Please extend a warm welcome to John Inman and his latest release
My Dragon, My Knight
About the book:
Danny Sims is in over his head, torn between his abusive lover, Joshua, and Jay Holtsclaw, the bartender up the street, who offers Danny the one thing he never gets at home: understanding.
When Joshua threatens to get rid of Danny’s terrier, Danny knows he has to act fast. Afraid of what Joshua will do to the dog, and afraid of what Joshua will do to him if he tries to leave, Danny does the only thing he can do.
But Danny isn’t a complete fool. He has enough sense to run into the arms of the man who actually cares for him—the man he’s beginning to trust.
Just as their lives together are starting to fall into place, Danny and Jay learn how vengeful Joshua can be.
And how dangerous.
The young guy Jay knew only as Danny sat at the horseshoe bar, slowly sipping his beer. Jay figured Danny had to sip it slowly since his jaw was so swollen. The old queen across the way kept eyeballing Danny like he was in the market for a piece of fresh meat, but good grief, Danny was forty years younger than him. As pathetic as Danny looked at that moment, it was still doubtful he would be okay being schmoozed by a drunken Methuselah.
It was not yet . The bar was deserted aside from Danny, the old horndog, and him, Jay Holtsclaw, the bartender-slash-owner of the establishment known to the gay community of San Diego as The Clubhouse. Jay was cutting limes at the other end of the bar, minding his own business. But like any good bartender, he was also a perceptive guy. When he saw Danny squirming under the determined stares of old Rafe the Drunk, he decided to intervene. He grabbed up his bag of limes and his cutting board and positioned himself smack in front of the boy to block the old guy’s view. Once there, Jay proceeded to cut his limes as if nothing had happened. Danny watched him work, the kid’s blue eyes darting around, seemingly fascinated by the glints of light coming off the razor-sharp knife as it sliced through the fruit. Jay thought he saw a gleam of appreciation spark in Danny’s eyes for finding himself suddenly out of the line of fire of the old queen across the way.
Jay had seen Danny around occasionally, of course. Anyone as cute as Danny was bound to be noticed. He was usually on the arm of his lover, a slightly older guy. Not that old. Maybe in his early thirties compared to Danny’s twenty-two or twenty-three. Actually Jay didn’t know if the older guy was really Danny’s lover or not, but since they were always together, he figured it was a safe bet. Jay didn’t know the lover’s name. Didn’t think it was any of his business anyway.
“He’s harmless,” Jay said quietly, glancing over his shoulder at Rafe. “Don’t let it upset you.”
Danny jumped as if he’d been poked with a pin. “I—I know.”
When Danny jumped, he also winced. Clearly that puffed-up jaw was hurting like a mother.
Jay tapped his own jaw, commiserating. “Accident?” Being a bartender, you learn a lot about human nature. When Danny said, “Fell off my bike like a dumbass,” Jay knew immediately he was lying. He wasn’t sure how he knew—he just knew.
“Yep,” Jay said around a sympathetic chuckle, all the while appraising Danny wryly. “Only a dumbass would do something like that.”
Danny didn’t return the chuckle. He plucked a maraschino cherry out of the tray by the waiter’s station, unmanned at the moment since the joint had just opened. Jay was amused when the kid stopped in midchew as if just realizing what he’d done, stealing the cherry right out from under the boss’s nose.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said, looking stricken. “I didn’t think—”
Jay grinned. “Don’t worry about it. Help yourself.” With the kid’s embarrassment laid to rest, Jay went back to slicing the limes. “Seriously, though, bikes are tricky things. You need to be more careful.”
Danny took another sip of his draft. Jay suspected it was a nervous reaction more than thirst. Jay wasn’t sure, but he also suspected young Danny, for all his good looks and youth, was actually sort of shy.
When Danny mumbled, “I will,” it took all of Jay’s self-control not to reach over with a napkin and wipe the beer foam off the kid’s upper lip.
“Say,” Jay said, only half joking. “Are you old enough to be in here?”
Danny cocked an eyebrow and went through the motions of starting a smile, which was truncated by a flash of pain when his sore jaw came into play. He good-naturedly reached into his back pocket, pulled out his wallet, and slapped his ID on the bar.
Jay wiped his hands on a towel and picked up the ID, twisting around until some light fell on it. The kid’s name was Danny Sims. To Jay’s surprise, the kid was actually younger than he originally thought, although still of legal age. He was just coming up on his twenty-second birthday. According to his driver’s license, he was also five foot nine, had reddish-blond hair, blue eyes, and was cute enough that even the DMV couldn’t take a bad picture of him. As if he wasn’t photogenic enough, God had even sprinkled a few freckles across his nose.
Jay handed the ID back and recommenced cutting limes.
Old Rafe half fell off his barstool and stumbled off toward the bathroom in the back. Neither Jay nor Danny watched him go. The final insult for an aging queen.
Danny’s eyes were still centered on the stupid limes. “You have big hands,” he said quietly.
The statement surprised Jay, who stopped and stared at his hands for a minute as if suddenly realizing the kid was right. He did have big hands.
“Golly,” he said, “I guess I do.”
When he saw another flash of pain cross Danny’s face, Jay reached over and plucked a bottle of aspirin off the bar. He shook a couple out and laid them in front of the boy.
“Thanks,” Danny said, carefully poking the aspirin into his mouth before washing them down with another slug of beer.
“You didn’t fall off your bike,” Jay said conversationally. “Somebody whapped you. I can see four knuckle bruises on your jaw.”
Danny stared down into his beer, his eyes sad. “I’d rather not talk about it.”
“Okay, Danny. I didn’t mean to be nosy.”
Danny looked up. “How did you know my name?” Then he made a goofy face, sort of like a mental head slap. “Oh, you just saw my ID.”
Jay shrugged. “There’s that. But I’ve also seen you in here a few times. I’m good with names. Sometimes they just stick, whether I actually meet people or not. Once I hear them, I never forget them. Of course, then I turn around and forget to gas up the car and end up walking ten miles to get home.”
Danny laughed, or tried to. It obviously hurt so badly, he squirmed his ass around on the barstool like he was sitting on tacks.
“Wait a minute,” Jay said.
Turning away, he snatched up a clean towel from underneath the bar, scooped some crushed ice onto it, and wrapped it up in a tight little bundle before handing it over.
“Hold this to your jaw for a while. Maybe it’ll help,” Jay said. “It might even get the swelling down.”
Danny’s expression was somewhere between embarrassed and grateful, or quite possibly appalled, but he did as he was instructed.
“Thanks,” he said softly, closing his eyes when the cold began seeping into his aching jaw. By the ensuing sigh of relief, Jay felt certain the ice was indeed helping. He was even surer of it when Danny added, “This feels good.”
Jay went back to his limes.
First off, trigger warnings: Domestic Violence, physical, mental, and emotional abuse, and dubious consent.
This book is a lot darker than John Inman's usually sweet, funny, and somewhat fluffy romances. Sure, there's a bit of humor in this one too, and a sweet relationship as well, but there's a lot of darkness too. Quite a bit of suspense inside too, not in the usual whodunit sense, because it's clear from the start who the villain is, but I was on the edge of my seat for the last half of this book, because I knew, I just knew, that... well, you read this for yourself.
Danny Sims, one of the MCs, is in the above mentioned abusive relationship with his older boyfriend Joshua, asshole first class, and doesn't know how to escape the ever-tightening shackles he wears day in and day out. Having fallen into this trap, he now feels dependent on his abuser, without any friends or anyone to help him. My heart broke for him from the first chapter, and I hoped that he would find the courage to run.
Jay Holtsclaw is a bartender/owner of a bar not far from where Danny lives with his abuser, and takes a shining to the young man sitting at his bar with what is going to be quite a bruise on his jaw.
I liked Jay from the start. He was unassuming and kind, while at the same time only offering friendship to Danny, knowing that the younger man was in a relationship.
Danny's little dog is a thorn in the abuser's side, and when he goes after the dog one morning, Danny scoops up his pooch and runs.
Straight to Jay.
And Jay offers the safety of his arms and his home, and Danny learns to breathe again.
What develops next is a wonderful new relationship for these two as they make a home for Danny in Jay's mountain house. Their initial friendship slowly turns into more, and Danny learns that love is patient and kind and supportive and encouraging. Danny learns to trust.
The writing here is emotional and really tugged on my heartstrings. The more I found out about Danny's life with the abuser, the angrier I became, and the more I cried for this sweet young man trapped in such a loveless relationship, controlled by an abusive asshole who didn't know love at all. But I also smiled with Jay and Danny as they forged a new life together, rejoiced at Jay's tenderness and Danny's awe, and even giggled on occasion, though underneath all of those smiles and giggles, I feared. The author really kept me in suspense - again, not so much as to who was the villain, but as to what the hell he would come up with next. There was obviously the calm before the storm, then a few quick showers, and then all hell broke loose.
I cried hot tears for Ernie. Sweet, helpful Ernie who loved Jay so much and who gave it everything he had.
But when the storm finally came, I was also ready for the abuser to meet his well-deserved ending. Thank goodness for George.
Who's George? Well, you read and find out. I'll just say it was very fitting that George would be the one to deal the final blow.
So, yeah - darker than what I'm used to from this author, but oh so well plotted and written and oh so fantastic to read.
Get yourself a copy. It's available now from Dreamspinner Press.
** I received a free copy from the publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **
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About the author:
John Inman is a Lambda Literary Award finalist and the author of over thirty novels, everything from outrageous comedies to tales of ghosts and monsters and heart stopping romances. John Inman has been writing fiction since he was old enough to hold a pencil. He and his partner live in beautiful San Diego, California. Together, they share a passion for theater, books, hiking and biking along the trails and canyons of San Diego or, if the mood strikes, simply kicking back with a beer and a movie.
Find him on his website or on Facebook.
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