Killing is easy. Love is...The Hardest Thing
James Lear does Lee Child
Once a major in the U.S. Army, Dan Stagg fell afoul of Don't Ask Don't Tell. In his late 30s, tall, and muscular, Dan is prone to violence, always upholding what he views as justice. He's offered a great deal of money to protect the young male "secretary" of a powerful real estate broker. The vain, shallow - but most of all hot - young man's idea of protection includes sex. Dan quickly realizes something strange is going on: he's being used as a shield for a much more sinister operation and must choose between easy money and sex or the ideals that he embodied in the Army. Why should he do the right thing - particularly when the army betrayed him? The Hardest Thing is a sexy gay mystery as only James Lear can write it: filled with lots of gay sexual encounters, romance, sweat, violence, and conspiracy.
©2013 James Lear (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
Lots of sex. The main guy is Dan a former marine, he’s tough talking, tough acting. He isn’t particular about whom he has sex with. He takes a new job as a body guard for Stirling. Stirling is more effeminate. Half the story is these two traveling together. There are bad guys, guns, kidnapping, and escape. The plot was not fully developed, but good enough for a setting.
One scene had me laughing. Only in an erotic story would you see something like this. A has been kidnapped. His hands and feet are tied to a bed. The bad guy wants A to give him oral pleasure before he kills A. While A is doing this A is thinking “The harder I could make him, the more I played along with his fantasy, the better my chances of escape.”
At times I was tired of first person, being in Dan’s head sooo much. It’s like being with someone who talks too much. He was such a strong aggressive voice.
Annoying: the cover picture is wrong. Dan shaves his head. Cover guy does not.
The narrator Charles Carr was very good.
Genre: erotic gay male romance
Author James Lear is a great writing, in that he keeps story moving while providing great details about the characters and the storylines.
I loved Charles Carr voice. Very sexy and deep at times.
THE STORY: 4 and half stars
Dan Stagg, ex-Marine, is one fuck away from ending up on the streets. When he gets what seems like an easy job - 10 big ones up front and 20 more when he delivers the package, he thinks his luck has changed. Well, it has, but at a price he's not quite ready to pay. Especially when he's still grieving and embittered over the loss of his career and the only man he'd ever loved.
Despite the bittersweet overtones to both Dan's and Jodi's characters, The Hardest Thing is easily the most enjoyable book I've read this year and its audio version the best I've heard since I started listening to them earlier this year.
While there is romance and Lear and his hero sorta know there is more to life than one easy fuck to another, both happily make use of every situation to get one more fuck in for the reader. And I happily went along for the voyeuristic ride because Dan is about one of the most likeable characters I've come across in a long, long time. Lear has given me an MC I can sympathize and laugh with, and at, from one chapter to the next. The title of the book does make it sound like the start of a series and if so, I wonder whether Dan and Jodi will be the main couple, both fucking their way through one adventure after another.
THT is a fun, bawdy contemporary tale that had me both laughing at, and assessing, the character at the same time. I was getting exasperated at Dan for being unable to pass up a fuck while Jodi was sleeping off his exhaustion after being on the run, when Jodi has been abducted and Dan is supposed to be trying to rescue him; but Lear so cleverly wraps me around Dan's finger (or another appendage, rather) that I, who am particularly critical about inappropriately-timed sexual trysts in my romantic fiction, am prepared to be magnanimous on this occasion.
...because this is that type of book - smutty and rough, bursting with graphic sex and a hero whose self-deprecating humor made me putty in his hands.
Now, if Jodi were some sweet, innocent romantic counterpart to Dan, I guess I would have balked at Dan's tom-cat ways but Jodi can handle himself and taken together, this couple of gay characters make THT a very different type of gay romance that I normally read - and so much better than most. It has action, sex, suspense, sex, romance, sex. While pure porn can be boring and too many or lengthy sex scenes in MM romance gets me impatient to be moving on with the story, I enjoyed every sexual encounter Dan grabbed (in case it's the last fuck he'll ever get). Why? Because Dan is able to preempt every one of my reactions when his insatiable cock, yet again, zeroes in on a new ass like a diving rod.
Despite his promiscuous nature, I can believe that Dan has come to love Jodi towards the end of the book and is ready to move on from his grief of losing Will. I was given a subtle HFN but in this instance, it was sufficient for me.
What wasn't, though, and caused me to deduct half a star, is that the story is told completely from Dan's POV and, as usually happens, I don't get to know the second MC as well as the first. What I felt was needed in this case was an epilogue to give me a more balanced feel to the book. Especially when Jodi is not the man he led us all to believe he was. The Jodi Dan and we are introduced to at the start of the book is nothing like the young man we are left with. His subterfuge and lies were too casually dealt with for someone like Jodi who's fallen in love with someone like Dan.
This book does beg for a sequel, IMO, as I would like to know how Dan copes with the new man in his life and heart, is he going to carve out a new career or will he continue to eke out a living taking one odd job to another (Jodi isn't exactly low-maintenance). I'd like to know the effect Jodi's brain hemorrhage and the recent events have on him and his future with Dan.
I'd like to see Dan and Jodi move out of Jodi's Dad's house and into their own home so that Dan won't have to share the couch with the other biting critters that have taken up residence there.
THE NARRATOR: 5 stars!
Charles Carr did a fantastic job. His ability to give different voices to Dan and Jodi made it easy to distinguish between the two characters, or when it's Dan and the other secondary characters.
Carr's skill at communicating the relevant expression to his words is one other narrators ought to emulate. I've heard narrators who are so deadpan they have no business narrating anything and I've heard those with the sexiest voices ever (Boulton, LeFleur, Morey et al) but none of them do as great a job as getting the characters' personality or the author's intent across as well as Carr does.
More than 5 stars, for the narration and Audible is to be commended for this excellent production. If you're planning to listen to, or want to try, an audiobook, make it THIS one. It's at a special price of $3.99 right now if you're an Audible member. Otherwise, beg, steal, borrow or sell your body to get it.
I'm Audible's first Editor-at-Large, the host of In Bed with Susie Bright -- and a longtime author, editor, journo, and bookworm. I listen to audio when I'm cooking, playing cards, knitting, going to bed, waking up, driving, and putting other people's kids to bed! My favorite audiobooks, ever, are: "True Grit" and "The Dog of the South."
An ex-army bodyguard and a uppity rich kid in danger. James Lear has made an “homme-fatal."
Every sexual encounter moves the plot along at a brisk pace, Lear keeps it real.
There are lies and double crosses, and an edge-of-your-seat climax that had me biting my nails, and nearly weeping.
And can we just talk about narrator Charles Carr for a second? Hand this man an Audie Award right now.
His reading made me sweat! So much mastery of emotion and character. Sure he can seduce with the sex scenes, but his alpha-male voice for Dan Stagg, showing the cracks in the armor where he needed to was just stunning.
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