Joker’s Sin: To Die For – Davidson King
Managing the bar at Joker’s Sin, a gay nightclub, is Max’s dream job. Where many seek fame or fortune, he’s living his best life, surrounded by family and friends. The only thing he doesn’t have is the guy to complete him.
Lane, AKA Sparkles, sees too much of the person he used to be when he looks at Max, and none of it is good. But the stubborn man won’t let up, and when Sparkles’s past threatens to unravel his whole life, it’s Max who steps in to save him.
Can these two opposites push past their differences to see just how right they are for each other? Will they get a chance before it all falls down around them? Or is their love one to die for?
(While it is book 2 in the Joker’s Sin Series, it can be read as a standalone)
When I first met dancing diva extraordinaire Sparkles and his frosty treatment of Max in Joker’s Sin book 1, My Whole World, I immediately thought of the song I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor by Arctic Monkeys. The lines “Stop making the eyes at me / I’ll stop making the eyes at you/ What it is that surprises me / Is that I don’t really want you to” is them eyefucking the heck out of each other. Well, Max did the blatant ogling and I’m pretty sure Sparkles was doing the side eye ogling now and then.
Fast forward to book 2, To Die For, and their snarky flirting continued. The two saw each other at the club almost every night but knew little about each other. Sparkles was attracted to Max but pegged him as a manwhore and didn’t want to be just another notch in his belt. Meanwhile, Max was really into Sparkles but how to convince the pink-haired diva that he wanted more than just a quick fuck when he wouldn’t even give him the time of day?
Things took a different turn when a monster from Sparkles’ past showed up liked he owned the town and Max’s protective instincts kicked into high gear.
The story touches upon the enemies to lovers trope but it’s obvious they don’t really hate each other. It was more like a case of bad first impressions and seeing reminders of an ugly past one had already run away from. Unfortunately, it had a way of catching up to a person.
But Sparkles is nothing if not a tough-as-nails survivor. He built his life in Haven Hart from the ground up and is not going to let it go that easily. His real name is Lane but to me and everyone at Joker’s Sin, he’ll always be Sparkles. Because he’s that fabulous!
Max proved he’s more than a walking case of herpes as Sparkles loved to point out. He’s the only boy in a loud Italian family of three sisters and their mom. He’s a whiz at mixing drinks, reads classic books, drives a fast bike and lives with his mom to help her out with her living expenses. He loves his job at the club. He’s one of the big four in Joker’s Sin, along with club owner Atlas Durand, DJ Edge and head of security Zero.
I was really looking forward to read this book because I was drawn to Sparkles from the get go. While I loved the flirting/fighting thing they had, I didn’t feel the same excitement about Max and Sparkles once they started getting along. I think it was sweet how Max was ready to jump to Sparkles defense. The chemistry was there but it lacked intensity. The pacing was great but the way the romance developed, it didn’t quite match the fire they had at the beginning. Their first date had all the right ingredients to turn magical but the execution failed to deliver.
Even the suspense lacked bite. There were many things going on that was just…going. The bad guy was an absolute asshole. Now this one stood out. He made Sparkles’ life a complete nightmare. I was so glad when they got rid of him permanently.
I don’t know, maybe I read this at the wrong time but To Die For didn’t really get my blood pumping as much as I hope it would. There’s nothing outright bad about it, more like, the story was kind of just there. The plot was simple and straightforward. The MCs were both likable, so were the supporting cast. And though it needed some oomph, the romance didn’t feel forced. The part I enjoyed the most were the scenes at the club. This is the heart of the series and this is where the writing really shine with how it made the pulsing club atmosphere palpable.
A lot of people gave this rave reviews so it really might be a ME thing. I say, read this for the club and the people.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it
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Hitman Vs Hitman – Cari Z & L.A. Witt
Ricardo Torralba and August Morrison don’t agree on much besides the fact that they hate each other. According to Ricardo, August is a spoiled brat who really needs to knock off the sass once in a while. August insists that Ricardo needs a sense of humor, a good lay, or a well-placed bullet. Maybe all three.
Fortunately, the assassin’s profession is a solitary one, and they can go about their lives without getting in each other’s way.
When a contracted hit turns out to be a setup for both of them, they narrowly escape with their lives. Now, even if they don’t like it (spoiler: they don’t), August and Ricardo have to work together if they want a shot at survival.
In between firefights and questionable interrogation methods as they hunt down their would-be killer, the cranky assassins discover that under all that mutual loathing is a spark of chemistry they can’t ignore. They want to ignore it, they probably should ignore it, but August can’t help flirting to annoy Ricardo, and Ricardo can think of at least one way to shut him up for a while.
But they need to focus, damn it, and figure out who’s gunning for them and why.
Assuming they don’t kill each other first.
Hitman vs Hitman is a standalone gay romantic suspense featuring two men who’d rather chew glass than fall for each other, a whole lot of inappropriate comments, and some buttons that will need resewing.
L.A. Witt and Cari Z had wowed me with their awesomely co-written series, Bad Behavior. Their latest book, Hitman Vs Hitman is a fun, explosive romp oozing with USTs between two hired guns who were contracted to take on an assignment that was set up to get them both killed.
Hitmen all over the world are ranked in a website called Rate My Hit. It’s where clients post reviews worded as satirical comments.
The #1 hitman according to the website is Ricardo Torralba. He’s a born planner who has a trunk full of props and costumes that lets him slip through security. He’s of Spanish descent but he can change his accent when undercover. He’s a grumpy, taciturn fellow with a drawer filled with burner phones.
And #2 on the chart is August Morrison, an unlikely person for such occupation. He is publicly known as the son of a billionaire. His mansion is built like Bruce Wayne’s. He loves clothes. Wears designer suits to his assignments. And jeeesus, when is he going to shut up?!
This book moved fast, much like the way Ricardo and August were constantly on the run from whoever had them in their crosshairs. They paused long enough to come up with a plan to turn things around. Along the way, their combustible combination finally combusted and they discovered, that despite their very obvious differences, they’re really good together in more ways than they expected.
The chemistry is off the charts! The sexual tension adding piquancy to the already strained interactions of two men on edge. I love the way these two threw off fireworks while constantly bickering. And that they took time before jumping each other’s bones.
I do think the way their backstories were presented could have been stronger. While we get a good picture of Ricardo’s and August’s personalities, I felt their pasts could have been explored further. We learn more about August and his quirks. Also him with his famous billionaire face, going about his secret missions sans disguise and not recognized is stretching it.
Majority of the book is spent uncovering the identity of the person who set them up. The mystery wasn’t hardcore mindboggling and you can kind of expect who the bad guy was. Still, it was an intriguing enough plotline.
We get an HFN that left some things open in case the authors decide to give us a sequel. I wish they would because that conclusion certainly felt like the start of events that will shake up the charts. I liked that Ricardo and August did not retire as is usually the case when assassins are given their happy endings.
Overall, Hitman Vs Hitman is light, humorous, suspenseful with OTT stunts and a lot of ridiculousness, mostly from August. It might not be a bullseye but it still hit its target.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
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