Survival Instinct by Roxy Harte

Title: Survival Instinct
Author: Roxy Harte
Buy link: (Second Edition)
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Length: Novella / 100 pages
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

A guest review by Kassa


Days after discovering his husband was sleeping with his twin brother, museum curator Brian Van Zant’s faced with another shocking loss. Both men are killed in a car accident, leaving him no answers, no closure. No chance to say, “I hate you,” or “I love you,” and not sure which he’d have said if given the chance. Now, Brian’s running away from home. Just running, without a plan or a destination.

Tobias Red Hawk is a Park Ranger in Montana, where being out of the closet still seems like a dream. After saving the life of blatantly gay and thoroughly attractive Brian, he begins to question his conviction of staying secretly gay. But before he can face his own identity crisis, there is a mystery to be solved at the top of the Bitterroot mountain range and the answers may lie in the myths of his childhood. And when Hawk’s past returns to kill him, both men discover there’s nothing like facing death up close to make a man find his survival instinct.


Survival Instinct plays off basic concepts, throws in a lot of convenient coincidences, and ends up with a kind of boring, somewhat odd book. It’s not that the story is badly written or contains plot holes per se; it’s just that it uses the easy way out of problems by having everything happen conveniently exactly when the story needs it to happen. I’ll go into more detail in the review but the bottom line is that it’s not a horrible book and may appeal to those fans that like classic romance elements but for those looking for some fresh and unique, you’ll be as bored as I was.

Brian Van Zant has been living with his parents in the three months since his twin brother and husband were killed in a car accident – after he discovered them having an affair. Somewhat unmotivated to pick up his life, Brian is finally pushed to do so when his parents ask him to move out. Supposedly meant to jump start Brian into living again, he goes tearing off on a cross country drive only to end up stranded in a sudden snow storm in Montana. Rescued by sexy ranger Toby Hawk, the two feel immediate sparks and act on them. Now if only those pesky mountain lights didn’t signal trouble, the two could live happily ever after.

The plot moves along lightening fast. In fact, the short novella doesn’t spend any significant time on any element. It creates the tension, finds a fast solution, and moves on to the next issue. There are several independent issues brought up and addressed in the story such as Toby’s rescue of Brian, the two men getting together, Brian being very out while Toby is in the closet, the mystery of the action on the mountain, several near death moments, major discoveries, Brian’s new life and career, meeting Brian’s parents, random kinky sex, and a happy ending. I think there are few more I didn’t mention but the story just throws issue after issue at the characters with quick resolutions.

While this keeps the story moving swiftly it also negates the impact and importance of these various elements. From one moment to the next, you don’t get too invested since the issue is easily resolved. Brian almost dies but he’s pretty quickly over that and moving onto sex with Toby. There’s a mystery on the mountain but call the police and that’s over. This leads into the trope of convenience. Here whatever the story needs to be quick and easy, it gets. Sort of those “oh look” moments. Brian needs a place to stay, oh look only one place available. Toby wants to meet Brian’s parents, they just happen to show up. There is a major discovery and Brian happens to be an expert. Brian just happens to be able to save the day out of the blue, several times. These aren’t book throwing moments, they instead left me tired and disinterested with the frequency.

Additionally, there is the fact that Brian’s twin brother and husband have been dead for only three months and their betrayal, yet Brian comes across apathetic at best. He doesn’t appear depressed or grief stricken, but instead merely unmotivated to really do anything. He mentions feeling grief or having cried a lot or moving on, but all of these statements felt hollow without any real emotional impetus. They felt like lines Brian should say without the feeling behind them to make the emotions real. The story attempts to fully flesh out these characters but they never really came alive for me and always felt manipulated by the story.

Part of this is that the story had several really weird moments for me. Brian’s passionate relationship with Toby felt awkward from the beginning. Brian has a Native American fetish, which I found odd because there’s no real mention of it except he likes the movie “Last of the Mohicans,” and their sex scenes became increasingly weird. They get kinky with some domination and pain thrown in about halfway through the book but from out of nowhere. Where did this kink come in and why it is only included towards the end? Additionally some of the prose and terms felt forced such as when Toby says he’s never “fluid bonded” with anyone before. Or how for the first half of the book Toby calls Brian “Just Brian” even during sex, “Oh God… Just Brian.. Oh God.” The “Just” part is added or dropped kind of indiscriminately until it’s dropped entirely in the later half of the book. These are just a few of the examples of some moments that jerked me out of the reading experience.

Overall I wouldn’t recommend this title except for those fans that love the classically scripted romance. If you’re not the type to be bothered by obvious easy outs then this likely will be much more enjoyable and interesting. It’s a harmless, easy read that is likely fun fluff for the right reader. Unfortunately that wasn’t me.


  • Well, since I have two more Male/Male novels in process (and I’m fighting to keep the emotional grit in because thats what I’ve defined myself as an author of through the Chronicles of Surrender BDSM series) maybe you won’t be as disappointed next round…

    And honestly any review is a good review in my mind. Thanks again:)


  • Hi Kassa,

    Sorry you were disappointed 🙁

    Dan Savage…no, not where fluid bonded came from but then I live in a world where such topics are discussed in general conversation.

    Mmmm…Last of the Mohicans…still my favorite movie.

    Anyway, thanks for the read…

    Roxy Harte

    • Hi there, I’m sorry I didn’t like it. I always feel bad when authors read negative reviews. I tried to present both arguments as I could see this being the right book for some readers – like I said.

      I probably would have liked your first edit more with some more emotional basis. I would disagree with publishers who say readers only want fast, forgettable read. I mean those have their place sure, but more meaty, connected books tend to be more what I personally like. No doubt they have numbers to back up whatever they say so I can only offer one readers’ perspective.

      I’m also a fan of the movie. Tragic romance, epic battles, soaring music, gorgeous scenery, beautiful actors…really whats not to like.

  • Kassa

    >>Sort of those “oh look” moments. Brian needs a place to stay, oh look only one place available. Toby wants to meet Brian’s parents, they just happen to show up. < < Maybe this author has been reading books about writing well - NOT. I'm too late for any insightful comments - Val, Leslie and everyone else beat me to them.

  • Great review, Kassa!

    Whoa, this is really perceptive: “Brian just happens to be able to save the day out of the blue, several times. These aren’t book throwing moments, they instead left me tired and disinterested with the frequency.”

    I might have sort of felt that: how tiring it can get when there is too much going on and everything has the same emphasis, but I couldn’t have articulated it this well!

    It sounds like maybe the author was too focused on keeping everything within a certain length? Rather than winnowing down the subplots, picking the best couple, and developing them to be the length they needed to be to have the emotional weight they needed to have.

    For example, it sounds like the boyfriend-twin brother thing wasn’t needed at all — Brian could have just been on a ski trip, and been stranded in Montana and then involved as a witness or whatever in a local mystery.

    And this: “They get kinky with some domination and pain thrown in about halfway through the book but from out of nowhere.”

    That can be a problem, too. Like you say, it doesn’t make sense. It’s as if an author has thought, “Hmmm, BDSM is in, so I’ll include a scene,” but it’s not as simple as a character liking sex toys and pulling them out during the first or second sex scene. There is more background needed to explain the lifestyle or attraction (e.g., what are the odds that both of them would turn out to be into pain and domination?).

    • Hi Val, thanks for the comment. You really took it apart!

      I think what happened (just a guess) is the author wanted something that read really fast. Offer some built in drama with the husband/twin and then give a couple of quickie plot lines.

      On the one hand, the author did include calling in the FBI and police, which seemed smart. But again the focus seemed on moving to the next issue fast. Don’t spend too long on anything, don’t get bogged down in complicated, elaborate plans.

      Yet some things just were odd. I’m not sure why there was even the inclusion of the twin/husband since his parents kicking him out is what sent Brian running off. So you’re right, this easily could have been the exact same story without that detail.

      As for the BDSM, it’s more casual and I think the author was trying to throw in some really hot sex scenes. Add a dash of control, a bit of pain, crank up the heat and there you go. I’m all for that (and those were probably the best part of the book to be honest) but I just didn’t know where it came from and why it had to be a “thing.” Why not just have rough, sweaty sex without having to talk about how you’re kinky? Just like why would you have a Native American fetish from a movie?

      You gave some good insights so perhaps the length really did this in. I’m just not sure and can only guess.

      • Why not just have rough, sweaty sex without having to talk about how you’re kinky? Just like why would you have a Native American fetish from a movie?

        Good point!

  • Too late.
    Already bought and (tried to) read it.I stopped in the middle of the book.Sometimes I wish I could send a book back to the publisher. “No, thanks-I want my money back”
    Luck for me – One of the last week releases is a personal “Double-DIK”.

    Thank you for the review,Kassa.

    • OO I hear you. I wish we could return books “no thanks, it was bad!”

      Such is the curse of ebooks and their availability. What makes me laugh is that I’d really delete that book from my HD if I could return. I don’t want it, really.

      Sorry you got sucked in.

  • As a fan of Last of the Mohicans, I too feel slightly uncomfortable with that being used as evidence for a Native American fetish.

    I personally watched the film for Madeleine Stowe.

    Thanks for this review, Kassa. I probably would have gotten this otherwise.

    • I was a little thrown off that one too. I like the movie (though I close my eyes at all the bloody parts) but fetish? What’s that based on? A little weird association but that’s one odd thing in a sea of .. just odd things.

  • Another short story that didn’t work. Sounds like a theme this week.

    I’ll pass on this one.

    Thanks for the descriptive review.

    • I know Val and I got the rough this week but Alexi’s one sounds really great and if Leslie has a 5 star (!) that’s something to look forward to.

      • No, you two aren’t the only ones with difficult books to review. My review is scheduled for tomorrow and it’s a 2.5 as well. And it’s a short story.

        I think Wave has it out of us, conspiracy against the review staff. grin Oh, hey Wave, how ya doing? lol

          • Kassa and John

            >>Reviewer strike! Giving us the bad books…< < I'm so sorry - I'll try to do better next time. 🙂 In my defense both you and John chose those books from all the ones available. 🙂 I guess they said "take me, take me, please." John I have a fantastic book for you. 🙂 Kassa, I'm not so sure but I'll try to come up with something great. (I hope Jenre is not following this thread).

          • Haha Wave you’re totally right. I choose any book I review so I can’t complain. 🙂

            No strike and no worries…

  • Last of the Mohicans as evidence of a Native American sex fetish? That’s pretty funny.

    Dan Savage says “fluid bonded” in his podcasts quite a bit. Maybe that’s where the author picked it up.

    Thanks for the review. I think I’ll give this one a pass.


    • I like Last of the Mohicans, I wouldn’t say I have a fetish lol.

      Oh I didn’t realize that. For me, it was out of nowhere since I’d never heard of it and felt awkward. I wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be a Native American thing? I’ll check out Dan Savage’s podcast so thanks for the heads up.

        • Excellent Leslie. Some one should snap that up.

          I don’t think this is for me. Sounds a bit too frantic and too many coincidences end up with eyerolling not enjoyable reading.

        • Leslie
          >>Fluid bonded – its when the condoms come off< < LOL You'll love my post on Friday about condoms (or lack thereof). 🙂

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