Exposed – H.L. Day
A survival gay romance
Sometimes salvation comes from the most unlikely hero.
When Tate Gillespie is marked for death for a crime he didn’t commit, his life crumbles. In a world where ‘justice’ is meted out by a relentless military force, he’s going to need more than a mythical guardian angel. His life down to seconds, he’s saved by the mysterious X, a knife-wielding man he’s never even met before. But who is X? Is he the man who threatens and kills without a second thought? Or the strangely gentle man who only seems to act that way around Tate?
X is a shadow. A wraith. A man who flits through the city virtually unseen. He’s got no time for people when knives are far more reliable. X does have one weakness though—the man he’s been keeping safe for years who doesn’t even know it. He’d burn the whole world to keep him alive. But what he won’t do is stake his claim. Tate’s not his and he needs to remember that, no matter how close they might become.
With the military in hot pursuit, they’re going to need to rely on X’s skills to keep them both alive. Tate’s feelings are growing with every hour they spend together, but X is a tough nut to crack. Can two people from very different backgrounds really find common ground? Or will one of the many perils they face throughout their long journey drive them apart?
It’s all about survival. Not love. Isn’t it?
Exposed is a 132k action/adventure story featuring two men who couldn’t be more opposite.
Exposed is a book where everything came together fabulously. Starting with the model on the cover who is spot-on as X. I was also thrilled to hear that not only was the narrator fantastic at bringing the characters to life, he delivered the story with an Australian accent. It’s such a rare treat!
When I first read the blurb, I was super intrigued by the shadowy figure lurking in the dark. My guts told me this is going to be so good. It turned out to be one heck of an adventure and a touching chronicle of one man’s unconditional love and devotion.
The book immediately pulled me into a dystopian world in what was supposedly the former Australian continent. The world-building is straightforward but detailed enough to set the vibe properly. The more affluent citizens lived in cities ruled by martial law. The rest lived in slums.
There are talks of other cities, some underground, others, probably nothing more than myths. There is one somewhere in the north, past the desert, said to be a utopia for all. Nobody could verify its existence because none came back to do so. Either they did find the place or more likely, they died trying.
Tate blissfully carries on with his life as a pharmaceutical employee in the city, unaware of the guardian shadow watching over him. One day, he was set up for a crime punishable by death. Just as he was about to be executed by the military police, he was saved by a mysterious knife-wielding man. The two quickly set off to find a haven and freedom, with the military hot on their heels.
X is an assassin from the slums. This is a man who loves his knives so much he doesn’t let anyone touch them and live. He’s very anti-social, very taciturn, very broody. He is a hard man living a hard life. His sole purpose was to protect Tate, whether or not the man knew of his existence. Ask him how long he has been stalking him. That is how long he has been hopelessly in love with Tate.
X!!! The name is perfect! I love him!!! X’s strength as a character was what carried me through the story. I’m happy the story is told in dual 1st person POVs because being inside X’s head was everything!
The man is soft for Tate and only for Tate. He was a badass through and through. He’s tough even to himself. He doesn’t believe he is worthy of being loved. Not even when Tate already said he liked him.
“It’s possible to want something but to not let yourself have it.”
My heart went out to X during these moments. The man has a habit of talking himself into believing nobody’s going to love a killer like him. Mind you, he’s still very butch about it. The part that hit me the hardest was how X never, ever expects anything in return from Tate. He would have been okay with just escorting Tate to the underground city. Then, he would go off to the desert and die happy knowing the love of his life was safe.
Tate took some time winning me over. He’s chatty, naïve, and occasionally bratty. He was slightly annoying at some points. But to give Tate his due, he was smart enough to figure X out. Also, he accepted X for who he is, dark past and all. The part where I appreciated Tate the most was where he truly understood how much the knives meant to X.
The romance was both intense and gentle. The connection between X and Tate was a palpable, slow-burning energy, building heat until it went nuclear. It was a beautiful rendering of unrequited love getting requited.
The characters and the romance developed over the course of their adventure. I don’t really go for stories where a long journey is involved because the traveling part bores me. Here, I did feel a very slight drag.
However, the author skillfully kept the momentum going. I loved how she balanced the action scenes with the more emotional ones. I enjoyed how one moment we get crazy ninja moves and throat-slitting, then we get some downtime of X cleaning Tate’s wound with excruciating tenderness. And then it’s back to adrenaline-pumping chases and explosions. And a LOT of walking!
Exposed is my first H.L. Day and definitely won’t be the last. It’s a brilliantly executed dystopian action/adventure love story driven by compelling characters that leave their mark. Gritty, suspenseful, thrilling, and deeply moving, it is two men’s mad dash to freedom and a hard-fought journey towards a lifetime together.
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away
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Her of the Wood – Veronica Watts
Determined to get out of a city where the lowest classes are subjugated into silent submission, Euodia sneaks onto a convoy of detainees being transported to the old lands to die.
Her hope is rewarded when her group meets scouts from a small but thriving community. As Euodia learns to live and work in her new home, she struggles to shake off years of conditioning so that she can be honest with Ailie about her developing feelings.
But just as she’s finding her feet, and maybe her courage, a deadly disease sweeps through the community…
Her of the Wood is a dystopian story about the search for freedom and finding a home where you can be yourself.
I liked the cover and the premise piqued my curiosity enough for me to take a chance on this novel. Solace is an ideal community where people are free to love whomever they please. I liked all the cozy couples in the story but the vast majority of the novel is about Euodia going about her daily business which is not the most riveting subject to read about. We are shown the development of hers and Ailie’s relationship which was sweet but the writing style, composed of short almost terse sentences makes everything come across as bland. And even though I was hoping none of them die and the couples stay together, I felt like I hadn’t connected with any of the characters. In addition, the conflicts were resolved a little too easily and the sense of danger was constantly muted.
The book’s highlights were the first and last parts which were ironically, moments that involve the city Dracon where Euodia came from. I am actually more curious about the city than Solace but I am also glad the plot was not the usual dystopian take-down-the-corrupt-government storyline.
The ending was certainly a big surprise which might have hinted on a sequel. I would like to find out more about Dracon. Would the city people ever know about Solace? Would people from Solace want to see the city?
Like I said, the premise shows promise but the execution could use some work, the characters need more depth and maybe an exciting event or two to shake things up in the middle part. However the book offers some positive messages I liked and the setting was good. It also has a YA feel to it which is also a plus. All in all, I rate this a pass.
I received a copy of Her of the Wood from Less Than Three Press
via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it