Jagger King hails from an old-school organized crime family in Boston. He was born to take over the family business and is steeped in a culture that mandates you take care of what’s yours. Technically, Preston VanValen was never really Jagger’s, but from the moment the so-called pretty boy landed in the same public high school as Jagger, Jagger was determined to keep him safe. If Jagger developed a serious crush on Preston, well, Jagger knew nothing could ever come of falling for a straight guy. Until the night Preston himself full-on kisses Jagger. But before the two have a chance to unpack their heated lip-lock, Preston takes off and ends up joining the military.
Years later, Preston finally makes his way back to Jagger. In some respects, everything is different. Preston has proven himself on the battlefield while Jagger has taken over the family business and moved it from Boston to North Carolina, in addition to running a legitimate BDSM club. In some respects, things are the same. Jagger and Preston still dance around their attraction. But all that is about to change when Preston finally submits as a sub to one of the Doms at Jagger’s club. Suddenly, Preston realizes he’s been denying his attraction, his love for Jagger. The only question is whether he can prove he’s finally ready to commit to building a life together with the only man he’s ever loved.
Nuts was something of a mixed bag for me. I liked the short format and the focus on the repressed attraction between Jagger and Preston. Within the novella format, there is plenty of heat. The bulk of the action takes place in the present day, but we start off with a flashback to how Jagger and Preston meet—an inauspicious day when new-kid-at-school Preston gets caught alone by some local bullies. The way that Jagger comes to the rescue sets up the conflicted relationship these two share. On the one hand, Jagger is only too willing to do the right thing, especially for Preston’s sake. On the other hand, Jagger’s help thrusts Preston into the role of what is called “Jagger’s Whore” in the book. In short, the two have a solid (if somewhat grudging) connection. Personally, I think the way Jakes eschews a detailed flashback to The Kiss That Changed Everything spoils a bit of the complicated relationship these two men share. For such a pivotal event—it sent Preston to the armed services for something like a decade, after all—I felt like it was not well framed to really help me understand Preston’s conflicted emotions or Jagger’s seemingly undying devotion.
This story is part of the Aces Wild collection, a set of standalone books by different authors. The series requires the characters in the story to make a trip to an eponymous adult store and procure some goods. All this plays well into the framework Jakes has set up. Not only does Jagger run an underground BDSM club and identify as a Dom, but Preston comes to learn he enjoys submitting. I am certainly no expert on this scene, but I did notice that whenever there is play depicted on page, there does not seem to be much (read: any) attention to limits or safewords. To my uneducated eye, it feels as though the mere decision to engage in sexual relations is somehow a greenlight to whatever. Nothing seems too extreme (there are handcuffs and a paddle involved), but in retrospect, it seems odd that neither side was seeking confirmation that each new stage was acceptable to the other. It was also interesting to see Jagger clearly occupy the role of top and Preston discover his desire to bottom/submit, only to see those roles clearly flip-flopped in the final scene.
Overall, I’d say the underground sex club setting, the organized crime connection, and the military thread all provide varying layers of grittness to an otherwise glossy melodrama about two men whose only obstacle to One True Pairing bliss is themselves. If you want to get lost in characters who are fiercely loyal to each other and have a case of raging hormones, or if you enjoy mild depictions of the BDSM scene, then I think you’d enjoy this story.