Dark & Dazzling (Gigi’s Review)

Dark and Dazzling (Sassy Boyz #2)
Title: Dark & Dazzling (Sassy Boyz #2)
Author: Elizabeth Varlet
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: November 7, 2016
Genre(s): Contemporary
Page Count: 262
Reviewed by: Gigi
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Z doesn’t need a hero…

Azariah “Z” Hayes is a diamond. Equal parts strength and sparkle, he’s more than capable of standing on his own stilettos. So if waiting tables and stripping at The Vibe are what it takes to keep a roof over his head, well, there are worse ways to earn a living.

Connelly is a white knight with a badge…

For NYPD detective Connelly Reid, to serve and protect is just another day at the office—even if that means protecting himself from his own true desires. He’s been curious about Z, his waiter, for months, but it’s not until he sees him in his makeup and heels that the curiosity becomes a fierce attraction. Z, despite all his over-the-top dazzle, might just be the man Connelly has been waiting for his entire life.

But when Connelly investigates underground porn and drug activity with ties to The Vibe, one thing becomes very clear—acting on what he knows is going to hurt Z, financially and emotionally. And though Connelly would love nothing more than to fix all of Z’s problems, no amount of mind-blowing sex can make Z comfortable becoming dependent on his lover. Yet if there’s one thing Connelly knows from his years on the force, it’s this: when things go bad, you need a trusted partner to have your back.

Dark & Dazzling is very, very dark and not all that dazzling.

We were introduced to Azariah “Z” Hayes in Fierce & Fabulous (Sassy Boyz, #1). We already know he is from the streets and he and his three dancing partners at The Vibe (The Sassy Boyz) are family. Not by blood, but by choice. Z is the dark one. The one who chooses pride over everything else. He’s a tough nut to crack.

Dark & Dazzling is Z and Detective Connelly’s book. Z is as dark as ever and we meet Connelly, a police detective who is so good his nickname is Boy Scout. He is always helping those less fortunate, always on-call for his sister who is raising two boys on her own, ready to lend a helping hand. He is truly a knight in shining armor. I loved him.

But Z? I never did warm to him. Not even a little bit. He was harsh and hurtful and consumed with self-honor above all else. While Connelly is portrayed as absolutely smitten by Z, I never did understand where the attraction came from. I was lost in trying to find Z’s redeeming qualities.

Fierce & Fabulous was such an absolute delight. One of the many aspects I loved about it was the interaction between the 4 Sassy Boyz. In Dark & Dazzling we see them sporadically and in very small doses. I missed the love, comradery and snarkiness they shared. I hoped for more Sassy Boyz in this book, but we really didn’t get it. I also loved the romance of Fitch and Ansel and their ridiculously hot sex. I found no romance with Connelly and Z and the sex paled in comparison to Fierce & Fabulous.

Now, this is a dark book, and I knew that going in. I can and do enjoy dark books, but there must be a spectacular payoff after dealing with the depression. Some examples of dark and depressing books I love are Lynn Kelling’s Arctic Absolution, Varian Krylov’s Dangerously Happy and Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux’s Warrior’s Cross. I also knew Z was a tough character. I can do tough characters with little to no redeeming qualities, but their must be redemption. Yes, Z figures things out and falls in love with Connelly in the end, but it wasn’t redemption for me. It didn’t feel real and there was no groveling, which I believed was necessary after what he put Connelly through.

There is also a matter of just how dark this book gets. There is no trigger warning in the description, so I will put this under a spoiler tag:

This book contains two instances of rape. And whether or not one of these instances is consensual (huh? how can rape be consensual?) is going to be something I’ll be very interested in discussing with my fellow readers/reviewers after the book comes out. But I won’t go into it now. You need to read it for yourself and make up your own mind before any discussion can happen.

I don’t think it is any secret that I wanted to love this book. I adored Fierce & Fabulous and was pulling-at-the-leash to read Dark & Dazzling. But this one wasn’t for me. I just plain didn’t like Z and because of that the sex and love and romance went out the window.

I look forward to the next book in the series and hope it mirrors Fierce & Fabulous more than Dark & Dazzling.

Cannot recommend.

Sassy Boyz Series

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Galley copy of Dark & Dazzling provided via NetGalley by Carina Press in exchange of an honest review.

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