Hush (The Manse #4), Lynn Kelling
Rating: 5 Stars
Publisher: Enspire Publishing
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: BDSM – Intense, Multiple Partners, Revenge, Drama, Deaf MC, Interracial, Erotic Romance, Social Commentary
Length: 398 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Rune Tooby is a smartass rebel and closeted member of motorcycle gang, The Born Soldiers, who enjoyed casual sex and less-than-legal employment before a pickup truck filled with homophobic white supremacists intentionally rammed into his bike, destroying his hearing and shattering his life. Learning to move forward as someone who is deaf and doesn’t speak presents challenges that quickly overwhelm Rune’s ability to cope, sending him to humbly ask for help from the only place left in which he trusts completely—the rich and powerful Dominants of Manse who once trained him in the arts of BDSM. While Rune desperately searches for simple human connection and kindness, cocky day trader and Dom Oliver Hughes lives a life of indulgent luxury that has left him feeling adrift, unneeded, and without purpose, mostly because his beloved submissive, Jackson Whitney, is happily married with kids, a demanding career as a cardiologist, and little time or attention for his Master. When a meeting between Rune and Oliver is carefully arranged by the men of Manse, it’s just the beginning of the wild ride that carries away everyone who gets too close to the explosive pair, leading them on a path filled with constant communication challenges, rage-filled vengeance, painfully unearthed secrets, Rune’s total willingness to put himself in harm’s way to aid those in need, and Oliver’s horror at having to endure Rune’s quest, or face losing him forever.
This book. Wow! Just wow! Lynn Kelling floors it with this story and these men. There is so much unbridled passion and emotion, so much push-pull. I loved it. It’s 398 pages of riveting reading.
Rune Tooby was targeted in a hate crime for being gay. After being rammed off his bike, losing skin which he’s tattooed over as much as he can, he’s left deaf, living at the Born Soldiers MC club in a storage closet in his world of silence and rage. His closest friend at the club, Max, tries as best he can to communicate and look out for Rune, but Rune thinks daily of taking his own life.
Sometimes he just pointed the one hundred percent real gun he owned and always carried at the underside of his chin instead, finger on the trigger, safety off, chamber loaded waiting to see if he’d do it.
He’d been hiding in that closet for almost a year, with the dusty boxes and other forgotten, unneeded things.
There is nothing anchoring him to this life now… except anger at what the men in a light blue truck did to him. Rune approaches David Davenport, the owner of exclusive BDSM club Manse, to see if there is someone who can give him the release and connection he wants through submission. He used to sub for another Manse Dom, Elet, once upon a time, but Elet is not the right fit. David calls in Oliver Hughes as he believes he is the right person. He doesn’t tell the Dom anything about the man he wants him to take under his wing until they’re both at Manse in person. When Oliver sees Rune he initially thinks he’s his personal wet dream, that he’ll be the same for Jackson, all bad-boy demeanour, lithe, and tattooed… but there’s something else about him. David insists on a contract and that Oliver knows who and what he is signing up for, as much as someone can sum Rune up easily. Rune is deaf and needs someone who can use sign language cues and won’t rush into anything that will ramp up Rune’s difficult life experiences. David wants to make sure his selected Dom needs this too. It has to be something real. Something and someone quite tough but grounded.
He wanted someone like Elet, who scared him half to death, knowing exactly what the man was capable of doing to him, and gladly so. He wanted someone who’d take all his shit without batting an eye, turn it around, and use it to keep him in place, where he’d be safe, seen, and understood. He needed to get the rage out. He needed someone willing to kick his ass.
Oliver already has a submissive, Jackson Whitney. Jackson is a cardiologist, ten years Oliver’s senior, with a lot of responsibility on his plate – busy practice, patients who sometimes die, a father-in-law with dementia, two children, a mortgage, a black man in contemporary America. He also has a happily open marriage with wife Josefina. Oliver provides support with the sex Jackson needs to let go and unwind, and a safe place where he doesn’t have to be in control. Jo has her own lover on the side who satisfies her extra needs. Everyone involved is comfortable and mature about an open, poly relationship. Yet Oliver is looking for more. Jackson has his family, they’re understandably his first priority, and Oliver wouldn’t change that for Jackson. Jackson’s family isn’t what Oliver needs anyway. He needs to be needed, he wants excitement, extra connection, something that is primarily his. He wants the raw bad-boy David Davenport has placed in front of him.
Oliver was a patch on the crack in Jackson’s perfect world, not a partner. And as far as Adam went a friendship didn’t make a life.
No matter how soundly Jackson slept in that bed, within the hour he expected Oliver to wake him so he’d be home before the children woke and noticed his absence. And once again, Oliver would be alone.
Rune tilts everything in Oliver’s calm, controlled existence on its axis. Oliver and Rune, the Dom and his sub, clash. Yes, they do. But it makes their connection so much more. Rune doesn’t trust a soul. Rune doesn’t feel like he belongs anywhere. Rune is reckless and on a mission to exact revenge for what happened to him, he’s concerned for the safety of others that these neo-nazis are targeting, destroying. Jackson understands how a minority can be persecuted, he felt it growing up. He still sees people’s bigoted behaviour and he admires Rune for his stance, but he also feels it’s pulling Oliver off-balance. Oliver has fallen for Rune and Rune doesn’t see it. Can’t see it. He doesn’t see what his desire for payback at all costs is doing, the repercussions on the people who care about him now in his life.
Adam, from bare, the sequel to this book, is also an integral part of Hush. He is Oliver’s best friend and he is also a Dom. They have a very… tactile relationship. They’re also used to a voyeuristic connection and very aggressive and intense BDSM scenes, sharing a sub when Oliver wants certain scenes – this includes Jackson and, now, Rune. Adam likes to take photos. He sees critical emotion through the lens. He also uses the photos to create his art. Initially Rune is confused by Adam and protective with Oliver in regards to him. Jackson he knows and understands and feels comfortable with – he’s Oliver’s sub and part of what they share. Adam adds another dynamic, which is peaked by Adam’s quiet but sudden injection into their world and Rune’s deafness.
The sex in this book is interesting and inventive. It can be very touching between Oliver and Rune and it can be very aggressive and dark, angry and punishing between them, including a couple of scenes with Adam. There are times the sex is deeply intimate, there are times it is hot as Hades, and there are times the sex made me gasp as I read. It is well written no matter which direction it took – a lot will depend on what you are personally okay with.
“There is something there. Can’t quite put my finger on it. I saw it when I walked in last night, with blood splattered everywhere, before he knew I was there, when you were rage-fucking him. The act itself was brutal, but Rune… he welcomed it. Trusted you. And this morning? He hated me for interrupting like that.”
I liked how Rune’s deafness is treated with care by the author but not at Rune’s expense. Rune may be understandably brittle, but he is never incapable or a hothouse flower. I liked that the book shows there is a life after trauma, that there are choices for Rune, and for those who care about him – in this case ASL, which Oliver and Jackson both learn, lip reading, using lights as a means to visually show someone is entering a room. Oliver gets a tutor for himself and Rune so they can communicate more effectively when no screens are around. Even surgery is a possible option if Rune wants it – but it isn’t a given that is what Rune wants.
That Rune and Oliver have an unconventional relationship that includes two other men – Jackson and sometimes Adam – could have been messy, but it isn’t. It works unbelievably well. It’s not something that can be explained in a review, it’s something that has to be experienced. They also have some deeply intense scenes. I mean hardcore BDSM. It hurt me to read it sometimes, but it works for them, it’s organic to this story, and the outcome was always positive for all concerned.
Even though Rune went in search of something and someone who could be special, Rune is incredibly feisty, gritty, untrusting. However, when he’s with Oliver, when there are unguarded moments, I loved Rune’s vulnerability and Oliver’s complete appreciation of it.
Even when Adam was in a scene with Oliver and Rune there could be such personal and tender moments between the MCs. ASL allows Rune and Oliver to share declarations of love without Adam being privy to their private thoughts and feelings, even though he was just part of some intense sex with them both. Without the reciprocity of the unbridled passion and emotion between the two, and Oliver understanding where Rune was coming from, it wouldn’t have worked. Without Jackson’s support and words, without Adam’s loyalty and friendship, without Rune’s intensity, this relationship wouldn’t have worked. But it does work because these men all give necessary pieces of themselves. And it’s perfect.
Rune struggles with being connected to someone else. Prior to the attack he was used to casual sex. He’s always been used to going it alone, even though he’s still a member of the Born Soldiers. Until later in the book, they didn’t know he was gay and why he was specifically targeted. Even after the declarations of love between himself and Oliver, Rune still defies Oliver and Oliver’s need, his own need, with his obsessive desire for righting wrongs through vigilantism – searching, at all costs, for the light blue truck. Using the police scanner for nearby violence so he can do something about it. For some time keeping secrets from everyone in his life. This brings a despair to Oliver who has fallen completely for Rune. Rune still feels he is disposable and it makes him do things someone emotionally tethered wouldn’t. It brings a sadness and also violence to their door.
Rune’s quest was noble, understandable, rash, and dangerous. For someone with nothing to lose, it made sense. But Oliver was too proud to tell him he no longer existed free of ties. Because if Rune couldn’t feel it on his own, there was really nothing to say.
It was the futility of it all that hurt the most. Gasping, head fallen back, he finished, “He doesn’t even care.” What the hell was Oliver supposed to do? Let Rune kill himself? Not give a fuck? He’d given the ultimatum. Rune had chosen. He chose more pain and revenge over Oliver. It was done.
Lynn Kelling has the writing skills to allow readers right into the midst of the rationale and behaviours and actions of her always interesting and often diverse characters. They never feel anything but real. It always seems so personal. She shares a love and passion that only a few others can capture or deliver. The emotion, the inspiration, the rawness of her words and her characters are always honest. Hush is one of her most open and emotionally complex and intense books to date. It isn’t pretty at times and some of the sex scenes had me feeling pain as I read, but they were amazing, sometimes hot, other times a tad brutal. No matter what, it fits who these men are. I also have a new appreciation for Adam from bare. I’m going back to reread that book with some new perspective, no hardship for me because I loved Adam and Ev. Just for the record, it is not necessary to have read any other book in this series to enjoy Hush.
If you’ve read my review and you’re teetering on the edge of interest in this book, in this author, maybe taking a walk on the edgier MM side, download a free sample and give it a try. I remember when I first read Lynn Kelling, it was Arctic Absolution, and I’ve been hooked ever since. If, like me, you already enjoy Lynn Kelling’s writing, if you love some edginess to your MM or gay romance reading. If you want a more fierce love, and BDSM – and it can be damn fierce – and a relationship that is not cheating but not monogamous, is very erotic, and definitely interesting, page-turning, Hush delivers a well written, complex and potent story. 5 Stars!
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