A Hearts On Fire Review
2.75 Hearts--"Blow by Blow" is a story set in the future, where America went into another civil war. What was the cause of the fight? LGBT rights. In this America, it's been 15 years since the war ended. It was okay to be openly gay but only to a certain extent. The homophobes are still abundant and gay attacks are still happening.
What drew me to this story was reading about an effeminate MMA fighter who rules the world of cage fighting. And in that aspect, the story did deliver.
Theo aka Little Raven, is 27 and flamboyant. He needs to join a MMA team, so he can compete in tournaments to make money. Fighting is what he's done his entire life and what he excels at. Getting turned down by just about every gym, he ends up at the last one, run by the renowned Master Jesse. The gym is set in a more tolerant side of town. First day, he falls for heavyweight champion, Valentin (33). Theo has been following Valentin's career and was a big fan of the dreadlocked fighter.
The story is billed as erotic alternative romantic suspense, and while the story tried, the execution, pace and all over plotting fell short. The ingredients could've made a stellar read but it was sloppily handled to me. Trigger warning: gay bashing, attempted rape. Blow By Blow might be billed as set in the future, it read like a contemporary.
While the story tried to paint Valentin as a progressive MMA fighter, openly gay and macho, there were a few missteps. Like when trying to start a relationship with Theo, he thought:
"Theo wanted a date. Shit. He was worse than a woman yet part of what turned Valentin on."
Worse than a woman? *side eyes* It didn't endear me to him. In fact, Valentin said some jerky things that made me not like him. He's told to the reader that he can't communicate well due to a crap childhood. But not enough personal growth was shown. Valentin was one degree above flat. The story was told from alternate POV, but Theo seemed more developed as a character.
The sex is super safe, wearing condoms for a handjob safe. Though I kinda paused the two times one guy licked the other's dick before putting on a condom and then finishing a blowjob. Kinda defeated the purpose. Whatevs. There were so many condoms I felt like I needed to wear one just for the sex scenes.
And the speaking of the sex scenes, there were repetitive. It was like reading the same boring script - only one guy tops, the other has to bottom, add a condom and lube, once penetration happens, 2-3 sentences, they're coming. They come so quickly, the sex scene is over in under a minute. And there was a lot of sex scenes - here is an example where less would have been more, because it was too much. (I can't believe I wrote this) But it was yawn inducing, 1 out of 5, plain yogurt sex.
The second half was stronger...but that's not saying much. Once I got to the end, I was disappointed. The story ignores the suspense plot many times throughout, but the culmination of the "suspense" is not satisfying nor worth reading after all of the words. The suspense is supposed to be one threatening letter that happens in the second half? Really? And whoever was behind the letter was never solved. The epilogue was the start of what I'm guessing is a continuation for different characters. Big time loose ends were left flying in the wind to pick up an idea first introduced in the beginning. :/
The "romance" ends with a HEA but it was really lackluster since that relationship already peaked in the first half despite the silly couple squabbles and miscommunication issues. Valentin, overall, was a jerk. Did he redeem himself? *sigh* I just see him reacting the way he always did when he was dealing with a difficult situation - verbally cutting Theo down. He's not what I call a viable candidate. But Theo liked him. And there couple of seconds sex seems to be compatible.
Some parts were interesting like the MMA fighting in the second half. Most was meh and drawn out. The ending to Theo's and Valentin's love story was too fast IMO. Valentin should have groveled more. Overall, it's within the 2.5 -2.75 Hearts range.
Decent enough ideas, shoddy execution.
I'm not interested in reading any more from this world.