Title: Blood & Tears (Flesh #3)
Author: Ethan Stone
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Publisher: DSP Publications
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Mystery, GFY
Length: Novel (310 paperback pages, word count unlisted)
Rating: 4.25 out of 5
A guest review by Buda
Summary Review: A fun and entertaining sequel to (In the Flesh and) Flesh & Blood (reviews linked), but this time the focus is on Gabe Vargas and FBI Agent Drew Bradley. A different but worthy continuation to the Flesh series.
The last thing Gabe Vargas wants to do after losing his girlfriend and nearly dying is leave his young son. But that’s exactly what FBI Agent Drew Bradley is asking him to do. According to Drew, the only way to protect Gabe and find the killer is to fake Gabe’s death.
With an already established adversarial relationship, protecting a firebrand like Gabe isn’t exactly a picnic for Drew either. But when Drew lets his guard down, his feelings of desire for Gabe leave him confused. Before the crime can be solved, Drew will have to risk more than his job. He’ll have to risk his heart.
When Gabe Vargas awakes in the hospital, he is told his girlfriend Violet has been murdered in the same attack that nearly killed him. In order to find the killer, FBI Agent Drew Bradley, for whom Gabe has nothing but intense dislike because of Drew’s role in the death of Gabe’s lover Casey, needs Gabe to die. Drew, who pleaded to be assigned to any other case than Gabe’s, knows how Gabe feels about him. Drew still feels guilt over Casey’s murder while under Drew’s protection and he is determined to find Violet’s killer so Gabe’s young son won’t grow up without both of his parents.
So begins the adventure of Gabe and Drew who, through a series of circumstances both within and out of their control, grow to create first a sexual relationship and then fall in love. Once he begins his psychological recovery from the attack, bisexual Gabe is in serious need of an emotional release after dealing with the murders of both Casey and Violet in short order–and being sequestered in a safe house with the sexy FBI Agent is just too much good fantasy material to ignore. When straight Drew stumbles upon Gabe masturbating, he is too fascinated to look away and truly begins to question his sexuality for the first time. His struggle to accept this new aspect of his sexual nature isn’t treated too lightly (it has repercussions throughout the rest of the book), nor is it used solely to generate an angst-fest. At first, I thought Drew was awful quick to jump in the sack with Gabe, but more careful reading, and the realization that they were basically alone together 24/7 for the stay at the safe house, made me more comfortable with it. I’m sure Hollywood co-stars have fallen in bed with each other far faster than our two heroes here.
Blood & Tears differs from the rest of the Flesh series in one very obvious way (aside from having Gabe as the protagonist instead of our friend Cristian Flesh). It is presented in third person with shifting POVs. While I had some trouble with that initially, I found myself settling into it pretty easily. Those of you for whom head-hopping is a major problem, be forewarned that occasionally both men’s perspectives are seen within a single paragraph. As I said, once I got used to that, it didn’t trouble me too much.
Like the first two books, Blood & Tears focuses more on the relationship between Gabe and Drew than it does the mystery. Not that the mystery isn’t an important plot motivator, it is. Also like the first two books, these boys have frequent and quite hot sex. Agent Bradley, like Cristian Flesh, has some major demons in his past, including a family you just have to read to believe. (And do believe it. I’ve seen these people way too up close and personal and Ethan Stone paints a pretty accurate portrait of them.)
The book is easily broken down into three parts: safe house, post-safe house, post-post-safe house. I could detail them more, but that would be giving away too much, I think. The third section, where the action kicks up, was my favorite part, though all of them are important in getting the guys where they need to be at the well-deserved end. There are several cute or hilarious scenes, including the sexual terminology-influenced Scrabble game that turns into a real education for Drew. Alert readers will notice mention of a quaint little Colorado town from another series. It is fun to see Cristian, Colby and Lex again, too.
I had two niggles about this book. The first revolved around Victor, Gabe’s son. I am no expert on children having never been one myself, 😉 but I felt confused at times about the boy’s age. Sometimes I pictured him around six or seven because of his understanding of the situations, but other times, he seemed much younger (especially when saying things like “pwease” instead of “please”). Again, this may make perfect sense to the parents among you, but I stumbled here. The second niggle was in the wrapping-up of the mystery of the safe house period (there are others to solve, never fear). The scene struck me as almost rushed.
Overall, I enjoyed Blood & Tears quite a lot. The third-person presentation helped differentiate this installment from the Cristian Flesh-based books in the series. I grew to like Gabe and Drew as a couple and was pulling for a happy ending for them (especially after Gabe’s “ending” in the previous book!). If you’re a fan of Ethan Stone or the Flesh series, this is definitely a recommendation. If you’ve not read either of the previous books, please do so first so you know the back story.