Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
With the memory of fallen friends and soldiers at the front of his mind, disabled soldier Sean Gordon is struggling to make it one day at a time. Most days he finds himself in the bottom of a bottle unsure if he can make it to the next day. That’s how he found himself at the in the sewer, literally. Stumbling out of the bar, Sam didn’t notice the manhole, but the next thing he knew, he was waking up underground. And he wasn’t alone.
Roman Mahoney knows Philadelphia’s underground better than most people. Suffering from a brain injury inflicted while in the Marines, Roman spends most days trying to remember the things he’s forgotten while working to help the broken and downtrodden, the forgotten and homeless heroes of his city. But along with helping the city’s outcasts, Roman and his friends protect one of their city’s oldest and most valuable secrets.
When Sean meets Roman, somehow his life finds a new meaning. Something about Roman draws Sean in. But Roman, being asexual, is convinced that he has nothing to offer Sean. And Sean has specific needs Roman certainly cannot fulfill. But Sean won’t give up without a fight.
As their fragile friendship grows into a tentative relationship, Sean and Roman find themselves in an impossible situation when a serial killer/angel of death, stalking Philadelphia’s homeless population, sets his sights on Roman, intent on killing those Roman cares for and framing him for the murders.
Oh my God! I love this book. It’s angsty and sweet and suspense-filled. I was glued to the pages from the first word to the last. City of Soldiers is a book of fears and hopes, a book of new beginnings. The mystery is fantastic. The fantasy is subtle. And the emotions are strong. It’s truly a precious story of two men so broken that they live day to day with little to no hope when all they really need is one another to begin their healing.
I am a sucker for broken and tortured characters, and this story is definitely one of the broken and the tortured. I have nothing but respect for both Sean and Roman. Sean is trying to discover who he is after returning home from a war in which his friends died in front of him. Sean loves sex, but has deeper, darker desires he wants to act on, but doesn’t know who to approach with those needs. Roman is asexual, longing for a substantial relationship with a man, but without sex – something he’s never had a desire for. He’s struggling to survive every day with a brain injury that not only causes him memory loss, but also causes him to get his words confused. Which, by the way, was a unique twist that I enjoyed in his characterization.
This author not only has a knack for main characters, but the secondary characters in this book are wonderful. Kristian – the alpha male with a huge heart. He is the leader of the merry band of misfits. He’s precious. His love and protectiveness for Roman is so sweet, I was almost hoping for something to happen between them. Then there is Michael – the protector, do-gooder, and Dominant. He wants to look out for Roman and his friends, if only they’d let him. He also wants to shelter Roman, but is never given the chance. I adore both of these men.
By now I’m sure you all know that I love my kinky stories. I have my favorite types of kink and among those is shibari, the ancient Japanese form of rope bondage. The addition of this subject to this story is breathtaking. I loved the description not only of the physical, the actual tying and knotting, but also the effects and reaction of Sean. Like I said, it’s not only sexy, it’s breathtaking.
The underground world of Philadelphia that is created within these pages is beautiful, dirty, scary, and sad. It’s a world of homelessness, of mystery, of horrors, and of fantasy. The world that this author creates outside of the underground is heartbreakingly beautiful. The focus on the homeless population, the fallen heroes, the lack of support for disabled veterans is poignant and powerful. Yet, she sheds light on it, portrays hope in the darkness. It’s fascinating.
As much as I liked this book, and truly I loved it, I do have a couple issues. First, I’m going to complain about the ending. I think the story could have done without the cheesy fantasy ending. Just my opinion. I felt like it was forced and over the top. I really hadn’t expected the “National Treasure” feel from this book, but I didn’t dislike it. All of the talk of the “lake whiskey” was a little strange until the nature of the water was revealed. But the ending felt like one step over the weird boundary.
This next issue may be a little of a spoiler. My biggest problem is with the relationship between Sean and Roman, and Roman and Kristian, and Michael and Sean, and Roman and Michael, and Sean and Kristian. You see where I’m going with this? I would say it was a triangle, but there are four of them truly involved, so maybe a square? My problem with it is that it’s never resolved. I have a picture of how it would all work out in my head, placed there by my own overactive imagination, but the author leaves the lives and relationships of these four men in limbo. After reading such a suspense-riddled, angst-driven story, I wanted some resolution. Maybe not a happy-ever-after, but at least a “hey, we’re gonna try this for now.” I don’t like it left up to the reader’s imagination. I want it in writing.
In the end, I may have had a couple quibbles with the story, but they were minor compared to the overall book. This is such a beautiful story that I was entranced from the beginning. The story is angsty, heart-pounding, and precious. The characters are loveable. The kink…well, we all know I love kink. And the entire world is fascinating. This is the first book I’ve read of this author, and I’m looking forward to more in the future. I highly recommend City of Soldiers by Sam Burke.