August 28, 2015

REVIEW: The Darkest Flame (Roadmap to Your Heart #1)

The Darkest Flame (Roadmap to Your Heart #1), by Christina Lee
Publish Date: August 17, 2015
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-book, purchased
Genre: adult m/m romance/suspense
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads) Vaughn O’Keefe has been part owner of the Hog’s Den for years. Privy to plenty of Disciples of the Road business, he’s never been more ruffled as when a new recruit named “Smoke” walks through the door. Something about the man gets his blood pumping, but he knows to keep his preferences under wraps around the club.

“Smoke” Callahan has done a couple of rehab stints and is finally clean, thanks to help from the Disciples. He’s on the right path and isn’t about to get sidetracked, no matter how much the guy who manages the bar gets beneath his skin. Besides, his last relationship with a man left him scared, alone, and with a nightmare of an addiction.

When the Hog’s Den becomes shorthanded, and Smoke is ordered to help out the one man he can’t have, his longing for the bartender reaches blistering proportions. Vaughn figures a night together should be enough to satisfy their mutual attraction. But neither banks on just how scorching hot it might be.

As Smoke’s past unravels and the one person he hopes never to lay eyes on again messes with all he holds sacred, it’s time to involve the Disciples. Problem is, he’ll have to risk his membership, his heart, and his own hide to keep everyone he cares about safe.

When Christina Lee wrote There You Stand, which was the fifth book in her Between Breaths series, I was so excited that she took the plunge into the m/m new adult romance pool. And, it was a really good book. The Darkest Flame is a spin-off from There You Stand, and it's also m/m, but everything in it is... MORE. More hot bikers. More drama. More heat. 

We met both Vaughn and Smoke in There You Stand, and The Darkest Flame tells their story. I knew there was something between them, but it was obvious that they were not free to be out, given their current situations. Smoke is a recruit for the Disciples of the Road and finally on the right path in his life. He is wildly attracted to Vaughn, the part owner of the Hog's Den, which is where the Disciples always hang out. 

The attraction is definitely not one-sided. Vaughn has had his eye on Smoke for a long time. The best part about The Darkest Flame is the crazy amount of sexual tension. It is RIDICULOUS. Bikers and motorcycle clubs are very hetero. They are full of testosterone-laden man-whores who love to bang the biker babes that hang out at their club houses. It's not exactly accepted to be gay and in an MC.

Both Vaughn and Smoke are bi-sexual, so they've been able to hide their proclivities thus far. But, when Smoke is forced to work behind the bar with Vaughn, both men fear their days of hiding are numbered. Subtle nudges behind the bar, storeroom meet-ups, late-night closings - it was just a matter of time before they gave in to their attraction. 

Smoke and Vaughn were desperate to get back to business as usual. They weren't used to having their attentions so divided. Smoke has been wholly devoted to the club since they helped him kick his habit, and Vaughn's life is his bar. All of a sudden, both men are thrown off kilter by each other, and in their desperation to put their universes back to rights, they decided to just "get it out of their system." Now, how many times have we read about this plan? It's adorable that they thought that would actually work. 

After a few hot and heavy interactions, they finally get down to business. Holy. Crap. When Smoke and Vaughn decide to quit dancing around each other, they absolutely set my Kindle on fire. FIRE, I tell you. And, of course, once was not enough (DUH). They kept testing those invisible alleged boundaries set by the club, all while getting closer and closer to one another. 

The Darkest Flame was not all about the forbidden love between Vaughn and Smoke. The club is trying to bring down a rival gang that is in to some really bad things - Smoke's former club, in fact. And, since Smoke has the inside knowledge, he's asked to help by ratting on them. Despite the fact that Smoke knows his old club is into bad things and was a really bad thing for him, personally, he's a good, loyal guy, and he struggles with the morality of this. Since his loyalty has shifted, he does what is asked of him, but it never sits right with him, and eventually, Smoke has to answer for his actions. 

Luckily he has Vaughn's support the whole time. Although Vaughn is not part of the club, he is as close to it as he can be without being in it. That affords him protection and friendship from them. And, since the club meets at the bar all the time, Vaughn also has a bit of knowledge about how things go for them sometimes, so he knows Smoke is right smack in the middle of this operation, and he knows it can be dangerous. Suddenly, Vaughn is very worried about the man he's come to love, but there isn't anything he can do about it, since he's only on the periphery. 

It was fun seeing Cory and Jude a few times during The Darkest Flame. They've settled into life and are happy, which made my heart happy. I can't wait to see what the rest of this series will bring - and I can't wait for the recap we might see from Vaughn and Smoke.

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