it, just tried to get
me to date more girls."
Clark found it was harder than it had any right to be for him to follow
Daniel's words instead of the trails of fire igniting on Clark's skin.
Mentally, he chastised himself for getting so worked up. Then he chastised
himself for chastising himself over feeling something good.
Truly, it was one long game of punch-for-punch in Clark's head sometimes.
"'More girls?'" Clark repeated, refusing to look away from Daniel's face. He
relaxed his arm and hand with effort. "Implying there were girls to season
your taste early on?"
"Mmhm," Daniel hummed, brushing his thumbnail against the Mound of Mars
under Clark's thumb. "Beauty is still beauty, as are intelligence and
courage. Though I admit that my aunt was just beside herself when I was
dating a girl who was graduating summa cum laude."
"I'm sure," Clark agreed, grateful for the new information to distract him
from the urge to full-body flinch from the casual touches. Calculating, he
rolled his fingers and stroked the underside of Daniel's wrist. "I'm sure
they'll all be glad to see you. Sounds like the kind of family that wants
you to be happy above all else." Touch, drag, press of fingertip, and
Clark's heart beat faster.
Daniel squeezed Clark's hand and released him. "I don't know about happy,
but they're always there when I need them. That's a good thing."
Clark watched Daniel grab the beer and empty it with one last, long pull. He
shifted his weight from foot to foot, struggling with an internal wrestling
match that started when Daniel let go of him. He instantly regretted the
loss of contact and chided himself for it. It wasn't sudden, so Clark didn't
think he'd offended. But something was off.
"Having that kind of support is rarely a bad thing," Clark commented, trying
to sort through the Daniel-flavored consternation.
"Indeed," Daniel said, finishing the sandwich. The furrow was back between
Daniel's brows, and Clark shook his head, bemused, before reaching to cover
Daniel's entire hand with his own.
Giving an affectionate squeeze, Clark leaned closer, playful again. "You're
thinking hard enough to make my head hurt."
Daniel blinked and then laughed, the smile reaching the corners of his eyes.
The effect took Clark's breath away.