Title ~ Tin Man
Authors ~ Lisa Henry & Heidi Belleau
Publisher ~ Riptide
Published ~ 20th July 2015
Genre ~ Dystopian M/M Romance, Dark Erotica, Action, Suspense
Petty thief Ashoka “Ace” King knows better than to get in the way of Tophet’s Anti-Terrorist Unit. Rightfully feared in Tophet’s crime-ridden underbelly, a face-to-face encounter with an ATU is almost certainly a death sentence. But Ace has never been one to follow the rules.
Soren Lau might be an ATU rookie, but he’s not naive enough to believe everything his superiors tell him. Then again, he’s not stupid enough to disobey them, either. If he doesn’t shoot and kill as ordered, he might be next on their list.
But when Soren meets Ace, a moment’s hesitation is all it takes to put both their lives on the line. They don’t know each other, they don’t trust each other, and there’s no way in hell they can both walk away from this alive. But with suspicion and mortal danger mounting against both of them—and the forbidden attraction blazing between them—there’s nothing they can do but try.
Set in the Bliss universe this still has bleak, ominous Dystopian elements, but from what I've heard about Bliss, I don't think is quite as dark or disturbing in its content as its predecessor. However Tin Man, with its message of a future that doesn't paint a pretty picture, is still a gritty, suspenseful read that introduces us to two fabulous main characters...small time criminal Ashoka 'Ace' King, and Soren Lau, a rookie agent with the Anti-Terrorist Unit aka ATU, sent to clear the streets of its so called 'dangerous' inhabitants.
Like the rest of his peers who live hand to mouth on the streets of Tophet, Ace thieves, then fences his spoils primarily to keep food in his belly and live. It's a lawless society where everyone does what they can to exist; some more violent and dangerous than others but for the most part the 'Crims', as they're known, are just a suppressed sub-society, breaking laws because it's the only way to survive daily.
The ATU is supposed to have been formed to police the more violent, underground terrorist factions that have sprung out of the squalor and oppression of its time, but it turns out their presence on the streets has a more sinister intent; something a newly recruited Soren finds out when after being instructed to execute who he'd been told was a "most wanted" crim, on his first patrol, begins to realize that perhaps his first kill wasn't quite so cut and dried as he was taught to believe, and his chosen career not so heroic.
He and Ace are poles apart in the scheme of things but all that changes the day that a heavily armed and highly teched out Soren (hence Ace's term 'Tin Man') comes face to face with Ace in an exciting but fraught confrontation that theoretically should end in Ace's death, but actually results in the agent's own life hanging in the balance; until his enemy reluctantly saves him and discovers the deeply hidden side of Soren that he if it was discovered could be fatal. A secret, immoral in the eyes of the high ups, that creates an unexpected bond between them, setting in motion a series of events that really places the two of them up the proverbial shit creek!
Complete opposites, it turns out that their shared sexual leanings are dangerous enough to put both of them in the sights of the very organization that Soren originally thought would be his safekeeping, but things are not what they seem and it's an eye opener that has Soren rethinking everything he thought he believed in...and Ace, chasing a dream that, if it's a reality, could be the actual salvation they're both seeking!
I'm not sure I'd class this as a romance as such, but there's definitely an intense attraction and chemistry between its protagonists that undeniably hints at this being the beginnings of a love story if it had time to run its course. So you still get a hotness factor that sizzles and sparks, but there's nothing lovey dovey about this at all. Character traits are reversed when sex enters the equation, as under the imposing 'Tin Man' uniform, a younger than he projects, closeted Soren's propensity is to submit to the slightly older, more open about his sexuality, Ace. A clever change of perspective that I really loved as, because of their perceived roles in the story, its not the expected dynamic.
Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau are brilliant writers in their own right, but together they make a great writing team and this shows how good they are at their craft. As impressed as I was, it was all so compelling that I was left wanting more! For a novella it's actually pretty well packed but there were still things I would have loved to have seen more fleshed out. Supporting characters and intriguing background info, that opened up would have probably pushed this to a higher rating. I've no idea if there's a follow up, but the ending is left open in a way that leaves you to your own conclusions about what's ahead for these two characters and actually I can go with that, however, what's hinted at was so enticing, I just wanted to keep on reading. When I finally closed my kindle, I was left slightly unsatisfied...only because the authors are too good at what they do! So, I'm hoping this isn't the last of Ace and Soren because they're far too compelling as characters to disappear into the ether. Fingers crossed.
What I do know is that I'd love to jump straight into Bliss now. Not because I think I've missed anything important by not reading it first—I'd say this can be read as a standalone—but because the world they've built has me craving another fix! Good stuff!
Connect with the Authors
Lisa Henry lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.
She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house with too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.
Heidi Belleau was born and raised in small town New Brunswick, Canada. She now lives in the rugged oil-patch frontier of Northern BC with her husband, an Irish ex-pat whose long work hours in the trades leave her plenty of quiet time to write.
Her writing reflects everything she loves: diverse casts of characters, a sense of history and place, equal parts witty and filthy dialogue, the occasional mythological twist, and most of all, love—in all its weird and wonderful forms.
When not writing, you might catch her trying to explain British television to her daughter or sipping a drink at her favourite coffee shop… email: firstname.lastname@example.org
She also writes queer-flavoured M/F as Heloise Belleau… HeloiseBelleau.com.