Bruising Love, Adara Wolf
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Publisher: Self Published
Tags: Dark Gay Genre Fiction, Atypical Romance, Interracial MCs, Sado-Masochism,
**TW: On Page Violence, Kink, Bloodplay, Knifeplay, Non-Consensual Incest. Themes of CSA, Self-Harm, Drug Use
Length: 270 Pages
Purchase At: amazon
The only good thing in Jay’s life is pain. He seeks it out, he craves it. Mixing pain and pleasure? All the better. Physical pain helps him ignore the mess that is the rest of his life: a shit job, an abusive father, and a mother who isn’t all there. He can coast through life as long as he’s got pain.
That’s what makes Takuya perfect for him: violent and dangerous, Takuya only cares about furthering his yakuza group’s goals. Too bad Jay doesn’t do repeats. Too bad Jay has no interest in tying himself to anybody.
But stubbornly clinging to his independence doesn’t make Jay’s life any easier. As things spiral out of control, the only one who could possibly save him might possibly be more dangerous than what Jay is running from.
Note: This book contains dark themes with potentially triggering topics, including themes of CSA and self-harm. Read at your own discretion.
First of all I want to say that I’m so glad I found this book. I’d rated a number of books 1 and 2 stars and DNF-ed several others before it. I was in such a reading slump and this book took me out of that. It’s an immersion in trigger warnings. **See TW tags above and I may have left some out. Reader beware. This is a nasty book. Know what you like or don’t like before picking it up.
Jay (Jason) is twenty-three and dangerously pinballing through life. He bumps up against one rough fuck and then into another. His best friend – his only friend – is Becca, a drug addict. He likes Becca because she says nothing about what he does to himself. She doesn’t ask ‘irritating’ questions about the bruises that constantly adorn his face, neck, the rest of his body. She doesn’t say anything about him fucking guys in bathrooms at nightclubs and being beaten up, specifically at their local hangout, Club Wisteria. She lets him stay at her rundown shared house close to the local nightlife but does hassle him about staying again at Jay’s father’s house – the mansion – where there’s a pool and plenty of luxury. She doesn’t understand why Jay won’t stay there and take her with him again. The reality is that Becca just doesn’t care as long as she has drugs, nightclubs, and her own brand of fun, and that mostly suits Jay.
Bruising Love starts with Jay having a violent fuck in a filthy bathroom at Club Wisteria. It ends up with the guy he’s hooked up with having the crap beaten out of him by an Asian man in a suit. Jay offers himself to the new man because he hasn’t gotten off and he wants more pain. After the beating of his original hook-up, the suit seems like he can definitely give Jay more of what he likes. This is the start of a relationship between Jay and Takuya, the latter being the Wisteria Group President. He manages Club Wisteria in California as part of the Dojima Group. The Dojima Group being the respectable name for a yakuza gang.
Jay doesn’t care if he lives or dies and his attitude interests Takuya. Takuya is bi but he finds Jay intriguingly crazy. He can take a lot of pain and punishment and gives good head and intense sex. He appreciates that he’s able to do what he wants to him – choke him, belt him, use a knife on him – and Jay comes back for more when he feels like it. Jay doesn’t offer exclusivity to Takuya and he doesn’t ask for it in return. And Jay does stay away at times because he doesn’t usually do people more than once. Jay doesn’t want to be close to anyone, is incapable, but this time not only does he really like the pain Takuya offers, the rough sex is the cherry on top. The seeming indifference of it all, while paradoxically having an odd connection, adds appeal to Jay. Takuya likes that Jay is not interested in whatever he does as part of his job. Jay isn’t the only one who likes some indifference.
Jay is a prep chef at a Mexican restaurant, about the only stability he has in his life is that he likes cooking. Mostly, though, Jay looks for hard sex and pain. He’s quite resignedly robotic. Dissociative. Emotionally chaotic. His past (and present) is pretty awful. Jay lives with his father while trying the hardest he can to be anywhere but home. However, he feels responsible for his mother, who can only be described as a delusional hot mess. His need to rescue his mother keeps him continually enmeshed with his creepy as fuck father.
Takuya is not a good guy. He has callous disregard about people’s lives at the best of times, he’s murderous at worst. He sees most people as a commodity or a means to an end. He’s been involved in trafficking. There are girls at the club who are there to sell sex and plenty of alcohol and services to the clients, and they have to meet targets or they’re disposed of. He makes no promises to Jay but you can see his level of interest in someone who cares so little about themselves, who also doesn’t just hang off Takuya because of his connections, and the enjoyment he gets out of being brutally physical with him. He also has one of his bodyguards run a check on Jay’s background. On the surface he’s the son of a wealthy doctor, so why is he so hellbent on this destructive life? Their lives do collide on another level with a pharmaceutical deal happening between some American entrepreneurs and the Dojima Group. Takuya is charged with making it all fall into place.
What worked for me with the writing in Bruising Love is that it keeps you at arm’s length from both MCs, especially true of Jay. It adds an unreal feel to the painful and perverse details of someone’s life playing out recklessly in front of you. Just out of reach. Nothing you can do but watch it unravel. It adds an unnerving quality.
There are a couple of things that made me think about the overall rating. I enjoyed the hell out of it. But it could have done with a second set of proofreading eyes. There could have been extra depth added to a few things, especially the pharmaceutical deal because it’s vague and basically a device to add a dark knight moment. I did enjoy that dark knight moment though, so there is that. This book suited my mood. Picked me up out of a slump. I enjoyed my time in this world. I’m plenty grateful for that.
Bruising Love is not one of those pseudo “dark” books where there’s still a relatable-to-most romance at the core. The relationship suits the story, which means it isn’t pretty and it is intense. There is no pretence at fixing Jay, of redeeming Takuya, oh how I appreciated that. There is no HEA, but I guess you could call it a HFN between two atypical MCs. I respect the author’s pedal to the metal style. Go big or go home, in this reader’s opinion, if you’re going to write dark stories. Sometimes I like pseudo-dark but mostly I like dark-dark and that’s what Bruising Love and Adara Wolf delivered… some delicious dark-dark. 4.5 Stars!