Gritty with a side of romance, what more can a reader ask for? ;D

Happy Birthday - B.D. Roca
  A Hearts On Fire Review

FOUR HEARTS--Consider me impressed by B.D. Roca's debut, "Happy Birthday": where a suicidal killer meets his love match unexpectedly…in his latest target.

For his twenty-third birthday, Aussie MC enforcer and killer Nick should be celebrating his life, celebrating the start of adulthood. Instead, he’s performed numerous killings for a criminal MC he wants to leave, fought and scrabbled too many times with nothing but scars on his knuckles and soul. And he doesn’t care about ending it all.
“You still want that little secret to stay secret?”
“You wouldn’t.”
“You’re right, I wouldn’t. Not unless I heard you talked. In which case, all bets would be off.”
“You’re a fucking bastard, Nick. I thought you were better than—”
“I’m a paid killer, Mike. What the fuck were you expecting?”

He hides who he is, a gay man, in fear of retaliation or worse by the very MC he kills for.

He has no one to trust, no one at all.

Enter Nick’s target of his last “cleanup” job, Jake Rushman. Jake was just at the wrong place at the wrong time, a witness to a botched MC murder and unwanted loose end. He left his home and was on the run for a few days before Nick catches up.

This first time author took a few of my favorite themes and made it interesting, suspenseful, not depressing and hot with enough backstory to keep the pace going. We have a killer, who is not really a good guy underneath but sadly had some shitty circumstances thrown his way. And he rolled with the punches. But the best part about Nick is that he needed something, or should I say a chance with someone, to prove to himself that he could be that guy. A man with purpose.

Reading Jake’s angle was pretty intriguing. Imagine being a regular Joe Schmoe IT guy, with a good life and background and it all changes at the blink of an eye. The way he and Nick come together might read fast for some, but when you have a barrel at your dome, priorities change, views change.
“I’ve got plans for you, Nick No-Last-Name. I’ve got plans and tricks, and I’m going to fuck you so hard you won’t be able to say no when I tell you what we’re gonna do. You understand?”
“You’re crazy.”
“No. You’re the crazy one, but I like that. I like it a lot. And I’m going to have more of it.”

Sometimes, I question couples who get together under duress, but not these two. Even though the length is short and some passages weren’t transitionally smooth. This is something the author can work on for the future. There were some passages that verbally slam dunks:
“Savage, the thing that started it. His death wish and Jake’s desperation to just keep living. The trade Nick had been willing to make. That trade, never made, that had brought them both here.”

But then there were passages that would end at a strong point and instead of having some lasting filler to smooth it out, the story would jump ahead a couple of paces. The suspense was good but…I wouldn’t have minded Italy to go a little differently. A certain someone was slipping and they weren’t previously. Even with my quibbles, the story is strong. The couple made an impression and if this was longer, I would have thrown 5 hearts at its feet. I don’t think it needed to be a full length novel because the story gives you more than just the basics to get by.

As is, I’m in heavy like, super crushing on both main characters. I like my killers to believable. I think Nick definitely was. And Jake was the perfect match for him. He really does have a pair of “steel balls”.

The epilogue made me soft and pink. I gushed a little. Fitting.

I’ll be rereading this, which says something.

Recommended for readers who want something short to read but want some depth as well, don’t mind romance on the run and a bad guy who gets a second chance at making something of his self in his own way.

I am definitely checking out future work from this author. Loved the tone, feel, word slinging and characters!