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Release Reviews: The Darkest Flame: Christina Lee

The Darkest Flame (Roadmap to Your Heart #1)
Christina Lee
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Expected August 17, 2015

From the author of There You Stand, a new male/male romance about an errant motorcycle recruit and the captivating bartender who sends his wheels spinning down an all too tempting road.

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.

A note from the author:

So about this book. Vaughn and Smoke appear as secondary characters in THERE YOU STAND. I already had an idea of what their story might be if I ever wrote it. So when readers began asking if they'd get their own HEA, I knew I needed to finish their book. So I did and guh, these men! <3 

Cory and Jude also appear in THE DARKEST FLAME, just FYI, but this book is completely a adult standalone and in fact, the beginning of a new series. 

Fair warning--this book is probably grittier (dirtier?) than TYS because hey, it's Vaughn and Smoke. ;-)

 




I grabbed my hold of keys and tried not to slam my way out the door. I didn’t know why the hell I was so rattled by Vaughn tonight. I mean, I had been every night, but something about the idea of him being with somebody else right in front of my eyes, made me crazy with need. Need that it felt like only he could fulfill. 

As soon as I got to my bike I realized I’d left my cut in the break room. I stood outside attempting to rein in my uneven pulse. I didn’t know what the fuck had come over me.
Breathing more steadily, I stepped back through the door only to find the bar empty. I’d just grab my leather vest and leave him in peace.

“I forgot my…” I stopped in my tracks because Vaughn stood motionless in the middle of the floor, veins bulging in his neck, as if he’d implode at the slightest touch.
He was always moving and talking with a restless energy in this bar so his stillness was a bit startling.

“Hey.” I gingerly placed my hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry if I—”

There was instant recoil, as if he were attempting to contain the vortex of tension between us by vacuuming it in through his skin. 

He twisted toward me, his eyes latching onto mine, right before I was slammed against the door.

The wind was practically knocked out of me as Vaughn sank his weight against my smaller frame. We were groin to groin, heartbeat to heartbeat.

“Fuck, Vaughn, you’re—” Heaving breaths surged through my nostrils. “I was going to suggest a truce.”

“Yeah?” he mumbled, his gaze fastening on my mouth. “What sort of truce?”
We met Vaughn and Smoke in There You Stand as background characters. They are two men suffering from hidden lust that are in a situation not safe to show it. So they have this game of cat and mouse with smoldering looks  and unasked questions. But when they suddenly find themselves working together in close proximity, all bets are off. It just increases the teasing, taunting, and flirting. Sexual tension and chemistry swirls around them. They are two strong silent types who want nothing more than each other but need to keep their secret lives hidden. But they can't hide from each other for too long and they help each other forget the noise in their lives while adding color and passion.

But the world they live in is one that they feel they can't be open and show their true selves. It is made up of various MC clubs, bar patrons, and manly men.

Vaughn is the all around good guy. He's the owner and bartender at The Hog's Den bar where the Disciples hang out and is an honorary member. He's charismatic, likable, responsible. and caring.

Smoke is a little younger and more mysterious. He's a recruit of the Disciples and an industrial artist. He's intense, sexy, trustworthy, and  a bit of a tease.

They both had personalities that alternately pushed and pulled at the the other. They have history that has marked them and cause trust issues. They both are alphas, flirty, and dirty-talkers. They had serious sexual tension, foreplay, and smoking hot chemistry that just continued to build. Their intimate scenes were combustible, lusty, raw, and dirty. They had such a fierce need and passion that they could not control. But at the same time were both in need of anchor and someone to care for. I loved that these guys knew they were getting in over their heads and were powerless to stop it.  I liked that they both were not afraid of sharing their feelings, wants, or communication. Their connection was powerful and had many challenges, but they also had each other's best interests at heart. But they have no idea the repercussions if their own personal secret gets out.

And there was danger lurking around them and the club--strange happenings, mysteries, dirty deals, and destruction. And they were caught all up in the middle of it. In some ways being together made them safer and in other ways put a target on their backs.

This was a story that had the whole MC club feel but also dealt with tolerance, love, honesty, and standing up for one self . In a world where being strong and tough is everything, the idea of being different or seen as soft is challenging and stress inducing. But all along I loved both Vaughn and Smoke. They were such strong, bossy, dirty-talking men, but also were vulnerable and totally likable. I am glad the author decided to share their story after There You Stand. I was fun to catch glimpses of Cory and Jude too.

This was told in dual point of view and had interesting twists. It was hot and steamy, emotional and even romantic in a rough and tumble way.

I was gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.
Picking up beloved characters from the background of There You Stand, The Darkest Flame focuses on bar-owner, Vaughn, and Disciples member Smoke. Neither man is out in public, though both have had quiet relationships.

Vulnerability and tenderness grows quickly between the men. They try to hide their feelings fearing repercussions from the club. While Vaughn has never really hidden his preference for men, he isn’t truly out. Smoke has never shared it, even with those closest to him.

They are both the strong silent type, and a lot passes between them without even speaking. They are protectors and keep their challenges close to the chest.

Their chemistry is smoking and the attraction is something they have a hard time keeping quiet. Though they try to keep things under the radar, the dirty talking, flirty way they develop behind closed doors is hard to keep a lid on.

It was interesting to watch a M/M storyline play out with an MC focus. Smoke’s membership and fear of discovery plays a large part in the tension between these two, as does the large MC presence in Vaughn’s bar. As a group with a typical man’s man stereotype, the club’s presence adds a lot of worry to what Vaughn and Smoke want.

Smoke has secrets from his past that make him hesitant to open up to Vaughn, and hesitant to let his MC brothers know everything about his history. While Vaughn doesn’t have the same secrets, he has a lot riding on the success of his bar and has family in the area that give him reasons to worry.

There are plenty of twists in the MC side of the story that kept things suspenseful in the background as well as the questions of when and how things would fall apart for Vaughn and Smoke. I found myself reading this as much for the MC story in the background as for the men’s story in the forefront.
I enjoyed this read as a smooth, easy read and a great return to the characters I loved watching in the background of There You Stand. Jude and Cory make several appearances in the background, while Mal, and the other MC members return to rally around their brother.  
I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Christina Lee 
Mother, wife, reader, dreamer. Christina lives in the Midwest with her husband and son--her two favorite guys. She's addicted to lip gloss and salted caramel everything.

She believes in true love and kissing, so writing romance novels has become a dream job.

She also owns her own jewelry business, where she hand-stamps meaningful words or letters onto silver for her customers. 

She loves to hear from her readers.

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