Title: Scars and Secrets (Loose Ends #1)
Author: Avril Ashton
Publisher: Sinner’s Haven Publishing
Release Date: April 29th 2016
Genre(s): Hot as Hell/Kink/Raw/Healing
Reviewed by: PIU
Heat Level: 5 flames out of 5
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
After an undercover assignment that changed his life forever, FBI agent Donovan Cintron is barely hanging on to sanity. His new mission is to forget, by any means necessary, so he tries his hardest. Pills. Booze. The warm bodies that never quite measure up to what he’d had. What he’d lost. It’s almost a relief when he learns his identity might be compromised—except he’s not the only one exposed. So is the husband he hasn’t stopped needing all these years later. He’d been aching to die, but for Levi Nieto, Donovan will live. To protect. To regret. To remember.
The realization that everything he loved was a farce sent Levi Nieto spinning out of control, and running away from the memories. Now Donovan is back in his life, still fully entrenched in darkness. Their physical connection is one thing, but the truth of who they are to each other remains trapped among the anger, violence and lies suffocating them. Fixing what’s broken will take more than each man exposing his scars. Secrets—and blood—must be spilled.
I have one word for this book: RAW. There is no other way that can best describe it. This book was like emotions on crack. There was raw emotion, raw passion and plain old raw and all-consuming love.
An advice for everyone: please don’t read it as a standalone. This author has created an entire gay universe in her previous works/series and all these characters are thrown in together here. So if you don’t know their stories it gets very confusing and frustrating. I made that mistake and kept on getting lost. There are all sorts of badass tattoed hunks who are all either married or committed to their significant others (all gay couples). Thus, it could be a heaven for gay fiction readers if you know these characters and their stories beforehand. You need to read the “Brooklyn Series” and “Run the town” series stat before starting this.
Donovan Cintron is an undercover FBI agent whose specialty is to gather intel about a person of interest by getting involved with them (in the biblical sense!!!). He has done his fair share of fake relationships to get his job done. One such job leads him to Levi Nieto. Levi is his new target and as per his usual SOP, Van starts a pretend relationship with Levi. But he falls hard and deep for Levi and goes as far as to marry the guy and build a loving family. After three years of their marriage when the secret finally comes out, the fall out leaves lifelong scars on Levi and sends him in hiding from Van. For seven years they have been apart and now when Levi’s life is threatened Van will stop at nothing to keep his husband safe and work (read “BEG”) to get his man back.
This book was crazy intense. We have an agent who does his job as required but it is eating him alive from inside. Van is like a glorified slut with a badge. Just after he loses Levi, Van is forced into a job that breaks him down completely. He has been a booze guzzling and pill popping machine, who have random sex just to forget his one true love.
Levi on the other hand was threatened to leave Van alone and pimped out by Van’s handler to get close to another criminal, who is also one of the gay leads of the author’s previous series. Levi is a civilian who has never done an illegal thing in his entire life and sending him undercover to get close to a hardened criminal by a professional organization like FBI is just implausible. (The FBI agents are not grilled in their training for fun if any random guy can do their job without a hitch, just saying.)
I felt that the TRUE LOVE part of Van and Levi’s relationship highly unconvincing. They had explosive chemistry, YES! but both kept on engaging in physical relationships over the years just to recreate the magic between them WTF?? and they also used to have threesomes with strangers or with Gia (Levi’s son’s biological mother) even while they were married. Their unconventional relationship could work for many but it did not instill the feeling of a “one of a kind” LOVE for me.
The plot had two super villains, one of whom happens to be Van’s father (read “PUPPET MASTER”) and the other is a criminal lady, who is Van’s father’s mistress and also the person to have buried him alive and driven his sister to kill herself. So, if you are looking for hard core EVIL then these two villains will fit the bill perfectly. I have mixed feelings about Dutch aka Hunter (Van’s handler). After the entire read I am still not sure if he is a good guy or a bad guy. Time will tell, if the author picks his story up later on the series.
The plot of the story is not as straight forward as described in the blurb. It’s basically about Van and Levi’s relationship but the various characters and the mention/little flashbacks of their stories made this story very cluttered. Except for one or two pages of Levi and Van actually talking about their relationship, all their other encounters are SEX. Also there was the sub plot of Van pairing up with his newly discovered brother (another gay lead from a previous book) against their evil father. I felt that Israel and Van’s plot was given more focus than the actual MCs of the book.
I won’t say that I didn’t enjoy the story but I did not connect that well with the characters, which I suppose is an absolute requirement for liking a story. A little less side characters and more focus on Van and Levi working to mend their relationship would have been great. As I said at the start, this book has some crazy intense and raw love making so smut readers are going to lap it up like crazy!!!
All in all, this book is like getting transported to a world where every other criminal id gay with a couple of nasty super villains and a whole lot of dirty and raw SEX. I guess that is incentive enough to start reading this author’s previous works. wink
NOT TO BE READ AS A STANDALONE