Rating: 4 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Levi Ramone has worked for years as a porn star for Blue Boy Studio’s. He is popular and in demand as a hard core top, but Levi really is only doing the job as a way to make money. His mother is an alcoholic with gambling debts and Levi takes care of her, despite the horrible way she treats him. Levi is a top only, but when his boss offers him a lot of money to bottom in a three-way scene, Levi reluctantly agrees.
Levi isn’t thrilled to learn the object of his love/hate relationship, Sonny Valentine, will be a bottom in the scene. Levi finds Sonny attractive, but he also can’t stand him. And for his part, Sonny doesn’t like Levi much either. He is very clear that he thinks Levi is a selfish top who only cares about his own pleasure and not at all about his partners. But for some reason, Sonny also seems determined to help Levi prepare for what is sure to be a difficult scene, bottoming for the first time with the enormously hung Rex.
As the guys spend more time together, Levi soon realizes he can’t get Sonny out of his mind. Levi even begins to look forward to the scene a little bit, if only for the chance to be with Sonny. And when issues with Levi’s mother continue to complicate his life, he soon finds that Sonny is the one person who can help him get through the difficult times.
I picked up Bullet after hearing good things about some of the author’s other work and I found a lot about this story to enjoy. Levi is an interesting character, forced by his own sense of responsibility to deal with a mother who drains him financially and abuses him emotionally (and at times physically). After his father’s death his mother just fell apart, and despite the fact that she treats him horribly, Levi just can’t walk out on her. So instead he seems to be sort of sleepwalking through life, with a couple of close friends, a job running his own motorcycle mechanic shop that he loves, and another one as a porn star that he sort of just tolerates. His brooding, don’t give a crap attitude works great on set and the fans love him. But at this point the job is nothing more than a mindless routine to him.
I enjoyed seeing how the interactions with Sonny bring more life to Levi. Although he starts out hating the guy, at least that hostility fuels him a bit from his apathy. And when Sonny calls him out on his selfish topping, for some reason, Levi really listens. And not just listens, but changes. Slowly we see how his interactions with Sonny open Levi up, and eventually what starts as dislike laced with sexual attraction, begins to become feelings of connection as Sonny becomes more important to Levi. This story really focuses primarily on Levi and I enjoyed seeing his growth and progression over the course of the book.
Sonny is harder to know as Levi is our POV character, and honestly, Sonny doesn’t get a whole lot of page time. After he tells Levi he thinks he is uncaring in bed, we don’t see Sonny again for a quite a while in the book (though Levi is thinking about him). And he is absent for large chunks of the rest of the story as well. We really learn nothing about him, nor whether he is really a bad guy or if that is just what Levi sees. And we never really get a good sense of what is motivating Sonny’s actions. For some reason Sonny decides it is his duty to help Levi get through his first experience bottoming and comes over for a series of sexy “tutoring sessions.” We are told that Sonny has seen Levi in a scene where he is much more caring about the guy bottoming, so I could take the leap that maybe Sonny has softened a bit toward Levi, or at least doesn’t dislike him quite so actively. But it was still never really clear to me why Sonny is so invested in Levi’s preparation for this scene when he doesn’t even like the guy and Levi doesn’t like him. We never get a sense of whether Sonny is falling for Levi, or just is a super nice guy, or what. I found this confusing and never really addressed. So between all these things, it made it hard to really feel a connection between these men, even once they seem to actually like one another.
I also found some of the conflict here to be strange as well. Part of the issue Levi is dealing with is his mother, and I think that part is well developed as we clearly see the impact of her behavior on Levi. But the primary focus of the interaction between these guys is centered around the idea that Levi is going to be torn apart by Rex when he bottoms, thus why Sonny needs to get involved. Ok, I will admit I am not super knowledgeable about the porn industry, nor about bottoming, but the implication that Levi was actually going to get seriously injured here, and that the studio was apparently fine with that, just seemed off to me. Yes, they liked the aggressive topping that Levi himself does with others, but really, Levi is in danger of real injury here and no one but Sonny cares? Again, maybe this is a real concern, but it just felt a little contrived to me as a way to set up some sexy interaction between these guys. And as I said, I was never clear why Sonny was so invested in Levi and his well being in the first place.
The book leaves us with a HFN ending for these guys, which makes perfect sense for the story. It is a very short novel and most of the plot focus is really on Levi sort of finding his way. He and Sonny have some sexy scenes, and it is clear that Levi is feeling a strong connection to Sonny as the story ends, but there is definitely not enough happening at this point for a believable HEA for these guys. So I think the ending worked well and fits in with the rest of the book.
Bullet is the first of a new series by Leigh, and I am looking forward to seeing where it goes. We meet some other guys at Blue Boy that I hope we get to know in future books, and there is definitely more story to tell for Levi and Sonny. I will definitely be interested in following along.
Cover review: Oh, I love this one. Yes, it is total gratuitous eye candy, but I am not above it. I have seen this stock image before and it never gets old…