Rating: 4 stars
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Evan and Jackson are gang members—rival gang members. Jackson has been in for years while Evan was just initiated into his gang. There is no room for error and there is certainly no room to be gay. That is how Evan and Jackson find themselves in the park for an anonymous hookup. The hookup doesn’t go quite as planned, but the guys soon find themselves becoming addicted to each other and seeking each other out for what they tell themselves are casual hookups.
Addiction is a problem for Evan. He’s been addicted to drugs for years and his cocaine habit led to him living on the streets. He starts to realize just how big his problem really is when he falls hard for Jackson. Evan is also a bit of a dreamer and an artist and if he had his choice, he would spend his days painting.
But their lives are run by the gangs and the fear of anyone finding out about their relationship is all too real. In order for Evan and Jackson to ever have a shot at a real life together, some hard choices will have to be made.
It took me a bit to get settled into this book. The blurb that I read had a dreamy, more artistic vibe to it. The voice and atmosphere of the blurb does not match that of the book, and it was never mentioned there that either Evan or Jackson were in gangs. The book opens with two gang scenes involving each of them and it took some navigation for me to get into the book at first.
After that, I settled in. You then have to be on board with reading about guys in gangs with names like Klown Killerz and Dem Demonz, who deal drugs, treat women badly, and live a life of violence. That, however, is a little more on the periphery and the real heart of the story is the relationship between Evan and Jackson.
Evan was kicked out of his home and Jackson didn’t fare much better and they are used to relying on themselves. Jackson has been in a relationship with a woman for the past six years, but it’s all for show, on his part anyway. He knows he’s attracted to men and that’s all he has ever let himself think it is, just attraction, because having a relationship, a life, with a man is unthinkable. Evan knows he wants to be with men, and many of his hookups have been linked to not having a place to stay for the night, but to have someone like Jackson in his life is something Evan never even dreamed was possible.
What follows is the men falling hard, yet not wanting to admit it at first and the author does a good job of slowly breaking down their walls. The guys have great banter with each other and their dialect in on point for their characters. If you are looking for swoony dialogue, this isn’t that book, as Evan and Jackson are more crass, but they bring their own sense of romance to their relationship.
The guys make some big sacrifices for each other as they slowly reach for a life together. They live a life of violence, but the scenes were mostly off page and there wasn’t anything overly graphic for me. But the book is also about perspective. Evan and Jackson are drug dealers and steal, but we don’t see those that are affected so they start to become empathetic.
There were a few areas that drew my attention away at times though. For most of the book the guys have a dialect that fits the life they live. Yet, there were times where Evan would be more dreamy and artistic and at one point he was admiring the waxing crescent in the sky and I would have like to see more of a bridge to fit together these two sides to his personality. Also, it is established that Evan has red hair. The term “redhead” was used excessively in the book as both a descriptor as well as a dialogue tag and it became an extremely overused word. The epilogue offers what you want from a romance novel, but it was way too easy for many reasons and some of the logistics seemed impossible for their situation, and that was an area that I simply had to go with.
Bleeding Like Me is a debut novel from author Riley Parks. I would certainly suggest you check it out if this type of story line appeals to you and I certainly will be looking into future works that the author sends our way.