Dark & Dazzling CoverRating: 4 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

Azariah Hayes has scraped by, working his way off the streets and now barely making ends meet as a dancer and a server at the local diner. Z has learned not to rely on anyone but himself, but he is strong and fierce and is managing to make it on his own, if just barely. Now that his roommate has bailed, Z’s financial situation has gotten bleak.

Connelly Reid is a detective with the NYPD. He is known as the “boy scout” and a white knight, always jumping in to save people. Connelly finds himself returning daily to the diner where the hot server works. Connolly is out at work, but he has learned to keep his sexuality to himself. But he can’t help being drawn to Z, even more so when he sees Z decked out in his heels and makeup for his job with the Sassy Boyz dancers.

It takes a little while for Z to let down his guard enough to consider there may be more than just fierce sexual chemistry between them. Z has learned not to let anyone too close, but the connection between he and Connelly is explosive, and Connelly seems genuinely interested in more. But even as the guys grow closer, complications could destroy their new relationship. Z’s financial situation has grown even more dire and he refuses to lean on anyone, even as it is taking a huge emotional toll. And Connelly finds himself investigating drugs at the club where Z works, a case that could threaten Z and his friends. The guys have started to fall for one another, but complications could ruin their developing relationship.

Dark & Dazzling is the second book in Elizabeth Varlet’s great Sassy Boyz series. Like the first book, it features one of the dancers in the Sassy Boyz, a group of men who all have had rough pasts, but are strong and fierce and love to be a little gender bending in their dress and style.

Z has escaped an unwelcoming home and life on the streets and managed to pull his life together, but things are still a struggle. He has learned to rely on no one other than himself, so Z’s biggest challenge is learning to let someone else in and being able to trust and accept help. This is a nice juxtaposition with Connelly, who is used to always taking care of other people, perhaps too much so. His instinct is to rush in and take care of things, which is exactly the opposite of what Z wants. So Varlet creates a nice contrast here in their personalities.

I just loved these guys together. The chemistry and connection between them is amazing. I noticed the same thing with the first book in the series, Fierce & Fabulous. It is more than just writing hot sex scenes, which Varlet does. But somehow she also manages to create this intense connection between her characters, it just crackles and sparks off the page. These guys are not only hot together, but they just work so well, and it is nice to see how each of them grow over the course of the book.

My only real quibbles storywise are first how Connelly gets involved in a case investigating drug sales in the club (he notices something going on when he is there watching the show). I am not clear why he gets so invested in this case that is out of his jurisdiction, rather than just passing it off right from the start. He gets himself in lots of trouble as a result in various ways, and it never really made sense to me why he pursues this early on (before he even knows it could affect Z) instead of just passing it along to the right people. We also get hints that something bad happened to Connelly in his old police precinct, something that is making him keep his sexuality quiet. It comes up many times, and Connelly finds himself hiding his relationship with Z at times, but it is never fully explained what exactly happened. It was also confusing to me because Connelly makes it clear he has been out for years, and his boss and partner clearly know. But at the same time, he freaks out when some fellow officers come close to seeing him kiss Z (this is before there is any potential conflict of interest with the case), and pretty clearly wants to keep things down low about being gay, at least some of the time. So I couldn’t really understand what was going on with Connelly, or what had happened in his past.

This story has a definitive ending for Z and Connelly, but it also opens things up for the series. I am really excited to see where Varlet takes things for the remaining books and how the larger dynamic develops with the remaining characters. So I am enjoying this series quite a lot and definitely recommend it.

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