Title: A.J.’s Angel
Author: L.A. Witt
Cover Artist: Valerie Tibbs
Buy Link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novella (word count unlisted)
Rating: 4.25 of 5 stars
A guest review by Buda
Summary Review: A hot and steamy second-chance romance with a winning protagonist.
Tattoos fade with time. Emotions never lose their edge.
Luke Emerson is the last person Sebastian Wakefield expects to see strolling into his tattoo shop. But Luke’s not back after four years to take up where they left off. Not even to apologize for the cheating that broke them up.
Luke wants a custom tattoo, a memorial for someone known only as “A.J.”. Much as Seb would love to tell Luke to take this ink and shove it, he’s a professional. Plus, he’s reluctant to admit, he wouldn’t mind getting his hands on Luke again. Even if it’s just business.
Once Luke’s in the tattoo chair, though, Seb finds himself struggling with all the anger and resentment he thought he’d left behind—and those aren’t the only feelings reignited. Their relationship may have been turbulent, but it was also passionate. Four years clearly hasn’t been long enough for the embers of that fire to go cold.
A few subtle hints from Luke is all it takes to make Seb consider indulging in some of that physical passion. It shouldn’t be that tough to keep his emotions from getting tangled up in sweaty sheets.
After all, it’s not like he’s in love with Luke anymore. Right?
Sebastian Wakefield is wholly unprepared when Luke Emerson walks unannounced into Seb’s tattoo shop. It’s been four years since serial-cheater Luke left him for some trick across town. Seb’s got his life together again and has mostly managed to keep thoughts of Luke confined to the anger side of the emotional spectrum. Now Luke wants Seb to ink him. Which means spending time with him. And touching him, even through a latex barrier.
Except Luke looks damn good. And they’ve always had a physical chemistry like none other. And Seb needs answers like he needs breath. But he also knows Luke is a world-class liar; he’s experienced it first hand. If he gives in, if he plays whatever game Luke is playing, will Seb get the answers he’s wanted for so long? Will he finally be able to unleash the anger he’s been holding for Luke? Or will he just wind up hurt again?
Sebastian is a fantastic character, full of life, love and regrets. He’s currently on his seventh attempt at quitting smoking, which was going just fine until Luke waltzed into his shop. After that, Seb’s every thought seems to be either about Luke or nicotine, one addiction or another. Having dealt with both a serial-cheat ex and a nicotine addiction, I spent half the book thinking (or saying), “Seb, no!” Hoping against hope the man would be wise enough to give up both his addictions.
L.A. Witt does a fantastic job showing the hurt Luke caused Seb in the past. The “people change” theme is the only possible redeeming grace for Luke, and it is even trumpeted by Seb’s dad. I’m not sure I buy it in Luke’s case, but then I’m one of those guys who’ll knock your teeth out before you can bite the second time, forget the “twice shy” crap. Still, it is obvious Seb, who is of the “twice shy” variety (or maybe it’s “forty-eighth shy” from the sounds of Luke’s past), still loves Luke, but is smart enough to not trust him easily.
The sex scenes are scorching and lengthy, even though the majority of their first encounter takes place off-page. Once the two have decided to give their relationship another try, their first-time-back mirrors their clumsy first-time. I couldn’t decide if I found that cute or annoying. I mean, they’d just had mind-blowing sex a week before, why were they all thumbs now?
I absolutely hate it when people complain that a book is too short. In this case, I don’t know that it was too short, but I think some of the words spent on the mind-blowing sex might have been better served convincing me Luke really was reformed. Even the one-year-later epilogue did little to set my mind at ease. I liked Seb way too much to think he might be setting himself up for failure again. That said, I know there are readers among you who will think I’ve lost my mind, that this is a beautifully romantic tale of second chances done right. I agree with all that; I just require more convincing this week.
If there was one thing besides Luke’s philandering past that kept me from feeling this HFN ending could translate into a true HEA, it is that Luke is constantly equated to Seb’s nicotine addiction. He successfully kicks the cigarettes, but then picks up with Luke again. Is he, truly, trading one addiction for another–albeit one with much more fun side effects? This Luke-as-addiction analogy may have been overplayed.
Despite all my reservations, Sebastian follows his heart, which has only ever belonged to Luke. So, when the book is released on May 31, I invite you to read it and come tell me what you think. Recommended.