Fighter, by Carol Lynne
Series: The Brick Yard, Book 1
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Release Date: February 9, 2017
For Lucky Gunn, the hardest fight of his life happens outside the cage.
On the South Side of Chicago sits an old gym called The Brick Yard.
Ten years ago, on a bitterly cold day, Lucky Gunn wandered into The Brick Yard dressed in a threadbare jacket, looking for refuge. He hadn’t expected the owner, Tony Brick, to welcome him with a job and a place to sleep when Lucky’s abusive and drug-addicted mother made it too dangerous to return home.
Dray was a gay man living in a world of straight fighters. When his secret was exposed to the media, he dropped out, giving Lucky a piece of advice—if you want to make it as a MMA fighter, bury the part of yourself that won’t be accepted.
Lucky discovered the cage was the perfect place to keep his demons at bay, but when he learns his trainer and mentor, Brick, is suffering from end-stage cancer, he begins to spiral out of control. After eight years, Dray returns to help Lucky and Brick deal with the devastating news.
With Dray so close, Lucky’s old desires return, and Dray teaches him more than how to fight. Torn between his career and the passion he feels for Dray, Lucky’s past demons resurface in full force, threatening his sanity and his budding relationship with Dray.
Despite leaving the cage years earlier, Dray finds himself in the battle of his life with the only man he’s ever loved. Will he stand and fight or walk away like he did years earlier?
Publisher’s Note: This book has previously been released with Pride Publishing under a different title. It has been considerably expanded and re-edited for re-release and now is book one in The Brick Yard series.
Child Abuse (mostly off screen)
I wanted to like this story a lot more than I did. But about 75% of the way through, I started skimming, and I never really regained interest. As the summary indicates, the story revolves around the terminal illness of one character, Brick, along with the budding romance of MMA fighters Lucky and Dray as they try to handle Brick’s imminent death.
While reading Fighter, however, I got the sense that this was a book that didn’t know what it wanted to be: a forbidden romance set in the MMA fighting arena, or the tale of the prodigal son returning to find redemption, or the final elegy of the man who served as a community’s guardian angel. Any one of those could have been a great story, but the result here is tangled up between all of them.
Lucky and Dray were both characters that I was rooting for, each dealing with their own demons that have haunted them through the years and sent them into the ring to fight. Dray in particular was a standout to me, especially as he comes to terms with his own mistakes and learns how to move forward. The continued revelations of Lucky’s abusive childhood (it just keeps getting worse) started to test my patience, while Brick is interchangeable with any gruff old man with a heart of gold that you’ve ever encountered before in a story. I never really came to care very much about him or his illness.
Besides Brick’s terminal illness, there are a lot of heavy themes in this story, and child abuse in particular plays a major part. Apparently, the South Side of Chicago is filled with nothing but abuse, broken homes, drug addicts and alcoholics. No one has a happy childhood here, and everyone needs to be saved. This bothered me a lot. Not only that, but we only see boys getting a second chance in this story as Brick takes them under his wing. The only woman of note is Lucky’s abusive junkie of a mother, while women in general are MIA in this story unless they can be used to make Dray jealous.
Lucky and Dray have a great spark at the beginning, but then it just sort of fizzles out. The fizzling out happens with a number of other parts of the story, too. The tension of Lucky trying to make it to the UFC while being in the closet is one example – this is the main focus of the first third of the book, especially since being forcibly outed by a previous boyfriend essentially destroyed Dray’s career. But as the story progresses, Lucky’s dilemma over fighting or being with Dray is dropped without any discussion, and is never really brought up again. Not only are parts of the story dropped without warning, but the story starts feeling repetitive at key moments, and I just couldn’t get invested in Lucky or Brick’s stories. If it had just been Dray, maybe I would have felt differently.
There is a lot of great stuff in here about community, paying things forward, and keeping stories alive through the generations, but this story just wasn’t doing it for me. I stuck with the story not for Lucky or Dray, or for Brick, but to make sure that the next generation of kids in this story got a good ending. Spoiler alert: they do.
An avid reader for many years, one day Carol Lynne decided to write her own brand of erotic romance. Carol juggles between being a full-time mother and a full-time writer. These days, you can usually find Carol either cleaning jelly out of the carpet or nestled in her favorite chair writing steamy love scenes.
Carol loves to hear from readers. You can find her contact information, website, and author biography at http://www.pride-publishing.com.
You can purchase Fighter from:
Barnes & Noble
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.