At age 24, eight years after Lucky Gunn’s idol, Drayton Cruz, left the world of MMA in scandal, Lucky has become a damn good fighter, having followed Dray’s parting piece of advice, “Sex, no matter who with, isn’t worth giving up your dreams for.” Gym owner and mentor Tony Brick is sick and refuses to open up about his illness, and Brick convinces Dray to return to Chicago to help Lucky train, but Brick’s incessant coughing has got Dray and Lucky suspicious. The news about Brick is bad, but not surprising. Cancer. Brick’s hidden agenda is revealed: he wants Lucky and Dray to take over the Brick Yard when he is gone.
Now that Lucky is no longer a gangly teen, Dray feels lust for the built young man. But something is missing in Lucky. He loves the fight and the training, but the fans, not so much. He recalls how the fans betrayed his idol, Dray, years ago and refuses to open himself up to them, which will effectively halt his rise to UFC fame. Lucky suspects that those closest to him already know his secret, but it’s Brick that warns Lucky to watch himself, a hurtful statement sends Lucky into a tailspin. Dray’s presence calms Lucky, but in the process, they give in to their desires. Right or wrong, it was inevitable.
Lucky’s memories of a twisted, loveless childhood, Brick’s failing health, the secret relationship with Dray, jealousy, and a desire to prove himself may be too much for Lucky. A fighter cannot have distractions, and yet Lucky’s whole life is one distraction after another. With all of the turmoil in Lucky’s life, a simple show of comfort and affection by Dray confuses Lucky. Thinking he did something wrong, Lucky’s reaction is harsh. Dray leaves the apartment angry, Lucky is confused and thinks he has lost Dray forever. Can Lucky overcome the childhood demons holding him back from his relationship with Dray, and will learning about Lucky’s past help or hinder Dray in his attempt to figure out their future?
This is not the MMA story I was expecting, although the characters demonstrated the appropriate behaviors. These guys are so tough and not allowed to show their tender side, which sets up all of the conflicts between the characters, both main and secondary, and why Lucky continued to hide the truth about himself.
I have to say that the characters in The Brick Yard were extremely well developed and had good depth and they interacted with each other realistically. Lucky with his horrific past, Dray with his humiliation at being outed, and the many individuals that supported the story, such as Brick, truly felt like family — a big messed-up dysfunctional family, but family nonetheless.
There is a nice flow with the dialogue where the traditional “Flint said” is omitted and we are still able to follow the conversations easily and this gave the book a natural, organic feeling. The editing was top-notch and, although the book addressed many heavy topics, the story flowed really well and was easy to read. It was clear that the Brick Yard was a safe haven for young boys and men in need, and Lynne made sure to provide us with hints and information that showed the history of Tony Brick and the Brick Yard without making it seem like a narrative of the history up to the point the story takes place, a technique that worked beautifully and added to the realism of the story.
The only area that I was not happy with, personally, was the ending, which was a little too HEA compared to the overall tone of the book. I am not saying that everyone had a HEA, but the ones that didn’t were destined for their fate and so even the “sad” elements in the epilogue did not surprise me.
So although The Brick Yard did not meet my expectations as a MMA story, it was memorable and definitely one that will stick with me for a good long while, if for no other reason than Lucky. I really felt for him and was rooting for him to succeed pretty much from the beginning. That being said, if you are avoiding this book because of the MMA theme, please reconsider, and if the weak MMA storyline has you shying away from The Brick Yard, I say give it a chance anyway. I don’t think you will be disappointed.