Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M New Adult coming out romance from Courtney Maguire. DRIVE features a young mechanic in East Texas fighting to raise his sister and make ends meet. Help seems to come from from unexpected allies. It’s a pseudo single-dad story, and I really liked it.
Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
In the conservative East Texas town of Black Creek, you’re either old money or you work for them. Redmond Cole is the latter. The long hours he spends fixing fancy cars in the local garage are barely enough to support himself, let alone his sixteen-year-old half-sister, Katie. All he wants is a better life for the both of them, one that’s easy and real, but he has a secret. One that could blow up the meager existence he’s worked so hard to maintain.
Red is gay.
He doesn’t want to lie, especially to Katie, but Black Creek isn’t the most hospitable environment to those who are different. His secrets keep them safe. He’s all but resigned to a life in the closet until he’s propositioned by the dashing, wealthy Victor Itachi. What follows is a secret and intense sexual relationship that challenges everything Red believes about himself. But when Victor’s craving for dominance starts to affect his submissive partner’s real-life relationships, Red must decide what’s more important: his power or his secrets.
How about a little taste?
Under the hood of a car, everything makes sense. Gears and wires. Oil and grease. All the parts fit together and just work. Each piece has its own function, a logic. Completely predictable even when damaged. Won’t turn over? Check the battery, the wiring, the alternator. Find the broken piece and the whole thing comes alive again, purring and growling and shrugging itself back into action.
I pulled my head out of the engine compartment of a Nissan Altima and flexed my back with a satisfying crack. The owner brought it in complaining of overheating. The repair was a simple one. Just a few hoses needed replacing. I wiped my grease-coated hands and folded my tall frame into the driver’s seat. I flicked the key, and the engine turned over easily. I tapped the accelerator and the temperature needle climbed before stopping at normal. I smiled and gave the dash an affectionate pat.
“Red!” I jumped at a sharp voice from inside the shop. I shut off the Nissan and stepped out to find my boss, Bo, poking his square head into the garage, gesturing for me to join him. Visible through a bank of windows behind him stood a neatly dressed man with long, ink-black hair and a troubled expression. I’d seen him before. Many times, in fact. He drove a silver BMW 5 series sedan, a fine machine and well-suited to a man like him, and he brought it in monthly for regular maintenance.
I always noticed. Not only the car, but the man. How the air changed with his appearance. How, like now, the gears in my head locked up and stopped moving, and all I could do was stare, mesmerized by the flow of his hair around his shoulders, the bow of his lips, his olive skin. He was nothing like the rednecks here in Black Creek. I struggled for a word to describe him. Pretty was what he was. Not in a feminine sense. More in the way you think of a Ferrari 458 as pretty. Sleek and stylish with a touch of ferocity lurking just beneath the shiny topcoat.
I jumped again, my eyes jerking back to Bo’s irritated face.
“What the hell are you doing? Get in here!”
Face hot, I slammed the car door behind me. I straightened my collar, immediately feeling ridiculous for doing so, and made my way into the shop.
“Mister Itachi,” he announced as I stepped through the door, “this is Redmond Cole. He’s our finest mechanic. I can assure you he’ll have you fixed up in no time.”
I nodded without raising my eyes, dirty hands shoved in my pockets. Mr. Itachi. Victor. I knew his name already, had seen it on intake forms and receipts, but unlike the other countless names I encountered daily this one stuck. He shifted nervously, his shiny leather shoes scraping across the shop floor. I lifted my eyes just enough to see his lips curl downward and lowered my head to hide my flush.
“I have a very important meeting in Longview, tomorrow,” he said, each word crisp and carefully formed. “It is absolutely imperative it’s ready by first thing in the morning.”
“Yessir.” My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, making the words thick.
“Trust me,” Bo assured him, slapping me roughly on the back with a meaty hand. “He’ll have it ready if he has to work all night.”
I frowned and swallowed hard as he gave my shoulder a tight, warning squeeze.
Mr. Itachi clenched and unclenched his hands at his waist, and he released a long sigh. “I guess I’ll leave it to you then.”
My tongue frozen in place, I nodded again. Bo released his grip on my shoulder and ushered the gentleman out in a fog of reassurances, each one laced with a subtle threat pointed at me.
Heart pounding, palms sweating, I retreated into the garage. I leaned heavily against the Nissan I’d just been working on. My coworker, Lawrence, squinted at me from underneath a Mazda 3, and I pulled myself up straight.
Goddammit, Red, get a hold of yourself.
“What is it with that guy?” he said in his three-pack-a-day voice, jabbing his wrench toward the windows.
My stomach clenched. “What do you mean?”
“Bo can’t seem to jump high enough when he comes around.”
I released a nervous laugh and shrugged. “Money talks, I guess.”
Lawrence snorted, disappearing back under the Mazda. Here in Black Creek, there were two classes of people: the obscenely wealthy and everyone else barely scraping by. Like every other East Texas town, we were founded on lumber and natural gas. Those who got in early prospered. Those who didn’t worked for them. Generations of people whose fate was determined by the luck of their great-great-grandfathers, though something told me Mr. Itachi’s story was different. The silver BMW pulled into the bay next to me, and I peered at it over the Nissan’s roof.
“What’s wrong with you?” I whispered to myself.
Red Cole is a 25 y/o closeted single gay man living in a conservative East Texas small town. He’s working as a mechanic, barely making ends meet as he raises his 16 y/o half-sister Katie; she a bit of a troublemaker, and ran to Red when escaping from their abusive father three years ago.
Red does a great job fixing a custom Beemer for wealthy lawyer Victor Itachi, and hesitantly accepts Victor’s invitation for a drink. It’s a big step for Red, even if it’s not a date. It’s weird that Victor can see through Red’s het facade, and even more weird that he’s inviting Red to some debauched playhouse for discreet “like-minded” folk. Red refuses, but his curiosity is piqued.
A few days later, Red is calling Victor for more information. And, the playhouse is a trip. What Victor likes is a D/s variation based on pet play. He wants a pet to take care of, in the playhouse and in real life. Red is ashamed at how turned on he is by submission. It must say something crappy about his masculinity–like his worthless father always said.
Red has also semi-befriended an out gay man called Sean, who is the town pariah. He was shipped off to schooling in Austin by his bigoted father and only returned to town when his dad died a couple of years ago. And, he desperately needs a friend. They meet because Sean’s car has been vandalized with paint by a homophobe, and Red agrees to dab off as much paint as he can–even after his homophobic boss tries to deny the business. When Sean’s mother dies, Red is as big a comfort as he can manage, while still firmly lodged within the closet.
But in the playhouse with Victor, Red is quickly growing accustomed to Victor’s Dominant play, he’s even jealous that Victor’s other pet, Toby, gets to spend time with his Master. It’s a really confusing time, emotionally, for Red, as Victor does more and more caretaking outside of the playhouse. And, the more time that Red spends with Sean, the more he thinks maybe coming out is the best option after all.
This is an interesting story with a few bigger twists that kept the story moving. Red’s relationships with Katie and Sean are safe, because neither knows of Red’s gay secret. He’s able to grow a bit with his playtime with Victor, and see that he needs more than just to “heel” when his phone begins to bark. The D/s is a curveball, with unexpected struggles–Red hasn’t had to fight to keep a man to himself before–not that he’s ever wanted to. And, the power plays with Victor and Toby have real life ramifications–as Red learns when Toby shows up at his job. This is all overlayed by the toxic masculinity mindset that permeates this Texas town–and creates a sanctimonious backdrop that allows aggressive homophobia to flourish. Red’s “upstanding” boss isn’t too “upstanding” to gouge Sean for the work Red mostly did on his lunch breaks. And, he’s clearly perturbed that Red would even do such work where his “upstanding” customers could witness it. Victor’s unwilling to have any physical contact with Red that isn’t locked behind playhouse doors or half a state away in his Galveston beach house.
But, Red’s new experiences teach him what’s most important. Sure, he can be Victor’s pet, but is that a way to live? Toby’s example was a big wake-up call, I think. Red needs to stand up for himself, take care of his sister (even when she makes life so difficult) and find the courage to live his life with a lover that finds him worthy. Thankfully, he does this before the books ends. There are a few scenes of D/s play, but I wouldn’t call them especially romantic. Victor and Red take some time away, and this brings the first real intimacy of the story–it is also near the end…and serves as a stark counterpoint to how different a loving relationship would look, by comparison.
The climax brings the disparate parts of Red’s life into close proximity. The fallout is a bit explosive, but it provides the proper reorientation for Red to get his life ordered. The ending is a strong Happy for Now, with definite glints of an HEA. I really liked the layers of character and plot, which had many points of resonance. I’d be eager to read on, and see what happens with Red, and even Victor and Toby.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the Author:
Courtney Maguire is a University of Texas graduate from Corpus Christi, Texas. Drawn to Austin by a voracious appetite for music, she spent most of her young adult life in dark, divey venues nursing a love for the sublimely weird. A self-proclaimed fangirl with a press pass, she combined her love of music and writing as the primary contributor for Japanese music and culture blog, Project: Lixx, interviewing Japanese rock and roll icons and providing live event coverage for appearances across the country. Her first novel, Wounded Martyr, is a 2019 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist in the Contemporary Romance: Short Category.