Book Title: Now or Never
Author: Helena Stone
Publisher: Helena Stone
Cover Artist: Emmy Ellis
Release Date: August 23
Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance
Trope/s: Hurt Comfort, Older Virgin, Distant (not quite enemies) to lovers
Themes Self acceptance
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: approx. 69 000 words/ 192 pages
It is part of a series but can be read alone.
Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited
When the past intrudes, can two lost souls forge a future together?
Karl’s carefully erected walls are crumbling. Giving up sex and relationships made perfect sense when he was eighteen. For a decade, he poured all his time and effort into his flourishing career. Doubts crept in the first time Karl met Leo and now, after two years of avoiding him, Karl is in charge of training Leo.
Leo loves his life in The Blowhole. Entertaining the guests during explicit shows under Roger’s guidance meets Leo’s needs and keeps his demons at bay. When Roger leaves, Leo’s job expands but he’s assigned to work with Karl, the General Manager who appears to detest him, and Leo’s anxiety blossoms. It wouldn’t be so bad if Leo hadn’t been attracted to Karl from the first moment he saw him.
Two men. A truck-load of insecurities and an attraction that can’t be denied. When the full horror of Leo’s past comes to light, will their fledgling connection be strong enough to weather the storm?
Karl approached the table, put the white ball on its spot, bent his large frame forward, and took his shot. Karl’s cue action was so powerful, the colored balls parted as if a fuse had been lit underneath them. Leo fully expected at least a few of them to disappear into the pockets, but much to his surprise, none went down.
“Your turn.” Karl stepped back from the table.
“I’m spoiled for choice.” Leo grinned as he got in position for his first shot. He picked his ball, pulled back his cue arm and gently rolled the red ball into the pocket behind it.
A few minutes later, after he’d pocketed all the solid colors as well as the winning black eight-ball, Leo straightened and turned to Karl, unable to keep himself from smirking.
“Fair enough.” Karl laughed. “That’s my arse well and truly handed to me.” He approached the table, gathered the balls and set them up for the next game. “No more Mister Nice Guy.”
It took all Leo had not to spray his mouth full of Bacardi and Coke across the room. Until recently ‘Mister Nice Guy’ would have been the last words he’d have used to describe Karl. Then again, the Karl he’d worked with these five past days had been kind, patient, and accommodating. If it hadn’t been for the few times Leo had caught Karl staring at him with a slight frown on his face, Leo would have thought he’d only imagined Karl’s remoteness in the past.
Afraid he’d lose himself in his mostly inexplicable thoughts again, Leo returned his glass to the shelf and approached the table. After he put chalk on the tip of the cue and made sure the white ball was in the right spot, Leo bent forward. For a moment he swayed, and he had to reposition his feet to get his balance right. Then he moved his arm back and gave it his all as he shot the white ball toward the triangle of colored and striped balls, fervently hoping at least one of them would go down.
“Damn.” No such luck. Leo turned around, fully expecting to find Karl smirking at him, only to find Karl’s gaze fixed on his…groin?
Karl raised his head and stared at Leo, clearly shocked by his brusque tone. Leo understood his surprise: he wasn’t sure where that sound had come from, either. The red flush on Karl’s cheeks, on the other hand, was unexpected.
Leo took a long drink from his glass as soon as he reached it before facing the table so he could watch Karl pot the first striped ball. Was he really looking at my package? Leo side-eyed his cocktail, wondering if it had been a drink too many after all. Surely there was no possible scenario in which Karl, the man known for never showing any sexual preference or interest, would be checking Leo out?
As Leo’s mind spun with unanswerable questions, Karl continued potting balls, one after the other. Just as Leo had in the previous game, he looked set to clear the table in one visit. Leo smiled. Karl was a worthy opponent.
“Fuck.” Karl whispered the word under his breath, but not too soft for Leo to hear him.
One glance at the table told Leo what Karl’s problem was. Karl only needed to pot the black in order to win. But, the white and the black ball were positioned in such a way that unless Karl shot the white at two or three cushions before hitting the black, it would take quite a stretch to make the shot.
Karl took up position next to the table and lifted his left leg, resting it on the edge, before bending at the waist and stretching.
Leo had meant to watch the shot. He’d had no intention of focusing on Karl, but he did, and his breath faltered for a moment. The material of Karl’s black pants gripped the thigh that rested on the table, showing the faint outline of muscles. And…Dear God…Karl’s arse was glorious under the stretched fabric.
Karl straightened and Leo snapped out of his daze. He threw a quick glance at the table and saw the black ball had disappeared. In the end, he hadn’t even seen Karl make the shot. Because you were too busy admiring his arse. Leo almost groaned out loud when he remembered how he’d wriggled when he’d lined up his shot to start the game. Karl had been looking at an arse, too, which was at the same height as Leo’s groin. So when Leo had turned…
MY REVIEW: This is my first book by Helena Stone and I quite enjoyed it. This is the third book in Stone’s Blowhole series; however, it can be read as a standalone. I haven’t read the previous two books and had no trouble understanding the plot. There may be a bit more of an introduction to the Blowhole and what kind of resort it is in the first two books. It was easy enough to figure out though so no worries!
Karl is the general manager at the Blowhole. He deals with the non-BDSM side of the resort. He’s great at his job and it takes up most of his time. He’s been celibate since he was a teenager. A painful relationship experience left him reeling and it seemed easier to just give up. He’s buried himself in his work.
At the beginning of the novel, Leo is working as a sub to his friend Roger. They put on demonstrations in the BDSM club. Leo has found his safe place at the resort. He’s always thought Karl disliked him… because the general manager seems to avoid him at all costs.
The problem is that both these men are physically attracted to one another. Yes, it’s a problem. Karl doesn’t want to complicate his life by trying to have a relationship and Leo thinks that Karl dislikes him intensely and has a past that complicates his decisions to become intimate with people.
I’m not going to spoil the plot by writing about what has happened in the past of both men, because it’s definitely with a read. However, I would have loved just a bit more character development. The two main characters make some life-changing decisions in their lives and I felt as though I didn’t quite understand their choices. I think it’s a good thing that I’m curious about the characters because I feel like that means I connected with them on some level.
It looks as though the first two books in the series are similar and will let readers know the backstory of two couples who feature in this novel! Please read the warnings as there’s a lot of heavy subject matter in this book.
About the Author
Helena Stone can’t remember a life before words and reading. After growing up in a household where no holiday or festivity was complete without at least one new book, it’s hardly surprising she now owns more books than shelf space while her Kindle is about to explode.
The urge to write came as a surprise. The realisation that people might enjoy her words was a shock to say the least. Now that the writing bug has well and truly taken hold, Helena can no longer imagine not sharing the characters in her head and heart with the rest of the world.
Having left the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam for the peace and quiet of the Irish Country side she divides her time between reading, writing, long and often wet walks with the dog, her part-time job in a library, a grown-up daughter and her ever loving and patient husband.
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