Review: Phoenix Rising by Kimberly Gardner

phoenix risingRating: 4.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | All Romance
Length: Novel


Adam Hyland hated his job as a personal dancer, so with the intention of quitting, he walked into his last job, where it turns out he was a rich man’s birthday present. He never intended to sleep with Jimmy Trent, but something pulled him to the shy man and Adam couldn’t help following along. It was amazing even after Adam realized he was simply a placeholder for whomever the man spoke to on the phone while Adam blew him. But Adam is no one’s placeholder, so when he saw his chance, he took off while Jimmy was still asleep.

The only thing worse than being jobless because you quit the one you hated is not having a place to lay your head. Lucky for Adam, his friend Jason is able to help him out with both problems. While Jason gives him a place to crash, he also gets him an audition with a friend of his at Flesh Tones—one of Philly’s top notch titty bars that features ladies night once a week complete with male dancers.

Jimmy Trent, CEO of Trent Securities, isn’t exactly in the closet but he doesn’t flaunt his preferences, or at least that’s what he tells himself. When Jimmy wakes up alone after an amazing night with a beautiful dancer turned birthday present, he’s sure he’ll never see Adam again. But when he’s called to his brother’s club, of which Jimmy is a silent partner, he’s stunned to see the same man twisting and twirling fluidly and damn near naked on the stage when he walks in. Unfortunately, when the bar manager introduces Jimmy to Adam, Jimmy freezes and pretends they’ve never met and Adam follows along. Jimmy immediately regrets it but doesn’t know how to take it back.

While working at the bar one night, Adam comes face to face with his cheating ex, Daren, and unfortunately has to be rescued by Jimmy. The unfortunate part is when Jimmy overhears Daren comment that Adam is living out of his car. Being the white knight who can’t get Adam off his mind, Jimmy offers the apartment above his garage to him. Reluctantly agreeing, Adam swears that nothing will happen between him and Jimmy, until it does. But Jimmy has rules and those rules include nothing in public and Adam, who is sure that it’s just fucking, is okay with that until his heart gets involved.

Phoenix Rising is the first book in Kimberly Gardner’s Playing for Keeps series and is the second edition of this re-published, re-edited masterpiece.

I fell in love with Jimmy and Adam years ago—yes, years—when I first happened upon this book. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve read it nearly a dozen times. I have it pretty much memorized, and it’s likely that this won’t be the last time I read it either. Here’s the thing about this book: it’s captivating from the get-go. When Adam walks into Jimmy’s house and Jimmy’s BFF tosses some bills in his face and runs out of the house, leaving the men to get hot and heavy, the mood is set. And the mood of this book is fucking hot—in every sense of the term. From scene one a tension is coiled between Adam and Jimmy that only winds tighter and tighter throughout the entire book until it explodes. And geez… the sexy when it explodes. This story is more than boy meets boy. It’s about two guys from two entirely different walks of life who find they need each other, but also find they need to find themselves first. It’s a journey of self-discovery and of love and of forgiveness.

Adam is the star of this book. He is Phoenix, but telling you how he came to be Phoenix and who exactly Phoenix is to him and to Jimmy would give you too much of his story and I want to leave something for you to wonder about. Adam, for all his open confidence and brazen sexuality, is broken and vulnerable. He’s a throwaway. His family turned their backs on him then he caught the man he thought he loved fucking someone else in their bed. Adam depends on himself, finding it hard to even ask the handful of people he calls friends for any sort of help. And when things look like they’re getting tough or like his heart may be broken, Adam is they kind of guy to cut deep first. For Adam, this story is pauper in distress meets his prince. But instead of the prince saving him, Adam learns to save himself. Adam’s story is an empowering and beautiful of finding home when all else is lost.

What I like about Jimmy is that for all his confusion, he means well. His intentions, no matter how ill thought out, are never to hurt Adam. He a bit naïve to the cruelty and ugliness in the real world, refusing to see that his sexuality would have any sort of impact on his business or friendships. But he’s also confused. He’s thirty-six to Adam’s twenty-two, so where Adam is freer with is way of thinking, Jimmy is more set in his ways and likes it there. He’s not out of the closet no matter what he says, but his reasons for wanting to take that plunge have more to do with fear than with any real need to be himself. This story for Jimmy is an eye-opening journey into self-acceptance. And then it’s a story of the love he finds after he learns to love himself for who he is.

There are so many pieces to the telling of this story, so many players that have a roll in the initial meeting then destruction then reunion of Adam and Jimmy. The author does a fabulous job of pacing this story and keeping the storyline fluid. This book is engrossing and heartfelt. The emotions and tension that emanate from the pages are palpable. The heat between Adam and Jimmy, almost tangible.

I love this book, have for years, and I’m so happy that Gardner and Loose Id have joined together for this re-release. If you’ve never read Kimberly Gardner’s Phoenix Rising, I highly recommend that you do.

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