Author ~ Sandrine Gasq-Dion
Publisher ~ Skull Blaster Publishing
Published ~ 31st August 2015
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Former Navy SEAL Axel Blaze lives a solitary life. He doesn't do emotions, and he doesn't do babysitting. Used to being on his own, his job consists of Wetwork (a charming term coined by the KGB) for his former Master Chief, Mac. When an out-of-the-ordinary job lands on his doorstep, Axel heads down a path that includes a famous heavy metal rock band and one quiet, vulnerable, guitar-shredding virtuoso named Gareth Wolf.
Gareth Wolf's life changed in an instant when a car he was a passenger in crashed, hurting his brother's best friend and the band's lead guitarist. They created the band, Skull Blasters, as kids. Gareth had always been happy in the background, playing roadie. With the lead guitarist's injury, Gareth is suddenly thrust into the limelight and into a frenzied life he never imagined for himself. Finally fed up with living a lie, Gareth comes out as gay in a newspaper interview and finds himself in the bulls-eye of a crazed stalker. Somebody wants Gareth hurt - or worse - and Mac has been hired to be sure that doesn't happen. Babysitting duty is NOT Axel's strong suit, but Mac won't be budged.
Enter Axel Blaze. Against his better judgment, the big man takes the job to protect the shy musician. The more time he spends with Gareth Wolf, the more he admires the man. Where's a simple assassination when you need one? The situation becomes more volatile for each man as the attempts on Gareth escalate just as Axel finds himself falling for the quiet lead guitarist.
Strong, funny, smart-ass -- and kinda sweet Axel is everything Gareth has ever wanted in a man. Too bad he's off limits. As the stalker grows bolder, Gareth and Axel move closer emotionally - but is it too late? All Axel knows is that they don't stand a chance if he can't find the maniac trying to kill the man he's come to care about. A lot.
Everyone knows that relationships that begin in pressured or volatile situations eventually fizzle out. Or do they?
"Fret" is right in my wheelhouse. I love gay rock-band romance. I read everything I can get my hands on.
Fortunately, "Fret" is the first in a series. Rock band romance is always fertile ground for a series - each subsequent book gets to focus on another member of the band and the wonderful discovery that a member thought to be absolutely straight isn't. Lots of opportunity for romance, obstacles, fear and self-discovery.
As the first in the series, this one didn't have to bother with the "otherwise straight" guys jumping into bed with another man, but it does second best: Axel Blaze is 6' - 5", a former Navy Seal, and as butch as they come. He's hardly a virgin, but he's never had any kind of relationship. In fact, he's never kissed anyone, male or female. As a Military brat, he was never in one place long enough to get close to anyone, and when he joined the Seals, there was a host of reasons why he couldn't have a relationship. First, he's an assassin (but on the side of freedom and right); second, his work is almost always classified; third, he has to leave on a moment's notice, can't tell anyone where he's going, doesn't know when he'll be back, and doesn't even know if he'll survive the next assignment. Not a great basis for a relationship.
His best friend and boss in the civilian world, Mac, asks him to take on a bodyguard job. It's what Axel calls "babysitting" and he just hates holding the hand of some obnoxious, spoiled rich kid who may or may not be about to be kidnapped. But this time, he takes the job: protecting the lead singer of Skull Blasters, a top-of-the-chart Heavy Metal band. Gareth Wolf recently came out as gay, after spending several years bedding women to keep his cover intact, and he's now receiving serious death threats - and even a few actual attempts.
Axel takes the job. His first day is full of good news. Axel is gorgeous and talented. He's also not spoiled. His brother, Ransom, and several of their friends from the neighborhood, founded the band, and none of them has forgotten where they came from. Because his and Ransom's father is currently in prison for dealing Meth, and used to be a lush, the band has a no-drug, no-drunk policy and the boys keep their rock-star reputations strictly in the realm of fan fiction. They are all serious musicians, and the last thing they want to do is jeopardize their success. It was too hard-won.
Gareth got into the band in a fairly odd way. He's a few years younger than the other members, so he used to just hang around with them while they rehearsed and played in local bars, acting as their roadie and picking up guitar by osmosis - and native talent. A couple of years ago, the lead guitar of the Skulls smashed his hand in a car accident and Gareth was asked to step in for him - at least he knew all the music. And an amazing thing happened: the shy Gareth, who'd always been content to work as a roadie, came alive onstage. Feeding off the energy of the audience, Gareth became a guitar god. His energy and his sexy good looks pushed the band from being an opening act to being a headliner on sold-out tours.
Now someone wants him dead, and Axel has to keep him alive. Oddly enough, both Axel and Gareth are sort of virgins. Axel has had quickie sex with near strangers, but never kissed. Gareth has neither kissed nor had sex with another man, despite his very public coming out. At the moment, they're both celibate, Alex because he's with Gareth 24/7 until he catches the stalker and because Gareth has wormed his way into Axel's previously cold heart. Gareth really wants Axel to be his first man, but isn't he straight? Wow, no he isn't? He's just unavailable because he's on the job. Or is he unavailable?
I'm sure you can guess where this is going - into parallel stories of two men falling in love (how do you know you're in love?) and finding and stopping the stalker who threatens Gareth's life.
If you've read much rock fiction, you already know that the "rock-star and bodyguard who fall in love" is hardly unique to the genre. In fact, Whitney Houston's movie, "The Bodyguard" is not far afield from "Fret". So why bother with this story? Because it's extremely well-written. Ms. Gasq-Dion obviously loves her characters. She treats them with dignity, affection and respect. They are evocative adults, not neurotic young men making their own obstacles. There's also some lovely, vivid travelogue, particularly when the band tours Europe, that paints beautiful pictures of romantic locations with a laudable economy of prose.
"Fret" is really well done. The mystery is not exactly Agatha Christie, but it's enough to make your heart skip a few beats, what with racing cars aimed at Gareth, out-of-control pyrotechnics exploding in his face, a house fire that almost takes out both men, and even a gunshot or two. The identity of the stalker is telegraphed pretty early in the book, but repeatedly dismissed due to lack of opportunity and a bulletproof alibi - or maybe not.
I really liked this book and I plan to read the forthcoming books in this series. I am honored to give Ms. Gasq-Dion’s book the five stars it deserves, because "Fret" is an awfully well-written book, a propulsive read, and a book where I identified deeply with the characters.
I recommend this book very highly. It's an excellent read. If you’re a fan of good writing, rock-stars, bodyguards, sexy men, action-adventure, mystery, men falling in love for the first time in their lives, and good characters who care deeply (and show it), you’ll love “Fret”.
P.S. I’m also pleased to compliment Ms. Gasq-Dion for her integrity as an author. An author who cares about her readers is a very special thing. Some errors had been pointed out in a recent review of “Fret”, and she immediately corrected them and re-published this book. Too many gay romance authors put out slapdash novels with poor editing and no concern for their readers. All authors owe their readers their very best – after all, the reader is the customer. It is refreshing and heartwarming to run across an author like Ms. Gasq-Dion who shows the pride in her work and concern for her readers that she does. Kudos.