Burn Me, Jess Whitecroft
Rating: 4 Stars
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Addictions, Rock Band Members, Family, Long Lasting Love, OutFY/GFY/Sexually Fluid Theme
Length: 369 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com
When Daniel Macallan’s rock star brother Matt needs an intervention for his drinking problem, one of the first people to show up is Matt’s best friend and Daniel’s very first crush, tattooed rock god Rocco Ponti. Six months sober following a brush with death, Rocco knows a thing or two about the painful process of giving up drugs and alcohol, including one of the biggest rules – no relationships in the first year of recovery.
Thrown together again in their attempt to help Matt stay sober, Daniel and Rocco find themselves drawn closer and closer to one another, despite knowing that Rocco is damaged, dangerous, and that falling in love with him is like playing with fire.
Can they compromise and find their way, or will Rocco’s vulnerability send everything they’ve fought for up in smoke?
This book contains dark themes (addiction, depression, suicide) that some readers may find distressing.
I had my first real orgasm while thinking about Rocco Ponti. Not unusual, I guess. Rocco’s picture hangs pride of place in enough teenage bedrooms for him to have been the recipient of hundreds, if not thousands, of such tributes.
Daniel Macallen fell in preteen/teenage love and lust with his brother’s fellow band member and guitarist, Rocco Ponti, when Daniel was around twelve/thirteen. Rocco was this gorgeous older teen, and he played a mean Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring when he tried out for the band – instead of the umpteenth rendition of Stairway to Heaven. Having been in a band a million years ago, also known as the seventies, I can totally relate.
This is one of those books where an MC has kept holding a flame for someone when you know real life doesn’t tend to work that way. While I’m not saying everyone – look at politicians – most people tend to mature and change a hell of a lot between thirteen and thirty. But you know what? I actually kind of like the whole ‘I’ve always held a smoking hot torch for you’ trope. Sometimes, if I’m feeling me-centric, I think how nice it must feel to be so memorable that someone keeps you top of their loved-up mind. I also really like some emotion and psychology, so Burn Me promised a whole lot of Kazza gold. But Rocco has several lines of early dialogue that makes the reader aware that pussy is a magical peak. So, you know, GFY pinged hard and it’s not really my thing so I put the book down…. then I picked it back up because Jess Whitecroft wrote this and I seem addicted to her writing – apt for the book.
“We’ve been having…moments,” says Rocco, his fingers opening up gaps in mine, teasing and caressing.
“Moments?” There’s an echo in the room. I don’t look up. I keep looking down at our hands, at the delicate dance of fingertips taking place in the space between our thighs.
“Yeah,” he says, shifting on the seat, turning towards me. “Little…hot…moments.” His fingers walk up the side of my thigh and I can’t help myself any more. I look up and I’m already lost.
Apart from the flames of the relationship that is suddenly developing between the now thirty and thirty five year old Daniel and Rocco, and, hells bells, this book has its fair share of hot tamale sex, there is the serious arc of addiction. It’s handled well. Nothing sorted itself out instantaneously. The addiction is on two fronts, Rocco is six months clean at the beginning of Daniel and Rocco reacquainting themselves over an intervention, and the current intervention is for Matt, Danny’s brother, although the primary focus is always on Daniel and Rocco. Discussions about Rocco’s heroin use is upfront. His life before rehab wasn’t glossed over. He also hits a hiccup along the way, and there is the fear of Rocco not being able to be clean in the delicate first twelve months post rehab. It does appear that Rocco handles addiction related therapy with positivity, but you know Rocco has his demons too. Matt doesn’t deal with therapy terribly well. Besides, he’s Irish, and the Irish drink. End of. Therapy is just bullshit. Speaking of, I wasn’t fond of Rocco’s psychiatrist’s attitude, and she and I would have butted heads. Hey Claudia, there is such a thing as flexible delivery of therapy. I also found you judgemental. It’s better to have love with a stable person as your primary concern, and Daniel is stable, than other issues of addiction. You can inform patients of what’s a good idea and why, and they’ll still go off in another tangent, so you hit route recalculation and adjust the program – and you leave the judgement out of it.
“I can’t live my life in waiting for a time when I’m strong enough to cope with it, Daniel,” he says. “If I do that I feel as though I might never start living again. And you…” He starts to drop small, soft kisses all over my face – my lips, my eyelids, my forehead. I arch helplessly up to him, our cocks crushed between our bodies.
“You are life,” he whispers. “You’re a beating heart. You’re fire…and sweetness, and all the colors I thought I’d never be able to experience again.”
Sure it can go wrong, but I totally understood Rocco’s sentiment above – sometimes you need something to make you feel alive and not so flat, to look to more than one step at a time and the addiction in the back of your mind.
There’s also the relationship between brothers Daniel and Matt. It has some… difficulties. Daniel is angry about the way Matt has always found a convenient reach around for things from young. That he’s been snarky and rude and dismissive of Daniel, but somehow that’s been okay with the family. Matt being a rock star and millionaire by his early twenties hasn’t helped make anything easier, but they do love one another – in a rocky sort of way. Their relationship is quite typical sibling thorny, only with alcohol and stardom added to the mix. Daniel is, quite simply put, angry at his brother.
Matt hugs me too long and too tight, making my ribs ache and reminding me of how he used to be annoyed by the instruction to hold my hand all the time, so sometimes he’d crush my fingers until I let go. I can’t help but feel like he’s trying to goad me even now, so that we can have the fight that’s been hanging in the air for years and he’ll have a good reason to go off and get angry drunk.
Burn Me mostly spans a period of six months post Rocco’s rehab, a few flashbacks as to how the MCs met originally, and snippets of Rocco’s precarious time spent during heroin addiction. Now Rocco concentrates on things that make him happy – cooking, healthy living, enjoying time to smell the lilacs, and time spent with Daniel. Laughing with Daniel. Learning more about grown-up Daniel. Sex with Daniel. So yeah, it could be a big deal that Rocco and Daniel hook up within the first twelve months post rehab and during NA meetings. They both understand the risk of possibly substituting one feel good hit for another. If they split up it’s a potentially huge emotional trigger for Rocco.
This is torture. “Rocco,” I say, and it’s one of the hardest things in the world. “Don’t you see? Right there. I can’t be your new drug.”
Despite Rocco and Daniel having fear of Rocco using again in the background, they can’t keep away from one another for terribly long. Daniel has the initial added worry that Rocco is, perhaps, being curious about sex with him because he guesses Daniel likes him. Combine that with the fact that Rocco hasn’t had sex in two years, never with a guy, and it’s a recipe for straight guy gone wrongly bicurious. There’s the distinct possibility that when Rocco is acutally aware of what’s involved in sex with another man, with Daniel, he’ll run a mile. That definitely does not happen. Rocco embraces Daniel with gusto and while I was sceptical in the beginning, the relationship between the sensible and nerdy history podcaster and the ex wild-child rocker just works. I truly liked these guys together – they’re pretty damned incendiary, and they’re well suited outside the bedroom too.
All of the arcs come together, with some tension along the way, but there’s also the standard Jess Whitecroft humour to the fore which never allows the narrative to be maudlin.
“You licked…” I start to say, but that’s as far as I get, because the memory of it steals my breath away.
“I know I did. Your selfie made it look really tasty.” His smile is everything. “And it is, by the way, so – you know – congratulations on that.”
The author walks an adroit line between burgeoning love and romance, amazingly sexy times, a bit of a laugh, and being respectful of addiction. I’m totally in awe of Jess Whitecroft’s diverse range of books and characters so far.
Overall this is a well written book, the heart is often in the small details – the attention to pop culture, the historical and book references tying in the MCs and the contemporary so well. The primary reason this book gets 4 stars instead of 5 is because it absolutely would have been more powerful in regards to Rocco’s addiction if there were shared POV between the MCs, but this book is from Daniel’s POV only. Daniel is a good narrator, thorough, but I wanted more from Rocco’s perspective. One good example is when Rocco hits a depressive stage. I really would have liked to have known his inner battles up close and personal, more of what he was thinking at a deeper level, and not purely through Daniel’s eyes. I missed Rocco when he left for a little while. You have to bear my personal reasons for this in mind. Other people may not feel as passionate about it as I do, and the romance and the general story on page will be more than enough for most.
Summing up, I initially hit a snag and became a smidge unsure of Burn Me but the calibre of the writing, the storytelling, definitely the passion between Daniel and Rocco, really won me over. The story was good, interesting, I got sucked right in and pulled along. There’s plenty of feelings to keep you hooked, and humour, plenty of heat too – bring a bucket of ice – plus nice guys who work for their happiness. 4 Stars!
This still feels so much like a fantasy, but lately it’s been dawning on me that my fantasies about him were just that. All those years I thought I was in love with him, when I wasn’t. Not really. I couldn’t have been, because nothing that came before ever felt like this.
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