New Release Group Review: The Darkest Flame by Christina Lee

Darkest FlameThe Darkest Flame by Christina Lee
#1 in Roadmap to Your Heart
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: August 17th, 2015 

Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the author of There You Stand, a new male/male romance about an errant motorcycle recruit and the captivating bartender who sends his wheels spinning down an all too tempting road.

Vaughn O’Keefe has been part owner of the Hog’s Den for years. Privy to plenty of Disciples of the Road business, he’s never been more ruffled as when a new recruit named “Smoke” walks through the door. Something about the man gets his blood pumping, but he knows to keep his preferences under wraps around the club.

“Smoke” Callahan has done a couple of rehab stints and is finally clean, thanks to help from the Disciples. He’s on the right path and isn’t about to get sidetracked, no matter how much the guy who manages the bar gets beneath his skin. Besides, his last relationship with a man left him scared, alone, and with a nightmare of an addiction.

When the Hog’s Den becomes shorthanded, and Smoke is ordered to help out the one man he can’t have, his longing for the bartender reaches blistering proportions. Vaughn figures a night together should be enough to satisfy their mutual attraction. But neither banks on just how scorching hot it might be.

As Smoke’s past unravels and the one person he hopes never to lay eyes on again messes with all he holds sacred, it’s time to involve the Disciples. Problem is, he’ll have to risk his membership, his heart, and his own hide to keep everyone he cares about safe.

When we found out that Christina Lee was coming out with a new M/M novel, and that it was about Vaughn and Smoke (whose story we have been dying to read,) we were beside ourselves! While there’s no denying The Darkest Flame was filled with the steam this author is known (and loved!) for, it wasn’t quite what we expected. But never fear, this is an author we won’t be giving up on anytime soon.


I grabbed my hold of keys and tried not to slam my way out the door. I didn’t know why the hell I was so rattled by Vaughn tonight. I mean, I had been every night, but something about the idea of him being with somebody else right in front of my eyes, made me crazy with need. Need that it felt like only he could fulfill.

As soon as I got to my bike I realized I’d left my cut in the break room. I stood outside attempting to rein in my uneven pulse. I didn’t know what the fuck had come over me.
Breathing more steadily, I stepped back through the door only to find the bar empty. I’d just grab my leather vest and leave him in peace.

“I forgot my…” I stopped in my tracks because Vaughn stood motionless in the middle of the floor, veins bulging in his neck, as if he’d implode at the slightest touch.
He was always moving and talking with a restless energy in this bar so his stillness was a bit startling.

“Hey.” I gingerly placed my hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry if I—”

There was instant recoil, as if he were attempting to contain the vortex of tension between us by vacuuming it in through his skin.

He twisted toward me, his eyes latching onto mine, right before I was slammed against the door.

 The wind was practically knocked out of me as Vaughn sank his weight against my smaller frame. We were groin to groin, heartbeat to heartbeat.

“Fuck, Vaughn, you’re—” Heaving breaths surged through my nostrils. “I was going to suggest a truce.”

 “Yeah?” he mumbled, his gaze fastening on my mouth. “What sort of truce?”



Wendy: I was really looking forward to The Darkest Flame.  Almost immediately after reading There You Stand I was hopeful that Christina Lee would write about Vaughn and Smoke.

Angie: Yes, Vaughn and Smoke definitely had a presence in There You StandI was crossing my fingers for their story!

Wendy: Sadly I was a little bit disappointed with this book.  Something was missing for me.  I think maybe it was the emotional connection just didn’t feel very realistic.

Angie: They were way too consumed with each other for me. (Crazy, I know.) Way too lusty and not enough emotional build. And maybe I’m not remembering it correctly, but I thought Smoke was portrayed as this rough and tumble man in Cory and Jude’s book. I thought that was one of the reasons Vaughn was attracted to him. Where was that man in this one?

Wendy: You’re right!  In There You Stand Smoke was quiet and rough.  In The Darkest Flame Vaughn and Smoke felt interchangeable, like they were the same character but with different names.

Angie: I agree. Their thought patterns weren’t distinguishable at all. If the chapters hadn’t been tagged with their names, I would have had no idea who was narrating.

Wendy: I’m not really a fan of having to watch chapter titles to know what is happening in a book.  I don’t like when it’s that complicated.

Angie: I will say that I thought the sex scenes in this one were fantastic. Those were the only times I could feel the emotional connection between Vaughn and Smoke. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wanted more. I try to judge each book individually, but it’s hard not to compare this one to There You Stand, where the emotions running between Cory and Jude were so high and so jumping off the page fantastic.

Wendy: I loved Jude and Cory, haha.  I think they left me with high expectations.

I do give Christina Lee props for pretty accurately portraying addiction.  I read another book that seemed to use a character’s addiction as a plot device.  One moment it overwhelmed him, in another he had control of it.  It was completely unbelievable. Smoke, however, I believed his struggle.  It was really well done.

Angie: I agree. I think she did a good job conveying that Smoke fighting his addiction will be a lifelong battle. He will always have to fight that craving.

The end was a bit anti-climactic for me. I guess I was looking for a bigger scene with Smoke getting his revenge for what happened to his dad’s bar, and I was really disappointed that it was so glossed over. Again, I wanted rough and tumble Smoke! And this was my only issue with There You Stand – the ending felt rushed.

Wendy: The ending was my only downfall with There You Stand, also.  In The Darkest Flame I had the same problems, it’s just that the problems bled into the majority of the book.

Angie: I felt like Vaughn and Smoke were longing and angsty throughout the entire book, and it overshadowed any attempt at plot. It really bogged things down for me and messed with the pace of the book. The highlights of the story were Vaughn’s father and Vaughn’s cats. I think we got to know more significant things about each character when they were apart, and that doesn’t work for me with romance. I also didn’t see any character growth. I was hoping for a journey, but I feel like I just got a pit stop.

Wendy: I loved Vaughn’s father and his cat’s too.  I think those are the things that set Vaughn apart for me in terms of character traits.  They added another layer to him, other than lust for Smoke.

Angie: As for the secondary characters…meh. Aside from the father and the felines, no one left an impression. And I have to admit, I have never read a book where an MC is trying to come clean that I’ve enjoyed – that does not work for me. I want the grit and power that comes with the lifestyle.

Wendy: I’m not sure that my problem was that the club was trying to come clean.  I mean, in SOA Jax spends a good amount of time wanting to take his club in a less illegal direction.  I think it could have worked with more depth to the characters.  Possibly showing more of the club side of the story, in lieu of the whole thing being about how hot Vaughn and Smoke were for each other.

Perhaps that’s why I liked There You Stand more than The Darkest Flame, because it felt like in the former book more time was spent on what Cory and Jude were going through outside each other.  It made them both feel 3 dimensional.

Angie: Unfortunately, this book was a miss for me, but I won’t be giving up on this author. The things I didn’t enjoy about this book don’t overshadow the things I loved in There You Standand for that reason, I want to read more from Christina Lee.

Wendy: We are in 100% agreement.  🙂

Our Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  1/2

Thank you to the author for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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