Fighter, Carol Lynne

Fighter: (A Gay Romance) (The Brick Yard Book 1) by [Lynne, Carol]
This was tumultuous to say the least.  So many highs and lows that I wasn't sure how to feel about it when I finished reading the book.  I knew I liked it, but how much?  Not exactly sure.  One thing is clear, however, and that's that I'm still thinking about the book.  That by itself says that it's not just a good book, but that it's moving as well.  There are so few light and happy moments that it's difficult to praise with happier feeling words but words like heartfelt, captivating, and great still apply.  This truly was all of those things as well as being dark, painful, heartrending, and cruel.  I'm invested.

Lucky is so terribly damaged by a mother so evil that I don't have words to describe just how cruel and horrible she is.  At one point in the story I find myself hoping that Lucky can find healing through forgiving her until she shows her true self when Dray finds her for answers.  Nope, there will be no redemption for that woman.  Unfortunately, Lucky is in the position of having to bear the weight of his past and her sins all on his own shoulders.  He's absolutely sure that he's not worth loving or fighting for.  Fighting comes easily though.  Not for his self-worth, his pride, to find acceptance among strangers, or even for freedom, no, Lucky fights because that's the only place he can relate to himself.  It's clear, though, that he doesn't really know who he's supposed to be because no one has shown him what he could be, only what he can do in terms of the cage.  So how is he supposed to figure it out when the people who see him and see his potential only see what he can do for the sport?  When does the sport become a cage in itself?

Dray is very familiar with cages.  He hides is sexuality because he knows no one will respect or embrace a gay fighter.  So when he's outed by someone he thought he could trust, he runs.  But not before leaving some parting advice to a young Lucky.  That advice does more harm than good when Lucky takes it to heart.  To bury a fundamental part of yourself because fighting is more important than being proud of who you are.  So when Dray drops that nugget of stupidity on him and then bolts it's a long time before Dray can see just what he did to compound Lucky's difficulties.

Brick is a solid man, a gruff, crotchety man with the most tender heart.  His heart isn't really something you notice until you see that he wasn't investing in fighters, he was investing in humanity.  In caring for something and someone beyond your own self.  When he becomes ill and Lucky needs help, they call on Dray to help out.  While everyone struggles with Brick's illness they all  find out just who he is and what he's done for others throughout his life.  It also sheds light on possibilities for Dray and Lucky's future.

The relationship drama isn't exactly what I was expecting.  I thought maybe Vince would make an appearance, maybe someone from Lucky's past, and the synopsis hinting at Dray's penchant for running away, another unintentional outing...the list goes on.  What did happen was organic to the storyline and the difficulties written.  The pairing is good and there are some definitely steamy moments but the intimacy that was important wasn't the sex, it was more about the comfort, healing, closeness that Lucky was completely inexperienced with and that Dray had to teach him about.

The synopsis isn't inaccurate, but it is a bit misleading.  Well, a lot misleading because the major parts of the story really aren't mentioned in the lengthy blurb.  So I was a little surprised.  Good surprised?  Kind of, but how can you be happy about all the awful that is revealed?  Does the awful stuff that happens make this book depressing?  A little, I guess, but more because you see a darker side of humanity than you would typically encounter and with it comes the consequences of those actions and how individuals are affected and changed by it.  Overall, though, the book was gritty and dramatic and also sanguine because there was so much love and hope.  All the darker elements made the tenderness really shine through.

Thank you, NetGalley for this ARC which I most willingly read and reviewed.

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