Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review for a new contemporary M/M romance from Elizabeth Varlet. DARK & DAZZLING is the second book in her Sassy Boyz series featuring femme gay men who perform a burlesque-type show–and all the trouble that goes down behind-the-scenes. The first was FIERCE & FABULOUS, and it was fantastic–so I couldn’t wait to read on!
About the book:
Z doesn’t need a hero…
Azariah “Z” Hayes is a diamond. Equal parts strength and sparkle, he’s more than capable of standing on his own stilettos. So if waiting tables and stripping at The Vibe are what it takes to keep a roof over his head, well, there are worse ways to earn a living.
Connelly is a white knight with a badge…
For NYPD detective Connelly Reid, to serve and protect is just another day at the office—even if that means protecting himself from his own true desires. He’s been curious about Z, his waiter, for months, but it’s not until he sees him in his makeup and heels that the curiosity becomes a fierce attraction. Z, despite all his over-the-top dazzle, might just be the man Connelly has been waiting for his entire life.
But when Connelly investigates underground porn and drug activity with ties to The Vibe, one thing becomes very clear—acting on what he knows is going to hurt Z, financially and emotionally. And though Connelly would love nothing more than to fix all of Z’s problems, no amount of mind-blowing sex can make Z comfortable becoming dependent on his lover. Yet if there’s one thing Connelly knows from his years on the force, it’s this: when things go bad, you need a trusted partner to have your back.
Azariah, called “Z” by all his friends, is having a rough, rough month. His roommate disappeared, leaving him to pay the month’s rent alone. Though picking up as many shifts as he can waiting tables, but the tips from that, and his burlesque dancing gig with the Sassy Boyz, is still not enough. Fiercely independent, Z soldiers on. Z knows how to survive. He did so for years in the unwelcome embrace of relatives when his mother died, and out of the streets when he couldn’t live in their custody any longer.
Detective Connelly Reid is twenty-eight. He’s been out since he was young, but quiet about it at work–especially since he’s been the target of homophobic slurs and questionable professionalism. Connelly’s a total fixer–constantly bailing out his younger sister as she struggles to cope with single parenthood after kicking out her drunken, abusive husband. Connelly eats at Sal’s for lunch everyday, hoping to interact with his attractive waiter, Azariah, but it’s not until he catches Z in all his made-up glamour that Connelly begins to understand the trouble he is in. How can he keep his sexuality on the down-low if he dates a man with luscious long hair, who wears make-up? On the flip-side, is living his private life in fear worth letting go of someone special?
Z and Connelly meet unexpectedly at The Vibe, while Connelly’s celebrating his birthday. Before he noticed Z dancing, however, he noticed a waiter selling drugs along with the drinks. Connelly’s not supposed to investigate, but he convinces his best-friend and partner to help him follow up. Not super-cool when Connelly makes his light inquiries a part of his pillow-talk with Z, though…
Z’s life goes from bad to worse when he’s sidelined from both jobs due to injury, and his landlady’s not taking his excuses for payment. So, when his buddy Lirim needs money to get out of a big jam, too, Z makes a choice to get the money the only way he can–and it’s not pretty. He has no idea that Connelly would be all-too-happy to step in and offer to help, yet, it frankly doesn’t matter. Z is a man who’ll fall on his own, before asking for a hand up. And, he does this in spectacularly horrible fashion. It could really spell the end of whatever was building between them–but Connelly’s not That Guy. He’s a detective; he’s used to the rough parts of life, and he accepts that everyone makes choices that are not always savory. He admires Z even as he worries for him.
That said, Connelly’s on a mission to take down all the bad guys in Z’s world, and that puts them in a very serious bind. There’s a bit of separation, but not long, and thank goodness! Z shows up just in time to fix a menacing problem in Connelly’s life. This is a gritty, and dark, story of two men finding themselves as they find the love of their lives. I will admit that parts of it were upsetting to me–and dangerous in ways that didn’t NEED to happen, but felt simultaneously organic and destructive, much like life…
Connelly needs to learn to pull back, and let others try and succeed, or fail on their own. Seeing how his well-meant overstepping hurt Z, and enabled his co-dependent sister, went a long to putting his mind right. Z had to learn that he’s not the only person who can make a difference in his life. And, if he didn’t want to ask his new boyfriend, he surely has very good friends in the Sassy Boyz who’d help him out in a New York minute, too. Being that this is the second book in a series, we had some glimpses of the gang, but the book is fully-enjoyable as a standalone. Expect a realistic, if subdued, happy ending for Z and Connelly.
Looking forward to the next book!
About the Author:
Elizabeth Varlet is a nerd at heart and spends way too many hours binging on episodes of her favorite television shows. If you love Doctor Who, Supernatural, Stargate, Star Trek, Sherlock, or Firefly you are already her best friend.
She started writing stories in high school and hasn’t stopped. Now, her characters like to get frisky under the covers – or the stars, they’re not picky. She’s a thirty-something, newly married, world traveler who devours books like they were candy.
Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!