Rating: 4.75 stars
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Length: Novel

Afflicted by love’s madness all are blind. -Sextus Propertius

Hunter Stephens surprises himself one night when he accepts a proposition from a prostitute while walking home.  Bringing a stranger to one’s home is dangerous for anyone, but made even more so because Hunter is blind.  But it has been a difficult evening and the fear and the lust and the excitement all combine to encourage Hunter to take the risk and go for it with the incredibly sexy man beside him.

Dillon Chambers left his street hustling days behind him years ago to become a high priced escort. But something about the seeing the gorgeous Hunter walking down the street just inspired Dillon to reach out for the man. And even after the encounter he can’t get Hunter out if his mind, contacting him once again.  What begins as a series of (incredibly) hot sexual encounters between the men soon makes its way toward tentative dating.  Both Hunter and Dillon bring fears, anxieties, and some past baggage to their fledgling relationship.  But each man slowly begins to realize that there could be something real here, that their feelings of attraction could grow into something more.  But they must face their own doubts and insecurities and move past them to accept what they really want and reach out to grab it.

Oh, this was such a good story. Lush and romantic and oh so sexy.  Shire creates such beautiful and rich characters in Hunter and Dillon.  It would be so easy to have each fall into stereotype, but instead they are both wonderfully developed, flawed and unique and each struggling to find their way to real happiness.  Hunter is fiercely independent, wanting no pity or coddling from anyone. He has made a life for himself in Atlanta, away from the smothering protectiveness of his mother.  He owns his own business, has a martial arts black belt, and makes his way in the world with little help. Yet he slowly realizes that his need for independence has also left him lonely and isolated.  Aside from his best friend and coworker Margie, he has no real friends or relationships in his life.  Meeting Dillon has opened him up to a real connection with someone, but he has to trust and accept letting someone into his life.

Dillon is also a lonely and independent man.  Kicked out of his home at 16, he has been on his own for 10 years.  After barely surviving his life on the streets, he now lives in wealth and comfort working as an escort.  But the abandonment and rejection by his family is a wound he still carries around, keeping him from trusting and opening himself up to love.  He worries what Hunter will think of him, as someone thrown away and rejected by his family.  And when pieces from his past look like they may reappear, he becomes even more afraid.

I loved the dynamic between the two of them.  Things start out so raw and sexual. They originally get together because they meet one another and just WANT.  Both men are drawn so immediately to each other that they are willing to take risks and unusual steps to have one another.  I loved their intensity, especially seeing Hunter as such as strong and sexual man.  He loves the roughness and grittiness of sex, wants someone who will take him and not treat him as some thing fragile.  And Dillon totally gets that.  My only complaint here is the lack of condom use.  It seemed so uncharacteristically risky, especially with Dillon being a sex worker.  But overall I found them incredibly hot together.  And the scene where Dillon is blindfolded? Amazing.

This is the first story of Shire’s I have read, but I was impressed with the rich lushness of his writing and the wonderful imagery.  He paints such beautiful pictures with his words in a way that just flows around you as you read.  This was enhanced even more as we get Hunter’s point of view.  Being without sight, Hunter perceives the world strongly with his other senses and Shire captures the elements of smell and touch with such depth and detail.  I’ll admit it took me a little while to settle into it; I felt a little overwhelmed in the early pages by the intensity.  But as I fell into the rhythms of the story I really appreciated the rich writing style and the sense of just sinking into the words.

The story focuses primarily on Hunter and Dillon with only a few side characters. But the ones we do meet were quite fascinating to me as well.  Margie is Hunter’s best friend and really only confidant.  He is frank with her about his encounters with Dillon, and she responds with natural concern about their involvement. Their relationship walks an interesting line, for as much as he needs and values her, Hunter is still always a bit wary of too much protectiveness and pushes back when he feels her coming on too strong.  I loved that Margie feels so real.  Too often in m/m romance we get the female best friend as the quicky/adorable sidekick, there to be the gal pal and dish about the boyfriend, offer advice, etc, but with little substance.  In Margie, Shire has given us a character that would have worked just as well as a man or woman, who feels like a real person, not just a throwaway character.

I also loved the dynamic between Hunter and his mother. Hunter still struggles to prove his independence from his mother who continues to be protective over him.  It is clear that they love one another, but also that they can’t quite communicate with each other.  We can see that their relationship is coming to a point of change, each one starting to find themselves and grow into something new.  The time has come for both of them to see each other as the people they have become, not the ones they were in the past.  And here we see them each slowly opening their eyes up to that realization and beginning to learn how to accept it.

Afflicted takes us through the early stages of the developing relationship between Hunter and Dillon.  Each man finds himself at a similar crossroads, realizing this can become something real, that he can have more out of life if he only is willing to take the risk.  The book leaves us with enough resolution that we can feel confident things are moving forward for the men.  But the story isn’t completed here, and for that we need to wait patiently for the next installment in Dillon and Hunter’s story. Personally I can not wait to see how things develop between them now that they have both decided to open themselves up to the relationship.  I thought Afflicted was a wonderful story and I can not wait for more.

Just a note, Brandon Shire is donating 10% of the proceeds from the sale of ALL his books to LGBT youth charities so please support this great cause!

And Brandon has also brought a a copy of Afflicted to give away to one lucky reader! Be sure to leave a comment at the end of this post for your chance to win!  The contest will  close September 22th at 11:59 pm EST.  Note the change of deadline. I moved it back to allow more time for folks to enter due to the blog feed snafu.  

  • By entering the contest, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
  • Winners will be selected by random number.
  • If you win, you must respond to my email within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen. Please make sure that your spam filter allows email from Joyfully Jay and leave your email address if it is not in your profile.

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