Gentle romantics, stop! Wait! Come back!
I actually decided to read this trans/gay/action/adventure because I thought it was going to be a Nicholas Bella-style 'fuck 'em up, fuck 'em hard,' hardcore, dark gay romance kind of book, but it turns out, it isn't like that at all. AT ALL. So bear with me, because this was great in ways that were so unexpected, and sometimes moving. (There's an excerpt below.)
I really enjoyed this punchy, gritty read, about tough ex-military Cordon Finn, who takes extra jobs on the side, based on his experience as an extraction and information specialist. It's bloody, crunchy and brutal, with Cordon hardened by his job and seemingly heartless. And there is very little actual sex, although frequent references to it, as well as drugs and violence.
Cordon's task is cut and dried; rescue a gullible billionaire's son from a pedophile cult and bring him back to his loving father.
Hmm, no. Turns out it's way more complicated than that, with people not being who they say they are, ruthless individuals who will stop at nothing to get what they want, and a tough young trans woman who has escaped a horrible family situation.
I can't tell you how much I loved this book. This is ALL about heart, found family, the perils of being LGBTQ+ in a hostile world, and the desperate measures people take in order to survive. The seemingly glittering streets of Palm Springs and sunny California in general are tainted with a dark underworld of exploiters and young people being exploited, all because the world cannot accept their truth.
I loved it because despite the uncomfortable truths (that these kids are facing these dangers every damned day) the story was also exciting, with a daring rescue, and solid characters that felt authentic. There are car chases and violence, a shocking death of a loved character and the bad guys get their asses whipped. The action is quick as a whip-crack, with sassy dialogue that doesn't let up.
And for that, I can forgive the head-hopping, which occurs throughout the book. It actually works in this scenario, where everything is happening super-fast. I usually HATE head-hopping, and I know for some it will be a deal breaker, so it's worth mentioning, but in this story, it doesn't detract. I liked Cordon's gruff, capable character and have no doubt he would always rescue a starving kitten. In fact, I bet his house is full of rescued cats - seriously.
I'll be reading this again, I have no doubt. Because there is so much to unpack within the story, I've no doubt I've missed some. Despite the raw content, there is subtlety, heartbreak and a kind of beauty, but I can't help remembering these stories, or something like them, play out every day in every street, in every big city. Think about that next time you're in Palm Springs.
Hired by a Chicago billionaire to pluck his runaway son from the Palm Springs compound of a wealthy pedophile, former military extraction and information specialist, Cordon Finn, believes it will be a simple snatch and go job with a big payday. But after grabbing the kid at a Pride Week party, Cordon discovers that nothing is as it seems.
His quarry isn’t underage, and isn’t the billionaire’s son, but rather his trans-daughter who goes by the name of Lucious. And her father wants Lucious dead, putting Cordon, who is dealing with his own sexual identity, in the crosshairs as well.
After fighting off a cadre of assassins, Cordon vows to keep Lucious alive. But when the billionaire kidnaps Cordon’s girlfriend and comes after his family and friends, Cordon takes the fight back to the billionaire’s door.
With the surprising help of Lucious, as well as his sister, Annie, Cordon battles the billionaire’s small army, until he’s face-to-face with the billionaire. And in this battle, there will be only one man left standing, the one who is capable of maximum destruction.
Arriving at his car, Cordon puts down the top and tosses his bag in before opening the door to climb in, when he hears, “We’re even,” from behind him.
Turning, he finds the young guy, smiling cheekily, standing behind him.
“Even?” Cordon asks, unsure.
“You enjoyed the show I put on for you inside, I enjoyed the show you put on for me as you sashayed across the parking lot,” the kid says.
“I don’t sashay. And I didn’t take off my shirt for you.”
The kid giggles, rolling his eyes dramatically as he says, “Liar. That’s the only reason you took off your shirt. Hoping I’d notice and come running up to you.”
“And here you are.”
The kid’s face squishes up like he’s eaten rotten lemons.
“I’m a sucker for a muscle daddy. And you certainly got size. Hopefully, in the places I can’t see.”
“How old are you?” Cordon asks, ignoring the kid’s comment.
“Now who’s the liar?”
The kid smirks mischievously, hand on hip. “Nineteen. Five-ten. Twenty-eight-inch waist. My name is Gio. Want to know my cock size?”
Cordon doesn’t answer, which causes Gio to grin mischievously.
“Come on, I saw you looking at it. Though I imagine being a giant, yours is bigger. But for my frame, mine is super-sized,” he laughs.
“This bullshit work?”
“On other guys. Talking about your dick like it’s a 78-inch flat screen.”
“Just the ones who I think are interested,” Gio laughs, then suddenly gets more direct as he adds, “or have the money to pay.”
Cordon nods, understanding more clearly Gio’s game. “Which one do you think I am?” Cordon asks.
“You’re driving a really nice car, so you got the money. But I don’t think you have to pay men to have sex with you, unless you do it for the control, or you’re married, which I wouldn’t doubt, and you hope money will keep your trick’s mouth shut. Either way, I know you’re interested. I always know.”
“You party up at Lansing’s?” Cordon asks, tiring of the conversation.
Again, Gio’s smile fades, his head turning slightly as if looking at the Cordon from a different angle might jog his memory. “Did we meet up there?” Gio asks more of himself than Cordon. “No. I’d remember. Lansing would never invite a guy like you. All his little boys would flit around you like butterflies to bougainvillea, and he doesn’t allow anyone to steal his thunder. You a cop?”
“You know if I ask, you have to tell me,” Gio inserts.
“That’s bullshit. But I’m not.”
Gio takes Cordon in silently for a moment. And even though he knows he shouldn’t say too much to the statuesque man he doesn’t know, Gio is not adept at shutting up, even when it’s in his best interest.
“Sure, I party up at Lansing’s. Never lived there, though. Those guys think Lansing’s the answer to their prayers. Please. He has a revolving bedroom door with guys going in all young, dewy-eyed, and hopeful, and coming out all used up and sad. The man’s an emotional vampire. Sucks the life out of everybody. They all think that he’s going to help make them a star, or they’ll meet some other old queen through Lansing that will. And they all end up going back home, broke, hungry, and completely jaded, or they end up selling it to pay the rent. Hell, even when you’re up there, all that’s there are other fairies just like them or some dried-up, old, coke addict trying to get his Viagra dick up your ass. Don’t know anybody Lansing’s actually helped. Ever.”
“You don’t hold back, do you?”
“Just so I know who just insulted me, what’s your name?”
“Cordon from where?”
“You’re a long way from home, aren’t you, Dorothy? Are you here for Pride Week? I mean, I don’t get that vibe from you, that you’re down here to party with the boys. But you could be one of those sad, married men who told your wife back in Chicago that you’re going on a golfing trip or a hunting trip or something equally lame. And you’re here because you really like dick but you’re Catholic or worse, Evangelical, like my parents, and your guilt is off the charts because you married some pretty blonde, church-going girl, you have two kids, but all you think about when you’re fucking her is guys like me.”
“You hungry?” Cordon asks, ignoring Gio’s smart-ass comment.
“If you’re paying and I get to pick the restaurant,” Gio quickly tacks on.
Cordon lets a half-smile slip on his lip at Gio’s young, alpha nonsense.
“Get in,” Cordon says.
About the Author
Mr. Baker has written seven novels, including WHAT REMAINS, THE VIRGIN DAIQUIRI, and THE WEDDING GIFT. The film rights to his beloved novel, HONEYMOON WITH HARRY, were purchased by New Line Cinema. The book also spawned two sequels, A SECOND HONEYMOON WITH HARRY and THE LAST HONEYMOON WITH HARRY. Bart has also written for the theater, having eight plays produced around the world. The film rights to his play, RELAY, were purchased by Warner Bros., which led him into screenwriting. Bart has had 18 produced film and TV credits, including the feature film, LIVE WIRE, starring Pierce Brosnan, the BRIDE trilogy of films for CBS, as well as projects for CBS, ABC, FX, The Family Channel, Lifetime, The USA Network, and Hallmark among others.