Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M romance from Lane Hayes. STARTING FROM ZERO is a spin-off from her Out in College series, specifically featuring Rory’s older half-brother Justin from OUT IN THE OFFENSE. This new Starting From series seems as if it will feature other members of the band Zero, which Justin is forming.
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About the book:
Justin Cuevas is going through a rough patch. A broken relationship, a scandal, and the demise of his band have shaken the aspiring rock star’s confidence. Working two jobs and sleeping on his friend’s sofa isn’t ideal, but Justin isn’t ready to give up yet. With a little luck, he’s hoping to re-launch his music career in LA with his new band, Zero. The key is to stay focused, and not get distracted by his past…or the sexy songwriter he can’t get out of his head.
Gray Robertson has written dozens of hits and worked with some of the biggest names in the industry. But he’s never met anyone like Justin. The younger man is fiery, passionate, and smart. A powerful voice for a new generation. Other than an unforgettable one-night stand and a passion for music, the two men have nothing in common. Or do they? Justin knows the out-of-the-blue challenge to write a quintessential love song is a huge opportunity. And it’s the ultimate test for someone who’s doesn’t believe in happily ever after. When sparks fly, Justin and Gray realize they have a shot something special if they start from zero together. Maybe even love.
How about a yummy taste?
Justin turned to me with a fiery expression and gestured toward the glittering lights below. “Everyone here wants more than what they have. And I guess I’m the same. I don’t need recognition and I sure as fuck don’t want love, but I wouldn’t say no to a few bucks,” he commented with a laugh. “What about you?”
I did a double take. I was two steps behind, struggling to keep up, and if possible, memorize every word he’d said. I hadn’t been around anyone so raw or so honest in a long time. He made rules and broke them with at whim, letting me in and then shutting me out. He had a way of revealing himself that made me feel as though he was holding a mirror to me, daring me to acknowledge my broken pieces too. He was either slightly insane or incredibly gifted. I suspected it was the latter. The cadence of his speech lured me in…and made me want more. I’d tell him anything he wanted to know, just to be near him and this intense spark of…newness, creativity, and wonder.
“What about me?” I asked in a low raspy voice.
“What do you want to accomplish before you leave the planet?”
“I want to write the perfect song,” I replied unthinking.
“There’s no such thing.”
“Maybe, maybe not. But it would be nice to leave something that felt special.”
Justin held my gaze then inclined his head in agreement. “Yeah. I want that too.”
We stared at each other. Whispers of conversation floated from the far corners of the rooftop deck. We weren’t alone, but we might as well be. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so intimately connected to someone I’d never really touched. It was puzzling and enchanting at the same time.
He shivered when the breeze kicked up. I took it as a sign from above and pulled him against me. I had to feel him. I studied the sexy indentation in his bottom lip before giving into impulse and resting my hands on his hip. Justin gave me a funny look but he didn’t push me away.
“You shouldn’t be anonymous. You have too much to share. Too much to say,” I said.
“What are you doing?”
“I…I’m not sure. Is this okay?”
“Yeah. It’s good.” Justin nodded and snaked his arms around my waist.
We were still for a while. He was so close I could feel his breath on my lips. The lingering quiet was deceptive. A casual observer might have mistaken us for old lovers engaged in a tender moment. Or maybe they’d guess we were tentative strangers anxious to make the right moves. Not too fast, not too slow. Neither was correct. There was no quiet here. An electric current sizzled and hissed between us. Intense sexual awareness and something more. Something fiery and passionate. He was wild and rough with jagged edges and a sharp mind. Instinctively, I knew I should proceed with caution because walking away wasn’t an option.
“I want to kiss you,” I whispered, inching closer so our noses brushed.
Justin gave me a crooked smile and tugged at my belt loop. “Then do it.”
I tilted my chin slightly and pressed my lips to his. He was deceptively tender at first. He closed his eyes and hummed into the connection. When I licked at the corner of his mouth, he let me in without hesitation. I couldn’t get enough. He tasted like gin and nicotine with a hint of peppermint. All the things I apparently couldn’t do without.
I pulled him closer, cupping the back of his neck to kiss him harder and deeper. Our tongues twisted in a growing frenzy until everything and everyone around us dissolved into white noise. Justin lulled me into complacency and let me think I was in control. I pushed him back slightly and wrapped my fingers around his neck to keep him in place when he leaned forward to nip my bottom lip. He grinned like a madman and then lowered his eyelashes in a show of faux subservience. I didn’t trust him to stay still or obey for a second. Justin was wild and headstrong. He wasn’t going to do anything that wasn’t either his idea or a bad idea.
I should have known then that I’d met my match.
Justin Cuevas is a 26 y/o, bisexual musician trying to start a new band, Zero. His last band had a big falling out when Justin broke up with his lead singer girlfriend, and then their guitarist revealed Justin was now having sexytimes with the band’s male drummer–Tegan. Justin’s mom has been shutting out her younger son, Rory, for nearly two years–ever since Rory came out as bisexual and began exclusively dating a man. Justin doesn’t want to rock that boat again, and yet he finds himself terribly attracted to a silver fox stranger at his latest gig. Without revealing their names or the pasts, he and his mysterious stranger have a hot encounter in the bathroom of an upscale bar.
Gray Robertson is forty-four and used to being on his own. He had a loving partnership with Seb, a big-wig movie studio producer more than twenty years ago, but it was too hard to keep the love alive when they were constantly denying their sexuality–and married to beards. Gray was essentially a second father to Charlie, Seb’s biological son, and both Seb and Charlie have a big place in his life. But, Gray won’t go back to Seb again. He can’t recapture that love he once had, and thinks it’s best if they stay best friends instead. Seb had brought Gray to Justin’s gig, trying to see if Gray would be willing to work with Justin on writing some songs for the soundtrack of the action movie he’s producing. Gray is intrigued by Justin’s vivaciousness and creativity, but he’s willing to be a one-night stand if that’s all he can get. Seb learns of Gray and Justin’s sexy night together and seems even more determined to get Justin to work for him–maybe so he can keep an eye on Justin. When Seb can’t get Gray to reach out to Justin, he gets Charlie involved.
Thing is, Charlie likes Justin as a musician. As a social media influencer, and a master’s student in talent management, Charlie sees his opportunity to launch Zero into stardom. But Justin isn’t easily caught, and he’s not sure what working with Gray or Charlie will do to, or for, him. Unfortunately, Justin’s broke, working two crappy jobs and living on his drummer’s sofa. It’s important for him to get a break for Zero, but not at the expense of his pride and creativity.
This dual POV story is a great jumping off point for a new series. Justin is sweet and earnest and scattered–trying not to fall in love, because love is big lie that just breaks you into pieces. At least that what he witnessed in his mom’s life. Gray has felt deep love for Seb, but the constant deceit they both had to maintain killed the ardor. He knows Seb’s machinations, however, and tries to stay a few steps ahead of Seb’s schemes. Charlie had the right side of it, knowing his father never stopped loving Gray, but Charlie is his father’s son–always looking for the best deal. For him, it’s Zero’s success, and he won’t allow Seb to crush the band for the quest for a movie soundtrack. At the heart of all these intersecting schemes is Justin and Gray, who are falling hard for one another. They spend time scoping out scenes of romance in the wild, trying to find inspiration for the love song Seb wants them to write. Gray is proud of Justin’s desire to make music on his own terms, and to own his truth. Justin takes strength in his convictions, realizing how destructive it was for both Gray and Rory to hide their true loves for the sake of convenience. It provokes a hard conversation with his mother, that could lead to healing or separation.
The end is happy, with Gray and Justin, and Zero, finding a rhythm and audience for their stories. There are many hot and sexy moments, with lots of positive moments. Gray and Seb have a reckoning that I think will lead to Seb finding love eventually. Meanwhile, Tegan and Charlie are great side characters and I’m sure each will have his own love story–maybe even together, but that’s way to soon to tell. In any case, I’m ready for the next verse in this aria and look forward to more blockbuster love.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the Author:
Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and won First Prize in the 2016 and 2017 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.