A Love in Laguna Novel
Jim Carney has a full time job—running from himself. Since he walked out on his wealthy family at sixteen because he’d wrecked his best friend’s life over some yaoi graphic novels, Jim has lived a macho, blue-collar existence of too much booze and too little responsibility. Then Billy Ballew, the man Jim most admires, gives Jim a chance to come through as his construction supervisor. For once, Jim is determined to make someone proud. Then Jim goes in for a physical for his new job, and his yaoi dream comes to life in the form of cardiologist Ken Tanaka. Jim discovers he has two heart problems—a wonky mitral valve and a serious attraction to his doctor. But Ken is a major player, and Jim might be just a notch on the doc's stethoscope. To Ken, Jim is unforgettable—but the living embodiment of his traditional family’s worst nightmares. How come the minute Jim decides to be responsible, he finds himself taking care of his kid brother, getting a proposal from a wealthy woman, making a deal with the devil, and winding up in the hospital—when all he really wants is the Knave of Broken Hearts?
THE SHRIEK of the alarm shocked Jim’s heart into his throat. He slammed his hand onto the computer keyboard and dragged the edge of his sock across his rock-hard dick. Glancing back at the bed, he watched Peggy pull the covers over her ears. At least she was facing the wall. Shit, he wanted to come so bad. He looked longingly at the drawing of those doe eyes and the beautiful full lips wrapped around the guy’s erect cock on his computer screen.
“Jimmy, who turned that alarm on?”
“Sorry.” He clicked off the video, closed his laptop, and jumped toward the shrieking alarm. Oh, big mistake. He flopped back into the chair and caught his head in his hand to try and stop the spinning. That got rid of his hard-on fast.
“You nuts or what?” Her voice sounded muffled.
“Gotta go to work.” At his smack on the snooze button, the alarm finally gave up, and he sighed in relief.
“No way.” Voice clear now. “I owe you a blow job, and I’m gonna deliver.”
“Can’t, baby.” Not the right lips.
“But, Jimmy, that thing of yours wouldn’t even wiggle for me last night.”
He leaned over and patted her bare shoulder, then sat up very slowly. “I was drinking Jack, right?”
“Jack and dick don’t mix for me.”
“Man, you’re not kidding. You wouldn’t twitch.”
Rub it in. “It’s not you, it’s me.” Never had there been a truer statement.
The alarm started round two, and he staggered to where the damned clock stood bravely. He slammed a hand down on the button. “Come on, get up. We both have to go to work.”
She rolled over. “Hell, I can cancel my appointments. Those women don’t need another haircut.”
“Okay, stay there, but I have to go.”
“What you doing on the computer?”
“Just had to check something for work.” He staggered bare-assed toward the bathroom.
She finally sat up. “You don’t usually give a shit about work.”
“Yeah, well, this is Billy’s last day as a construction supervisor before the wedding tomorrow. After that he’s only going to do construction for his own company. I want him to hire me for jobs.”
“You know he will.”
He stepped into the bathroom and closed the door. No, I don’t know that. Billy had mentioned a tenant improvement job coming up for Ballew Construction, but he hadn’t hired Jim yet. Couldn’t blame him. Billy needed the best guys on his jobs, and everybody knew Jim Carney might know his way around an electrical circuit, but he was bullshit in the reliability department. Usually he didn’t care, but Billy mattered.
Fifteen minutes later he’d cleaned up enough to get dirty again and stood in his kitchenette. Peggy came walking out of his bathroom looking pretty—and pretty hungover. He handed her a cup of lukewarm, day-old coffee. She took it and looked inside. “How come there are three rings in this cup?”
“Three days, three rings.”
She handed it back. “Shit, Jimmy, a girl could catch Ebola in this place.”
He set the cup in the sink and herded her toward the door. Suddenly she stopped and looked up into his eyes. “Who’s Hero?”
“What?” What the fuck?
“When I was sucking you last night, you called me Hero.”
He tried to wipe the frown off his face. “Don’t know. I guess I thought you were being heroic or something. Superhero of blow jobs, you know?”
“I figured it was the girl you really wanted to have sucking you instead of me. Maybe she could have got you off.” She crossed her arms.
“Don’t know a girl named Hero.”
“Yeah.” At least that was true.
“You ought to watch what you say, baby.”
“You could give a girl a complex.” She kissed his cheek. “Want me to try again tonight?”
“No. I’ve got some stuff to do for the wedding, but I’ll pick you up tomorrow at four, okay?”
She danced a couple of steps. “You and me sashaying at a fag wedding. Jesus, that’ll be different.”
He frowned. “It’s not a fag wedding. Billy’s my friend.”
“Never said he wasn’t. Some of my best friends are fags.” She leaned over and gave him a quick kiss. “See you tomorrow.”
AFTER SPENDING eight hours finishing their project, Jim sat at the Bay Bar with his final paycheck in his pocket and watched Billy walk out the door with a spring in his step. Billy’s last day working for someone else. The day before his wedding. Jesus, what would that be like, to have that kind of new life ahead of you?
He turned back to Charlie and Raoul. Charlie sipped a beer. “So when do we start the TI project for Billy?”
Raoul smiled. “Monday sharp, man. That’ll be great, working for Billy direct. No more big boss queering the works.” He snorted. “I guess Billy does his own queering, but it’ll be great working for him.” He looked at Jim. “You doing electrical or carpentry?”
Jesus, don’t look sad. “Not working this one, I guess. Billy hasn’t said anything.”
Charlie put a hand on his arm. “You know he will. Billy’d never leave you out.”
Why did everybody say that? “Don’t know. The job starts Monday.”
“Don’t worry.” Charlie raised his glass of beer in the air. “To Billy.”
Jim hoisted his Jack. “To Billy. He’s so happy, maybe there’s a chance for the rest of us.” He laughed.
Charlie looked at him sideways. “You not happy, Jim?”
Raoul blew a razzberry. “Hound dog Jim Carney. What you got to not be happy about?”
He waved a hand. “Nah, man. I’m fine. Just love that Billy’s on cloud nine, you know?”
Raoul took a sip of beer. “Yeah, because he’s gonna marry a guy, man. I love Billy and I even love Shaz, but, man, that still freaks me out. The day he said ‘I’m gay’ to the whole crew, I about fell off the fucking ladder.”
Charlie nodded. “It’s shit strange to think we didn’t even know our friend at all after three years.” He peeled his label from the bottle. “Does that make you feel weird?”
Jim nodded. “I guess.”
“Me too. Jesus, that’s, like, fundamental, you know? And I mean, Billy’s really a guy. You know, like a dude.”
“The dudest.” He tried to smile. “He said he didn’t know he was gay—until he met Shaz.”
“Just goes to show.”
“I guess all gay guys aren’t girlie. I mean, like, anybody could be one.”
Raoul shook his head wildly. “No way, man.”
“Way. Billy fooled you. You never knew.”
“Yeah, but mostly I know. Mostly.”
Breathe. Jim slugged back the rest of the Jack.
“Jim.” Charlie glanced at him.
“Ever wonder what else we don’t know about each other?”
Jim raised his finger at the waiter. One more.
Two hours of booze later, Jim navigated the road slowly. Yeah, he shouldn’t be driving, but if he could make it one more block, he was home free. His phone rang, and he pawed the seat beside him until he hit the answer button. “Yeah.”
“Hey, Jim, it’s Billy. Sorry to bother you.”
He smiled. “Thash okay. We were just talking about you.”
“You all right?”
He shook his head. Focus, dammit. “Yeah. No problem. Just headed home.”
“Something exciting happened.”
“You mean besides getting married?”
Billy laughed. “Yeah. Well, not married yet, but that’s why I called. Shaz just surprised me with tickets to Tahiti for our honeymoon.”
Jim shook his head. “Man, Billy, thash’s—uh, that’s great. Billy Ballew in the South Pacific.”
“Yeah. Hard to imagine. But that’s the thing. You know how I just got this tenant improvement job on that building in Irvine?”
Jim nodded, then realized Billy couldn’t see it. “Yeah, you’re starting next week, right?” He wanted to scream And you haven’t hired me.
“Yes, two days after the wedding, but—”
His fuzzy brain finally put it together. “But that’s when you’ll be schwimming with the southern fishes.”
“Yes, I’d like to be, but only if you’ll be my construction supervisor and take over the job while I’m gone.”
What? “Me?” His heart leaped into his throat, and the car swerved. Get a grip.
“Yeah, you’re the only one with knowledge of all the trades, and the crew already knows you. There’s nobody else I can trust with this.”
“You trust me?”
“Yes. I trust you. This is our first big job as a company, and I need somebody good.” He said it firmly. Probably trying to convince himself too. “If you won’t do it, I’ll tell Shaz we have to postpone the trip until the job’s over.”
“You can’t do that, man.”
“Then say you’ll do it.”
Red dots swam in front of his eyes with every heartbeat. Billy trusts me.
“I have to put you on the company insurance, so you’ll have to get a physical.”
Insurance? Doctors? “I don’t know, man.”
“Come on, Jim. You’re healthy as a horse.”
“Don’t like doctors.”
“Okay, no worries. See you at the wedding.”
“Wait. What are you gonna do?”
“Not a problem to postpone. Probably better anyway. The building owner is kind of erratic. She may freak if I say I’m going away.”
No, no. Wait. Billy just gave him a chance. A chance at—what? Something better. “I can do it. I mean, I think I can.”
“I don’t want to make you do shit you don’t want to do, Jim.”
“No. I can do it.” He sucked in air.
“I know you can.”
“Jesus, Billy, it’s your company. Your baby. You really trusht me to do this?”
“I do, Jim.”
The question was, did he trust himself?
Fifteen minutes later Jim staggered into his apartment, shoved his car magazines off the ratty green couch, and collapsed onto it. Billy trusted him. He gave him a job. No, the job. The one he’d wanted for years. Jesus. He couldn’t fuck it up.
Billy had always been his friend. Three months before, he’d become his idol. How many balls did it take to come out to a bunch of guys on a construction crew? More balls than Jim had, that was for damned sure.
Jim rolled on his side and tucked his legs up to try to get the sour gurgle out of his stomach. Billy. Big, handsome, sloppy. People would believe Jim was gay before they thought that about Billy. And Billy smoked dick. Tough to believe.
Did he like to ass fuck?
God, no, don’t think about that. He pressed his hands against his temples. Billy probably had a schlong to match his size. How could any guy take that in the ass? I’ll bet a lot of guys like extra large. Their assholes stretch to take them in.
Stop it, dammit.
He sat up fast and nearly puked. Think about something else. Grabbing the remote control, he flipped on the football game and stared at it. How many of them were gay?
He stabbed at the remote. Find something else.
Like some cosmic horror show, the channel switched to a program he must have DVRed sometime of a Japanese pop star singing to a group of screaming teenyboppers. Didn’t remember recording it. Look at that face. The long black hair, doe eyes, full lips. That’d be my style, if I were gay.
He reached down and adjusted his semihard dick. Peggy had swallowed his cock halfway to Japan last night, but he couldn’t come. What’s wrong with me? He stared at the beautiful man singing on the screen, and his heart beat in his ears. He rolled on his side and grabbed his balls through his jeans. Don’t want Peggy. His fist squeezed on its own.
In one move he swung his feet to the floor and ran toward the bedroom. Still bending when he got to the bed, he knelt on the ratty carpet, reached under, and pulled out the metal storage box he’d kept there since he moved in. He twisted the combination on the lock, missed the numbers twice, and finally managed to open the lid. He grabbed the magazine on top and flipped to the carefully marked page. Kneeling up, he scooted down his jeans and briefs together and started cranking his dick before his eyes even settled on the illustrations. He didn’t need them. Hell, he knew every frame and cell by heart. The big blond guy sucking the juice out of the beautiful Asian with his floppy black hair, wide almond eyes, and gorgeous pouty lips. The look on the hero’s face said rapture.
Music pounded from the TV in the living room, and Jim flipped the page and watched that perfect guy take a big cock up the ass. Better than any online yaoi site. Better than porn.
He pumped himself harder.
These drawings taught him everything he knew. Everything he wanted. How many times had he come down a hot throat while he stared at these pictures? Spunk bubbled in his balls as he gazed at that spot where the big guy’s cock disappeared into that perfect hole.
Two more jerks. His heart beat so hard it hurt. Cum shot from his dick, and tears spilled from his eyes.
He collapsed on the floor and stared at the dust bunnies. Slowly his breath and heartbeat calmed down. I have to quit this. He should walk this damned box down and throw it in the trash. He’d just never found anything to take its place. Anyone. When he met the right girl, he’d toss the box. That was a promise. He was hound dog Jim Carney, and he had hot-and-cold running women.
He sat up slowly.
Funny how Peggy didn’t think about the fact that Hiro could also be a boy’s name.
“YOU OKAY, Jim?”
Jim pried his eyes from the dance floor and looked up at Peggy. “Yeah, sure. Sorry.”
“You should drink some Jack. You’d feel better.”
He shook his head.
She peered in his glass and sniffed. “You’re seriously drinking ginger ale?”
“Settles the stomach.”
She laughed. “Okay, baby. Whatever you say.”
“I tossed out all my liquor.”
She crossed her arms. “You must have been drunk when you did it.”
“There is that.” He grinned.
“You want to dance?” She smiled and did a little twirl, her pert butt waggling.
Jim glanced at the dancers again and swallowed. “Uh, not right now, okay? I’m not much on the dance floor.”
She crossed her arms again, and her cleavage popped. “You said your mom made you go to dance classes.”
“She did, and I skipped out and went to a friend’s garage to work on cars. Never learned.” He shrugged. “Sorry.”
She stuck out her lip. “You’re not much fun tonight.”
“Later, okay?” When the damned band wasn’t playing something that ought to be served with syrup and most of the couples on the dance floor weren’t made up of two fucking dudes.
He turned away and sipped his ginger ale.
She sighed. “Okay. I’m going to the ladies’ room.”
He nodded. She walked away, her curvy figure held tight with pissed-offness. Jim’s eyes slid back to the dance floor. Two guys, both with full beards and tats on their necks above their black bow ties, pressed together like they’d been wrapped with chains. Jim could actually see their erections rubbing in the openings of their tux jackets. He swallowed hard.
What the hell did you think was going to happen at a gay wedding reception, asshole? Did you think the guys were going to slosh back beers and talk about the Dodgers? Jesus. He slammed his glass on the table harder than he intended.
Of course, he and Billy had sloshed a lot of beers and talked baseball plenty of times, but right now Billy looked right at home at the center of the mass of dancers. All six feet five inches of the big guy radiated joy as he held the slim body of his brand-new husband against his chest and danced like Arthur Murray could take lessons from them.
What does it feel like, dancing with a guy? A shiver ran up Jim’s back. He chugged another mouthful of gingery not-so-goodness.
Raoul flopped his compact body into the chair next to him. “Hey, man, you okay?”
“Yeah. Why does everybody keep asking me that?”
“I don’t know, man. You look weird or something.” Raoul grinned. “I mean, aside from seeing you in a monkey suit.”
“I’m fine.” Jim stared at his hands.
“It bothering you, all these guys, you know, dancing and shit?”
“No, hell. I think it’s great about Billy and Shaz.”
Raoul lowered his voice. “Yeah, but that’s different than all their pals. There’s a lot of gay in this room, my friend.”
Jim glanced around. A spectacular-looking group, which made sense since Shaz was this big stylist and the room teemed with movie stars and rich people.
He glanced at Raoul. “It’s okay with me. It’s only one night.”
The music changed to an up-tempo piece. A couple of people shouted and someone started clapping. A circle formed on the dance floor. Jim grinned. Billy and Shaz had to be in the center of the circle. He’d heard the two could clear a dance floor or try out for a reality show, they were so good. He jerked his head at Raoul. “Let’s go watch.”
He got up from the table and edged toward the ring of clapping, whistling spectators. Slipping sideways, he squeezed between people and maneuvered to the front of the pack, then turned toward the dance floor. Holy blessed shit.
I received a copy in exchange for an honest review:
I really liked the first book Knight of Ocean Avenue and i was looking forward to the second book in this serie and holy smoking i loved it :)
Jim is a construction worker who really admires Billy his former co worker (and now boss) for coming out. At Billy and Shaz's wedding Jim meets Ken a cardiologist and the spitting image of his Yaoi fantasy. The atraction is mutual but nothing happens because Jim is straight (right LOL).
When Billy goes on his honneymoon he leaves Jim in charge of the company and because of this Jim needs a medical clearance for Insurance reasons. That's when he meets Ken again and things get complicated.
There's a lot going on in this book mainly because of the fact that both Jim and Ken are realy loveable characters with a great sence of family. However almost everything is wrapped up nicely in the end.
There are some really great secondary characters like Jim's brother Ian, and Constance who is an amazing woman (glad to see that they still excists in m/m romance). And some not so great secondary characters like Jim's dad and Mickey (what a jerk).
I think you can read Knave of Broken Hearts as a standalone but why would you? I highly recommend that you read Knight of Ocean Avenue first because this serie definitely is one of the best i have ever read.
I'm looking forward to the third book in this serie
Tara Lain does it again with this book. She hit it out of the park. There was so much depth to the story and the people in it. Opposites attract for sure in this one.
This is book 2 of the series but can be read as a stand alone. But don't do that...read both!!!! I'm serious!! If you haven't read book 1 go and one click it right now and one click this one as well...go ahead,
There was heartache and heart break, laughter and tears (Yes I bawled like a baby), I had so many freakin heart twinges from all the emotions that ran through me that I just could not help but fall in love with this book. Oh and I can not forget to tell you that these men are HAWT!!!!! Like panty melting Hawt!! Thinking of these two men together makes me blush. Wow! Okay, enough of that... All in all, this is a fantastic read and you will not be disappointed when you read it...Well, maybe one lil disappointment....it ended, it didn't go on and on and on. It was a fast read, but that is because it was so well written, I didn't want to put it down.
So...Would I recommend this book? Absofreakinlutley!!!!
Would I read more from this author? Of course!!! I love Tara Lain and she is one of my most favorite m/m authors that I have ever worked with and read for. Actually, let me correct that...Tara Lain is one of my favorite authors period...does't matter the genre. She is in my top ten for sure.
Sassy Beta Reading &Review
I loved book one in the Love In Laguna Series, and I was wondering if this one would live up to the high expectations I set for this series, and I was so excited to see that it did and then some!!!!
Poor Jim, he has been not only living in the closet, but denying who he was to even himself mostly except for a secret under his bed that includes the hero of his dreams, boy is he surprised when he meets a real life replica of his yaoi dreams!
Dr. Ken Tanaka is very happy going from man to man, and not settling down, especially since he knows that his very traditional family would not be pleased if he brought anyone other than the perfect partner home, and his mother keeps trying to set him up with the perfect woman! But something happens when he meets Jim, and Ken suddenly wants to get to know one man, and know him very well!
These two have to work through a ton of problems, including Jim working through his coming out issues and health issues, Ken's family issues, and the nightmare that comes with his mother finally accepting his sexuality and picking the "perfect" man for him, (yeah not!!!).
Can these two men get it together before stress puts Jim's health at risk? You will love this one friends, I can't wait to see what is next with this series, and it was great to see old friends from the first book! Thanks Tara, for a book 2 that is the perfect followup for the first!!!
My word this book had me crying like a baby! Discovering ones true self is a tumultuous journey. It’s not cupcakes and unicorns. It’s more like chaos and mistakes. Ken and Jim are both in their late 20’s and a mess. Ken’s battle to convince his very traditional Japanese parents that he can honor them by loving who he loves. Jim coming to terms with the facts he’s gay and by accepting that won’t make the world implode! Jim broke my heart, hell Ken broke my heart too. I hate Mickey and his goons of terror and I hope things for them… js. Like book one of this series (Knight of Ocean Avenue) I have one hell of a hangover. Tara Lain has created a world like no other. Heroes, villains, and happy endings. Knave of Broken Hearts, that title means so much more after reading this book. Hearts break but they can be repaired. Love is strength, and the right person can make you braver than you ever imagined!
Be prepared to crumble and cry. Be equally prepared to soar. My heart is bruised, but by the end the ache is welcome. Knave of Broken Hearts will make you believe love truly does conquer all.
Jim Carney is one of the many construction workers on Billy Ballew’s team before Billy starts his own company after his engagement to Shaz in Knight of Ocean Avenue. As the story opens, Jim hasn’t been invited to work for Billy, and he assumes it’s because he was such a homophobe, a drinker, and a slacker, always showing up late for work. Jim’s been on his own since his dad, a wealthy cardiology surgeon, forced him out of home at age sixteen. Technically, it was Jim’s choice to leave, but in reality, it was because he couldn’t tolerate his father after an incident involving Jim and Hiro, his best friend and co-conspirator in sexual exploration that led to Hiro being sent home to Japan.
But Jim is shocked when Billy approaches him at the last minute and asks Jim to step in as his construction supervisor while Billy is on his honeymoon. First stunned, then proud, Jim takes to the job wholeheartedly, giving up booze and the night life to be sure to be on time for work and to show Billy that he picked the right man. And just when that responsibility hits him, his younger brother shows up and asks if he can move in with Billy. He’s been kicked out for being gay. His dad cut off all means of support, including Ian’s tuition to college where he planned to major in architecture. Though there’s quite an age gap between them, Jim accepts Ian with open arms and plans to help him in any way he can.
One of Jim’s first tasks as the new supervisor is to get a physical for the company insurance policy, and unfortunately, he ends up needing to see a cardiologist for a heart murmur. And what a cardiologist it is! Ken Tanaka is everything Jim has dreamed of in a man—a slender, sexy Asian, with almond-shaped eyes and a pouty mouth that would out-pout Angelina Jolie. Jim’s worship of Yaoi comics through the years since Hiro left has not diminished, and if anything, it’s fanned his attraction for men who meet that image, and Ken certainly is that. Jim is shaken by how rapidly his heart beats and his erection rises when he meets the sexy doctor.
As expected, meeting Dr. Tanaka has sent Jim into a tailspin, and he slowly begins to face the fact that he’s at least bisexual, if not 100% gay. The two undergo a series of misadventures and misunderstandings as the building owner, a sexy blonde, takes an immediate shine to Jim, and Ken is faced with the need to please his traditional Japanese parents who are desperately trying to match him with a life partner from a respected and traditional Japanese family. Add in blackmail by Jim’s father, which is intended to coerce Jim into marrying and rewarding him by supporting Ian’s education, and Jim’s life is a powder keg just waiting to explode.
When Jim’s heart takes charge of not only his libido, but his destiny, and his life is at stake, the two have an opportunity to finally untangle all the deceit and complications which have been heaped on them over the few weeks they’ve known each other and they come out the other side headed for their HEA.
I really enjoyed this story. If you are in the medical field, there is some suspension of belief required as the doctor repeatedly violates HIPPA regulations. However, the story is so enjoyable, I was able to move past that quickly and just soak up the fun that is the writing of Tara Lain. I recommend this to all lovers of contemporary M/M romance and to those who enjoy GFY, though technically, it’s more of a late bloomer’s self-discovery than GFY. But the sex is hot and the characters engaging and endearing and I’m left with a big smile on my face, so for me, this one is the perfect kind of romantic tale. I’m looking forward to the next in the series when Ru, Shaz’s friend in Knight of Ocean Avenue, gets his chance for love.
Review by Barb
If someone had told me I would like the next blue-collar story by Tara Lain more than Knight of Ocean Avenue I would not have believed them. Then I read Knave of Broken Hearts and it is my new favorite story by Tara. A big part of Knave’s appeal for me is that I had a crush on an Asian American boy in high school. He, of course, did not know I existed, so I was thrilled Jim got to live out his dream with Ken Tanaka, the perfect yaoi dream come to life. Both of the MCs had huge hurdles to overcome before they could be together. Jim buried his teenaged infatuation with a Japanese boy and convinced himself and everyone else he is heterosexual. Ken’s traditional mother wants him to get married and since accepting Ken is gay she has found the perfect male mate for him, the son of another traditional Japanese couple. Ken knows his mother would never accept a blue-collar white guy. How these two end up together makes for a very fun read. My only complaint is I devour Tara’s books and then have to wait for the next one to come out!
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