Knave of Broken Hearts (Love in Laguna #2)

Author: Tara Lain

Narrator: KC Kelly

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Rating: 3.5 stars  story, 5 stars narration

Buy Links: DSP

Type: audiobook

Received from Publisher

 

Blurb: Jim Carney has a full time job—running from himself. Since he walked out on his wealthy family at sixteen because he’d wrecked his best friend’s life over some yaoi graphic novels, Jim has lived a macho, blue-collar existence of too much booze and too little responsibility. Then Billy Ballew, the man Jim most admires, gives Jim a chance to come through as his construction supervisor. For once, Jim is determined to make someone proud. Then Jim goes in for a physical for his new job, and his yaoi dream comes to life in the form of cardiologist Ken Tanaka. Jim discovers he has two heart problems—a wonky mitral valve and a serious attraction to his doctor. But Ken is a major player, and Jim might be just a notch on the doc’s stethoscope. To Ken, Jim is unforgettable—but the living embodiment of his traditional family’s worst nightmares. How come the minute Jim decides to be responsible, he finds himself taking care of his kid brother, getting a proposal from a wealthy woman, making a deal with the devil, and winding up in the hospital—when all he really wants is the Knave of Broken Hearts?

 

Review: *minor spoilers ahead

I enjoyed the previous book in this series, ‘Knight Of Ocean Avenue’, and looked forward to this story featuring a secondary character. Narration by the talented KC Kelly was also a draw.

Jim and Ken seem like complete opposites on the surface. Even so, Jim finds himself falling for Ken in more ways than one at their first meeting. This is a well written, truly complex story, with many obstacles for the two men to navigate on their way to love. KC Kelly delivers an extraordinarily nuanced performance, voicing each character distinctly and uniquely. He really brought them to life, especially so with Jim. I hadn’t read the book before listening to the audio. I got bogged down with the story just after the midway point due to copious use of a subject which is a particular turn off for me. I believe the engaging narration is mainly what kept me going. That, and I did want to see some happy after all the crap that got thrown at these two guys!

Jim is a hardworking, blue-collar guy employed as an electrician at his friend Billy’s new construction company. (Billy and Shaz are the couple featured in Knight Of Ocean Avenue). I really liked Jim. He had fortitude and was compelled to do the right thing. As the book began, Jim was trying to sort out his life, he broke up with a dead end girlfriend, he took up drinking ginger ale instead of scotch, and he suddenly found himself with a roommate – his younger brother. Taking in his brother reminds Jim of leaving home when he was 16 and never looking back. When Billy departed on his two week honeymoon, he put Jim in charge of some construction projects. Jim – grappling with some inner uncertainties – rose to the task. One of Jim’s uncertainties had been his strong and undeniable attraction to a man at Billy’s wedding. A very beautiful, very out and proud man –a man named Ken who would soon have Jim’s heart in his hands in more ways than one. Surely Jim’s adolescent admiration for Yaoi comics explained his fascination with Ken’s Japanese good looks and charming demeanor. Right?

Ken is a cardiologist. Evenings out are spent at a prestigious club and/or supposedly in the bed of his latest conquest. Ken bumped into Jim at Billy and Shaz’s wedding and was immediately intrigued with him. I wish I could say the same for my feelings for Ken. I never felt a strong connection with him. He was referred to by nearly everyone as a player, but this wasn’t demonstrated on page, just mentioned a lot. Ken didn’t seem decisive or in control about much of his life until the end of the story when he sort of woke up. Jim ends up in Ken’s office as a patient, and since Ken’s office is in the

building where Jim and his crew are doing renovations, it is inevitable they keep running into each other…

There we have the basic set up. Complications arise which involve much more than Jim’s health, and much, much more than the two men simply finding their way to a relationship.

Ken’s traditional Japanese family is trying to arrange a marriage for him, with a woman, even though has been living openly as a gay man for years. He hasn’t yet told them to bag it on any level. OK, a major peeve of mine is growling to the surface – manipulation by parents.

Jim is freaking out over his strong attraction to Ken. For reasons we find out as the book progresses, he’s also been estranged from his father for over 10 years. Plus now Ian, Jim’s younger brother, has been tossed from home, and denied tuition to architecture school, and is living with Jim. Seems Jim and his deft handling of the renovations has been noticed by Constance, the woman who owns the building he’s working in. She wants to make him an offer. It turns out Jim’s father is buddies with Constance’s daddy, and the two have gotten to scheming. Constance and her millionaire daddy could send the guys all the work Billy’s company could handle – but there’s a caveat involving Jim.

Personally, I have a huge aversion to manipulative parents/families in storylines. In this book there are THREE such examples going full force. And the children are all adults – Jim, Ken, Constance – who were allowing themselves to be manipulated. Not with small stuff, but with huge, intrinsic, life altering stuff. This aspect negatively overwhelmed me so much at one point I nearly gave up continuing the story. People driving in cars next to me probably wondered why I was pounding my steering wheel and shrieking “Ugh!!”. This was especially true when Jim, who had previously shown such growth, such determination about other things, caved when the chips were down. I wanted so badly for him to turn more to his friends, and his brother sooner than he did.

Such complications and extracting the characters from said complications involves some darn crafty writing! Hats off to Tara Lain for having me care enough about Jim’s heart, for gleefully wanting to see some other characters crash and burn – to stick with this story to the end! Several people, threads, and focal points were tied together in unexpected ways, making for some great “aha” moments.

The connection between Jim and Ken was palpable and felt genuine and right. Their sexual encounters were quite interesting and rather unconventional – they served to reveal the inner desires the men were still fighting while they believed a real relationship to be unattainable. Excellently portrayed. I would have liked to have seen more page time once they realized they would have their happy ending, but the story here was their journeys to self- discovery and standing up for their true selves. And that, they did, with a truly swoon worthy ending. ♥

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