REVIEW: Damaged Hearts (#1 The Boys of Venice Beach) by Jan St. Marcus

The Official Description:
When 19-year-old military veteran Brandon Hawkins is attacked on Venice Beach by a gang of frat boys, he is saved by Michelangelo Curtis, a passerby.

Michelangelo was roaming the boardwalk grieving the death of his twin brother six months earlier. The two men’s unexpected encounter forges a strong bond between the damaged and lonely men.

Inviting the homeless Bran to his place for some food and a shower, 25-year-old Michelangelo finds himself drawn to the younger man. Neither of the men is gay. But before long, their friendship morphs into something like love and takes them both by surprise.

And they have something else in common: The frat boys are out for revenge.

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Just the facts: Publisher: SBPRA (Paperback), Blue Ascot Media (eBook), Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance, LGBTQ Romance, LGBTQ Fiction, Trope/s: Hurt/Comfort, First Time Gay, Themes: Rescue Me, Romantic Thriller, Heat Rating: 4 flames, Length: 138 000 words/ 466 pages, It is Book 1 of a planned Series

In the harsh world we inhabit, we could use more people like Michaelangelo! – Kinzie Things

My thoughts bit: 
This book is packed full of things that will make you think!

Here’s my brief synopsis of what happens. Brandon has been living on the streets since he left the Marines. He moved from foster home to foster home when he was a kid so the marines seemed like a place to find a home. He was traumatized by the events he lived through during his service and hasn’t managed to get back on his feet. One night, he’s hoping to get a slice of pizza left behind by some young men…and one of them spits on it.

This is when Michelangelo first appears. I would love to do what this character did! He walks up and engages the bigots. He threatens them with physical violence if they don’t leave… of course, they don’t. The interesting thing is that way that Michelangelo behaves after he has dislocated one of the men’s elbows: he calls the police, waits and asks Brandon if he wants to come home with him for a meal.

Michelangelo and Brandon have seen each other before, walking along Venice Beach. In fact, Brandon has always received money from Michelangelo’s. Something about the injustice of the pizza incident pushes Michelangelo to invite Brandon into his world. He’s not even sure why at first but goes with his instinct.

As the two men get to know each other… a slow-paced romance that felt very authentic, a video that Michelangelo took of the pizza incident has been uploaded (probably by the police) of it taking place. At this point things get interesting! It turns out that Michelangelo works for the NSA. He calls his minder and the wheels being to turn for “taking care” of the video. (His identity will be scrubbed away).

The author made an interesting choice at this point in the plot. Once the relationship between Michaelangelo and Brandon is established (a friendship) the author switched to the POV of several other characters in the story. There is Devon who is Michelangelo’s minder, Travis is a detective persuaded to be involved in finding the men in the video, Grant is the individual who had his elbow dislocated during the pizza incident.

Now, while most of these POVs were interesting, I have to say that I found it a little confusing at times. I found myself having to go back to the chapters headings to remind myself of whom I was reading about. All these characters were interesting, I just found it a little difficult to keep track of the various narratives. Don’t get me wrong, the different perspectives were all interesting, but it felt like a bit too much for one story if that makes sense.

I would caution people to read the warnings I have listed below. There were a few things in this novel that made me uncomfortable. In particular, I never like to read about an animal being hurt in any way! Wouldn’t make me choose not to read the book, just a warning for folks like me!

St. Marcus tackles some important issues in this book. There is a lot of focus on Brandon’s service in the marines and how he was simply released after a traumatic incident. Sure, there might be help available for him but there are times when people are so lost that they can’t even find the path to the assistance they need. Michelangelo has lost his identical twin and the author explores the void that is left in a twin’s life after such a tragic occurrence. St. Marcus also explores the interesting phenomenon of people videoing violent events and the way that it goes viral. What  St. Marcus does a great job of is exploring what happens to everyone involved in a viral video.

So! Like I said, there’s a lot going on in this book! There are multiple themes explored by the author, there’s a very solid, authentic relationship evolving, and the reader is introduced to several really interesting characters.

I would definitely be up for reading more by this author! Can’t wait to see how their style progresses

Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) Quite a fair amount of fat-shaming, violence, bigotry, bullying, extreme physical assault resulting in serious injuries, a dog is a victim of physical abuse, death of an identical twin and the mourning that follows, descriptions of active engagement in military action including death and injury, depictions of severe anxiety and panic attack resulting in unconsciousness.



But a little ways down, the pizza joint is just closing down. They have those ridiculously big slices of pizza and most people who don’t weigh at least three hundred pounds can’t finish their slices. Fuck the hot dogs. Half of a giant slice of pizza will do me just fine. Besides, trying to remember to say “catsup” instead of “ketchup” would make my brain hurt. And if I’m being honest, I do see the frat boy douchebags laughing and being all loud and douchey, but I really want to see if they’ll leave some of their slices uneaten. So I hang back a little and pretend to be looking for something on the ground. After about a minute or so, they drop their slices on the counter and start walking away. Score! I walk towards where they left their pizzas with my head down, like I haven’t noticed what they left for me. They’re about twenty feet away when one of them turns back and clocks me checking out their pizza. The fat one grabs the other one’s arm and points to me. I look up and see them seeing me seeing their pizza. Did that make sense? Fuck it. So anyway, as soon as they notice me, I kind of figure that they are going to be douchebags about their pizza, but I hold out hope. The fat one doesn’t need any more pizza, that’s for sure, but my stomach is getting the better of me, so I speed up a little bit. They’re closer and they return to the counter, beating me there by three steps.

Then the fat one, who seems to be the leader of this fucked-up pack of douchebags, picks up what’s left of his slice and lifts it up in my direction, like he’s offering it to me. Really? Maybe they aren’t such douchebags after all. I lift my eyes and start to smile. I’m going to thank him. I’m actually going to say “Thank you.” I do manage to smile as I approach because I realize that I haven’t said two words to anyone all day. He looks me in the eye and when I start to reach out my hand, he hocks a big ol’ lugey and splats it right on the pizza. Then he holds it out like I still want it. Okay, I know it’s probably gross, but I do still want it. His aim was pretty good and the glob of spit and snot has landed pretty much in the middle of the slice. But I could tear the pizza around the gross part and still have a pretty good amount of food. So I reach for it and he must have seen my eyes studying the pizza because he hocks another one and it lands on one of the good sides. He starts laughing and then his friends start laughing and they’re staring at me and laughing like it’s the funniest thing in the world. Assholes.

I turn around, about to say, “Fuck my life” again when one of the other guys apologizes and offers me his piece. It’s not as big as the fat guy’s, but it still looks good to my hungry young ass. And I can’t believe I am so hungry that I start to walk back over and take it, but I do. You can probably guess that he does the same thing his leader does and hocks a lugey and spits on his piece, too. My stomach growls with as much anger as I am feeling and I turn around and start walking back towards the boardwalk. It’s going to be a long night.

Their laughing stops and I hear a deep voice talking to them. “Why would you do something like that? What kind of asshole do you have to be to fuck with someone who is obviously hungry?”

As I turn around, I see the fat guy step in front of the other guy, who is six inches taller, and the frat-boy leader guy speaks in this bullshit little sing-song voice: “What business is it of yours, asshole?”

The guy just stands there, hands by his sides, not seeming to be bothered by the fact that there are three of them. Then he laughs. He looks right at the fat-assed guy and laughs.

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About the Author

Jan has been a professional writer since he 15 and got a job writing for a local paper in the Washington, D.C. area. Since that time, he has travelled the world and enjoyed a myriad of experiences, meeting interesting people and sharing epic experiences. He is currently a full-time professional photographer and completed his first novel, DAMAGED HEARTS, the first book in a series partially inspired by his experiences living and working in Venice Beach, California.

Author Links

Blog/Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

ratings legend

I received an ARC of Damaged Hearts by Jan St. Marcus via Gay Book Promotions in exchange for an unbiased review.

Contact: TWITTER: @gaybookpromo INSTAGRAM: @gaybookpromotions WEB:

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