Rating: 4.5 stars
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Tek Cain was born to lead the Crimson Eight motorcycle club, just like all the men in his family before him. He will one day run the club with his best friend Jamie as his right-hand man. He and Jamie have been inseparable all their lives, even born on the same day. And from the time they were kids, Tek and Jamie have been trained to shoot guns, run drugs, and take down anyone who gets in their way.
As boys, Tek and Jamie each realize an attraction for one another, but both know better than to mention it. Despite the acceptance of violence, crime, and wild sex, being gay in the Crimson Eight will get you killed, whether you are a brother or not. But one night, six years later, neither Tek nor Jamie can keep their feelings inside, finally sharing the truth with each other about how they feel. From that day on, the men are totally committed to one another, despite having to keep their relationship a secret.
Despite being raised on the violence of the gang, life in the motorcycle club is taking its toll on the men. Not only the constant hiding their sexuality, but the things they are forced to do that haunt them both. As the future leader, Tek especially is expected to do whatever it takes to defend the gang and their territory, even as his actions wear on him.
When circumstances one day leave them free of the Crimson Eight, Tek and Jamie are thrilled to put that life behind them. They can be openly together for the first time, and have a freedom to explore their relationship, including some new kinks and sexual interests. But their life in the club is never far behind them, and as much as Tek and Jamie have found peace together, they know they may never be truly free of their past.
Roped is the latest book in SJD Peterson’s excellent Guards of Folsom series. Each book revolves around members of a BDSM club in New York City. This story takes a bit of a different twist, however, in that the majority of the book takes place prior to these guys ever making it to New York or being connected in any way to the Guards of Folsom. Instead we spend most of the time following Tek and Jamie as they are growing up and ultimately taking their place in the ranks of the gang. I found this part of the story really fascinating and well done. First off, it gives us a much clearer sense of what has shaped these men than we could ever get in flashback or recap. We really see the gritty lives they lead, they way they were brought up to accept violence and crime as a normal part of their world. Even at at 12 they talk about women the way they hear the adults speaking. Tek tells Jamie that they “Gotta know what the bitches like and don’t like.” It is raw and sometimes offensive, but it also creates a perfect portrait of what these guys are like and how they have been raised to accept this all as normal.
We also follow along as Tek and Jamie admit their feelings for one another and begin a relationship, albeit one they have to keep completely hidden. Here we start to see the conflicts between the men they are expected to be and who they want to be. Partly it is with the fact that they are gay and they know it would get them killed if they were ever found out. But it is also a growing realization that this isn’t the life that they want, that the violence and the anger and the whole lifestyle of the Crimson Eight is starting to become something that haunts them instead of what they strive for.
Despite the fact that both men do some pretty bad things, as I reader I never disliked them for it. Peterson shows so clearly how these men are a product of their upbringing. They know nothing else but this life. It is what they have been bred to do since birth and for most of their lives it never occurs to them to do or be anything different. And the clear pain they experience when they think about what they are doing makes it clear they are good men inside despite the things they have done. As we see them pull away from that life, it becomes even more clear. From the moment they are separated from the gang, they immediately put it all behind them and move on to the straight and narrow.
The last third or so of the book brings the guys to NYC where Tek gets a job at Guards of Folsom. There they meet Tackett, Bobby, Rig, and other guys we’ve previously met throughout the series. They start to learn about the BDSM lifestyle, realizing that they are both Dominants and beginning to explore a little bit with each other.
I enjoyed this portion of the book, especially because we get to really see Jamie and Tek all mushy in love, not to mention super sexy with one another. And I found it interesting to see their early forays into the lifestyle as they are learning about everything from a point of no experience. It does feel like a somewhat of an abrupt change though. Most of the book feels completely disconnected from the rest of the series. Not in a bad way, just a different plot and location and none of the same characters. So when they suddenly are hanging out with all the old gang, it took a little bit of a mental shift. I also wanted to see more clearly how they move emotionally and mentally from their biker lifestyle to being these average guys. There is a reasonable passage of time in between, but we don’t see most of it. I just kept wondering how they go from running drugs, beating people up, violence and murder, to just normal average people so easily. That is not to say they don’t have demons; they do, especially Tek. But I kept expecting more mental trauma and a harder time adjusting to the real world.
This story ends with somewhat of a cliffhanger. I am assuming (but not sure) that there will be another book coming featuring these guys (perhaps the upcoming Bound?). If not, we leave things unresolved with their pasts to enough of a degree that I would not be happy. But I have confidence in Peterson; she hasn’t let me down yet so I am going to assume there will be a more formal resolution at some point. In the meantime, be prepared for a little open endedness here even though the story does have some basic resolution.
Overall I really loved this book. Tek and Jamie are really such fascinating characters and Peterson manages to capture their world so effectively. They felt so real and the life they are living so perfectly portrayed. Not to mention that despite the fact that they are huge mountains of men, they just are so sweetly mushy and adoring with one another. They are as close as two people can be from the time they are kids, and as adults, the love they have for one another is so strong and beautiful. I found this story really intriguing and I can’t wait to see how the future comes together for Tek and Jamie.
P.S. I just heard from Peterson that Jamie and Tek will in fact be the heroes of Bound as well. And not just that, but Mac and Gunny from Beyond Duty will be featured in a short story being released in between the two books. Woo hoo!
Cover Review: Seriously, these covers. I could die. I asked Peterson how she gets any work done all day staring at these things. Not only are they sexy and beautiful individually, but they make such an incredibly lovely set for the series. If you click here you can see the others.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.