Review: Elizabeth Varlet – Brave & Beautiful (Sassy Boyz #3)

Author: Elizabeth Varlet
Reviewer: Barb
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Contemporary

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Summary:

Sexy, seductive and hiding dark secrets, the Sassy Boyz return to the stage in Brave & Beautiful

There’s only one relationship that matters to Tameron “Tam” Kis—his love affair with dance. Life’s been pretty shitty, but dance got him through it and now he’s ready to focus on what he loves. He doesn’t have the bandwidth for any distractions—especially not his sexy, not-quite-straight new neighbor.

Driver Ellis doesn’t need anything but his bike and the open road. He wouldn’t trade his drifter lifestyle for anything…until his friend calls in a favor and Driver suddenly finds himself pet-sitting. Driver isn’t thrilled being stuck in one place, though things start to look up when he sets eyes on the gorgeous girl next door.

There’s just one problem… She isn’t a girl at all.

All it takes is one spontaneous dance to turn both Driver’s and Tam’s worlds upside down. They might not have been looking for love, but as things heat up between them, it’s clear life has very different plans.

Review:

First of all, I need to say this is book three in a series, and though I have not read either of the other books, I had no problem reading this as a standalone. That all being said, I now want to go back and read books one and two, so if anything, this one will pique readers’ interest in the full series.
This is Tam’s story. Tam’s the Sassy Boyz dance group’s slender, wiry, beautiful choreographer. Tam’s also quiet, introverted, and scared. So very scared. He’s just gone out on his own after living at the Prism Center rehab where he was sent after this third prostitution arrest. The prostitution was simply to put food in his belly, and once in a while, a roof over his head after escaping to the streets from a sexual abusive home situation. Tam is also femme—wearing makeup, sexy underwear, and rocking his 5-inch heels—especially the ones with the red soles!

One night he meets a very good-looking biker in the basement laundry room. Who knew someone else would do laundry late at night—and in his underwear no less? Driver is turtle-sitting for one of his best friends while he works to get enough money for he and his cycle to hit the road again. He might squeeze in a trip to see his grandparents first, but there’s definitely not going to be trip to the cemetery to see his parents’ and little brother’s gravesites. Too much guilt for their deaths has kept him away for over ten years.

These are only brief character sketches, but it’s easy to see that these men are ripe for love—both damaged emotionally, both in need of that missing puzzle piece that will make them whole. It’s a long slow, angst-filled journey to healing—for both of them—but readers who stick with the story will be very pleased they did.

I liked the character-driven plot, the emotional upheaval of finding someone who clicks, and the back stories—especially Tam’s—which really gave a good picture of their characters and their current motivations. Driver spends all his time running, whereas Tam spends his time working with his therapist, socializing with his friends (who he appreciates having), and trying to move forward so that someday he can have a full and happy relationship with another man that includes not only emotional love, but physical love as well.

I’m not a huge fan of angst, especially self-driven inner angst and Driver was loaded with it. The author also used the tool of internalized pain repetition—the same arguments with the same answers ad infinitum. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Driver was the epitome of this adage. And though he was good at the doing—running—he was better at the thinking about it, rehashing it, and wallowing in his self-pity. That took a good chunk of the story, so much so, I wanted to get out the red pen and get rid of about a hundred pages.

Tam, on the other hand? I wanted to take him home with me. He was struggling and he had his internal monologues as well, but nothing like the monotonous self-arguments Driver had. His character was appealing in a multitude of ways—from his recovery from sexual abuse and later prostitution, to his outward appearance and his taste in clothing, to his talent as a dancer and choreographer, and ultimately, to his ability to bounce back and stay positive in the face of what sometimes seemed to be insurmountable hurdles.

If you enjoy femme men in your MM romances, Tam is a character you will likely love. This book will also appeal to those who like bikers, angst-driven characters, redemption, forgiveness, and a whole series of men who dance to the beat.

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Carina Press 

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