Title: Hearts Under Fire (New Amsterdam #1)
Author: H.J. Raine and Kelly Wyre
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M, BDSM
Length: 283 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Lasha
Summary Review: The first two-thirds of this book is an excellent investigation of two men and how they define their relationship and sexual preferences (dom/sub), but quickly falls apart in the last third of the book as the plot veers off course.
Ten years ago, Maxwell you-can-just-call-me Clark thought he would spend his life as a military man. But his world turned into a nightmare when a suicide bomber destroyed Clark’s career. It’s been a long road to recovery, littered with surgery, alcohol, and secrets, but Clark finally has peace. His bar, Glow, is the place to be in the city of New Amsterdam, the son of the mayor employs Clark as a confidential information man, and Clark’s side venture as part-owner of a BDSM club is quite the profitable release. Clark’s life is a good one, so long as no one gets too close.
Then a man walks into Glow who will forever change Clark’s rules and reality. Thinking Professor Daniel Germain is just another handsome face ripe for Clark’s kind of good time, Clark puts on his smoothest moves. When the professor turns him down, Clark goes on the hunt, and what he discovers shows him that even the deepest wounds can be healed by submitting to love.
New Amsterdam Series
Hearts Under Fire starts out on a winning climb, only to falter and fall in the last couple of chapters, which is a shame. The premise that Clark, a former military guy injured in Afghanistan, and Dom, would actually turn out to be a submissive was an interesting twist to the BDSM theme. When he meets Professor Daniel Germain its lust at first sight, but Daniel turns him down. It seems Clark’s reputation as a Dom has preceded him and since Daniel is a Dom also, he figures they wouldn’t mesh. However, Clark doesn’t give up, and in the guise of friendship offer Daniel a job at his BDSM club. Daniel happily accepts and this is where the two men redefine their relationship and the D/s roles they play.
First the good feedback. Clark and Daniel are fully developed characters who have baggage, histories and act like real guys. Clark’s last serious relationship with a guy in his unit ended badly – man was killed during the war – and Clark is not over it yet. He also lets Daniel in on his secret: he wants to be a submissive as he was with his last boyfriend despite outward appearances at his BDSM club. This revelation is at the core of Hearts Under Fire. I enjoyed Daniel and Clark’s journey in life and in the bedroom.
And while I liked Clark’s characterization, I was a little bit if-y on Daniel. He’s a college professor making good money yet is selling his Dom abilities to customers who he also engages in sex with. I found this tidbit to be unbelievable. The reason he’s basically prostituting himself? He needs to pay for distant relatives’ college tuition. I rolled my eyes hard at that. Have people not heard of student loans and work study programs? I am assuming Daniel being a professional Dom who also has sex with his clients was supposed to make the reader feel sympathy for him. Sort of like: Wow, he’s selling himself to put Cousin X through university. What a guy! But for me this breaking the rules didn’t sit well. (Daniel even acknowledges he shouldn’t be having sex with his clients, but he does it because the sex versus no sex scenes pay more.) I just couldn’t buy into the rent boy aspect of the novel and the reasoning behind it made no sense.
In my opinion, if the book had just focused on Daniel and Clark’s relationship and their relationship alone, I think the novel would have been much more powerful. But in the last third of it we go from relationship issues to a silly action adventure plot. I was completely and utter lost and the conclusion reminded me of a Die Hard film, so I nearly bailed at that point. It seemed the last third of the book was entirely different from the first part of the book. And from the responses on GoodReads, I am not alone. This jarring plot change dropped it at least 1 star for me.
But overall, there are some good points to Hearts Under Fire: the relationship between the two MC is intense and the sex scenes leap off the page. But the confusing characterization of Daniel and a climax that is so vastly different in tone from the rest of the novel, drops it down to only 3.5 stars. I would highly recommended it for people who like some BDSM in their books, otherwise recommended with a few reservations as noted above.
(Minor spoiler: There is a m/m/m scene in the beginning of the book that Daniel is involved in. At this point, Daniel and Clark were not a couple, so it did not bother me. In fact, that scene was the catalyst for Clark and Daniel getting together; however, I wanted to add this to the review, in case some readers needed to know.)