Saturday, April 14, 2018

Wheels and Heels by Jaime Samms

As a teenager, Ira Bedford fled a troubled home life and people who didn’t understand his penchant for feminine things. In the city, he fell in with Cedric, who found him work as an underage stripper. It took him years to escape Cedric’s influence and try to build a life of his own.

Now, he just wants to be left alone to create his art. But Cedric’s on-going harassment means Ira had to drop out of art school, is squatting in a friend’s apartment, and is still relying on his allure as a sexy, skirt-wearing exotic dancer to pay his bills.

Then he meets Jed. Part-time bartender and the apartment building’s superintendent, Jed is just the right mix of strong, kind, and protective to pull Ira out of hiding. He also welcomes Ira into his chosen family at the Hen and Hog Pub. But Ira yearns for more. Still, he doesn’t dare to hope that Jed will want him and his questionable past, his skirts and high heels, his hang-ups, and the profession he seems unable to escape. But Jed will do anything to prove him wrong.

Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes: explicit violence, sexual assault, and mention of eating disorder.

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Book 1
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo
Riptide Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I loved this book. Love, love, loved it. There’s just something about Ira that I couldn’t help but adore – and I certainly understood Jed’s need to protect him. As I read Wheels and Heels, I created a picture of a man who had the beauty and ethereal quality of the fey, yet a spine of steel and a strength of character any warrior would envy. Ira looks like someone who needs to be protected, to be cherished, to be shielded from the harsh realities of life. Yet those very same qualities also bring out the worst in some, making him the target of users, abusers, and miscreants. As the story develops, we learn that Ira has developed a thick skin and an independent streak forged out of the fires of being abandoned by those he called friends and isolated from those who didn’t turn their backs on him. While this serves him well when having to deal with the ghost from his past, it makes it more difficult for him to open up to Jed.

Watching the bonds form between Ira and Jed made for some great reading. Not only was it clear that Jed’s first kiss with Ira was out of the ordinary for him, but so was bolting. Even better was that it seemed as though both men were surprised to find the other as appealing as they did – as if they weren’t their usual type of guy. Their first encounter made it clear that Jed was a good guy and pretty much guaranteed that I was going to love him too. I mean seriously, the dude stops to head off a woman from wandering into a very dangerous situation and still insists on helping when he learns the woman is actually a man, knowing that it’s still a dangerous situation due to them being outnumbered. What makes Jed so awesome is that while rare, people like him still exist in the world because I’ve known a Jed or two in my life and they really do make the world a better place. Because of that, it was so easy for me to fall into Wheels and Heels and to believe Ira and Jed’s story – I want to believe that the Jeds of the world are able to find their own Iras. Mind you, I hope those Iras don’t come with a Cedric because that dude was a frightening level of crazy no one should have to deal with.

At first glance, it may look as though their story of acceptance is one-sided; that it’s about Jed accepting Ira for who he is and how he dresses. But Ira has to accept Jed for who he is as well – as a protector who needs to take care of those who are important to him. It’s Johnny who makes Ira’s acceptance of who Jed is clear when he points out that while Ira might fight Jed on certain things when it comes to Jed’s need to protect, Ira will never resent Jed for it or judge him for it. Ira understands and accepts Jed’s need to take care of him just as Jed accepts Ira’s need to cross-dress – and maybe accept isn’t really the right word because it suggests that Ira or Jed could choose to be different than they are, yet it’s the best word I can come up with. Either way, I am so happy that Wheels and Heels is the first book in the Stories from the Hen & Hog because I cannot wait to catch up with Ira and Jed again and find out whose story is next – and yes, I have my suspicions, but I’m hoping that we’ll learn more about Rex and his guys soon.

This story is an entertaining mix of quirky characters, sweet romance, and slow burn suspense. This is the first book in a new series about the lives and loves of the staff and regular customers at an LGBT friendly pub in Toronto.

At the start of the book, Ira finds himself trapped in the seedy world of strip clubs and go-go dancers. He is frightened, barely making ends meet and he’s running from a sinister former manager. Ira is a fascinating character. There are moments when he is strong and confident but also too many moments when he’s afraid and relies on others to take care of him. I liked him. I wanted to love him but there were too many times I didn’t understand his motives or his actions.

Jed is solid. He’s a bartender/biker/apartment manager who lives a quiet life surrounded by friends and tenants who respect him. Jed is a comfortable and steady complement to Ira’s glamour and drama. I liked Jed but he’s a little bit too perfect for me to love.

I found it slightly frustrating that an author willing to queer up gender boundaries with Ira’s character then matched him with a butch alpha male in Jed. It’s reductive and irritating when even m/m romance reinforces tired masculine/feminine pairings.

Ultimately, this was an entertaining read. I enjoyed the chemistry between the characters at the Hen and Hog and I liked the suspense at the end of the story. I’m looking forward to the rest of this series.

This is (I am hoping) the first in a new series and does a great job of introducing a lot of people who definitely have stories to tell in future installments – which I always like. The Hen and Hog is a pub/restaurant which collects characters and values them.

Whilst the premise behind this story isn't new, I think it is a good read, and both Jed and Ira are good guys. Neither need redemption, changing, or improving – they are attracted to each other, accepting of each one's foibles and fashion sense (or lack thereof). The drama is not of their making, and they deal with the fallout in a life affirming manner.

The dialogue is entertaining, the romance is both sweet and sexy. They work at things, and whilst Jed is in a position of power due to his size, relative income, and nature, he is not overwhelming or pushy. I loved the bit when he has to walk home and realises how strong Ira must be to not panic at every sound.

So much more goodness to come, I am looking forward to seeing who gets their happily ever after next!

Jaime has been writing for various publishers since the fall of 2008, although she’s been writing for herself far longer. Her stories about men falling in love are the stories that she loves to read, so it seemed to make sense if she was going to write, they would also be the stories she wrote. These days, you can find plenty of free reading on her website. She also writes for various publishers.

Spare time, when it can be found rolled into a ball at the back of the dryer or cavorting with the dust bunnies in the corners, is spent crocheting, drawing, gardening (weather permitting, of course, since she is Canadian!), or watching movies. She has a day job, as well, which she loves, and two kids, but thankfully, also a wonderful husband who shoulders more than his fair share of household and child-care responsibilities.

She graduated some time ago from college with a fine arts diploma, and a major in textile arts, which basically qualifies her to draw pictures and create things with string and fabric. One always needs an official slip of paper to fall back on after all...

Connect with Jaime

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Google+  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Wheels and Heels (Stories from the Hen & Hog #1) by Jaime Samms to read and review.

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