Title: Gathering Storm
Author: Lyn Gala
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Length: Novel / 260 pages
Rating: 4.25 out of 5
A guest review by Kassa
Vinnie Bernardi wants to leave his past as a spoiled rich boy behind and find himself as a proud, gay submissive. He’s set his sights on two possible dominants: Charleston, a graying, sexy, straight-as-an-arrow physical trainer, and RJ, the straight-talking dyke who owns the bar where Vinnie dances. Neither is exactly ideal, but Vinnie is slowly falling apart and needs a top to help him hold it together.
He chooses Charleston, but Vinnie’s presence in Charleston’s life stirs up some deadly ghosts from the man’s mysterious past. After years of trying to avoid the real world, Vinnie may find himself pulled back into it—but he might not survive long enough to get what he truly needs: love and a firm hand to shelter it.
Lyn Gala also wrote the incredible Urban Shaman so I knew whatever had her name on it, I wanted to read. The latest offering, Gathering Storm, is another example of Gala’s slick, clean writing with solid characters, an engaging plot, and entertaining story. There is an element of dominance and submission woven throughout the entire story and it’s both obvious and nuanced. Yet the one sex scene is rather tame and I doubt will bother many non-BDSM fans. Overall this is an interesting story with well crafted characters that sucks you in from the beginning and doesn’t let go. It avoids all those cliché traps it could have fallen into and shows a skillful handling of the material while giving a quick moving story.
Vinnie Bernardi is a lost young man. He graduated from military academy a few years ago due to the tough love approach of a new teacher, Charleston, yet Vinnie left that life behind. He took on a new name, Vinnie Bernardi, and tries to be open with his life and needs. He’s not ashamed of being a gay submissive but he’s struggling since he can’t find what he needs. One night stands and pretenders are thrusting Vinnie further and further into despair. He’s acting out and close to forcing his boss RJ to take him in hand. Though RJ is a lesbian, she’s butch and toppy enough that Vinnie is thinking of giving into her threats of whipping. Though he’s not into pain, he wants someone to really control him and stop letting him manipulate everything and top from the bottom. He thinks maybe Charleston is that man but his woeful attempts to spy on the man starts a series of dangerous reactions that put both Vinnie and Charleston in danger.
The story is tightly plotted and has a gift of conveying a lot of information in a short amount of time without overwhelming the reader. Right away we learn that Vinnie changed his name, is a gay submissive acting out, and is obsessed with his old teacher Charleston. Vinnie believes that Charleston may be the only one who can truly top him and let him submit the way he dreams but Vinnie being Vinnie he can’t help but sabotage himself along the way. Vinnie is no doormat and he manipulates, cajoles, and controls almost every situation and person he meets. Charleston is one of the few who sees beyond the facades Vinnie shows the world yet Charleston has a mysterious past which becomes life threatening to Vinnie.
The story does a great job in setting all of this background up, while introducing the threat early on. There’s no lengthy, boring introduction. In fact the action starts quickly and we’re absorbed into Vinnie’s almost cringe worthy antics right away. You can’t help but feel for Vinnie even as you want to slap him upside the head. He’s a flawed, complicated, and fascinating character, truly worthy of carrying the story. Since told from his third person perspective, Vinnie is not always the most reliable. He sees Charleston as a bit of a god so Charleston comes across slightly too perfect. Charleston is the tall, dark, handsome, bad ass type that rarely speaks but does everything right. You have to remember though that’s how Vinnie sees him so the story stays true to Vinnie’s perspective. The offset to this is that Vinnie really is a mess and has enough mistakes, flaws, and charm to carry both the main characters.
Besides the wonderfully crafted characters, the story weaves the theme of dominance and submission into the story very well. It’s a main theme on several levels. There is Vinnie’s own submission and Charleston’s need for dominance but beyond that the story sets most of the characters up in these same terms. Charleston makes a comment that he sees the world in terms of dominants and submissives and that colors the cast as well. Each of the secondary characters from the truly scary and eye catching RJ to Dan and even the various law enforcement officials are given a top or bottom aura. Vinnie tends to think of the world in terms of who scares him, who he can control and who is like him so the cast settles into these niches as well. It’s not bad and also very nuanced since no one is a cardboard character. The true villain is also nicely portrayed with some creepy but interesting quirks that keeps him from being a classic mustache twirling evil doer.
The writing is once again top notch and Gala continues to impress with the clean prose, quick pace, and engaging story. There is one single sex scene (imagine!) and it’s tame with a little bit of bondage and an emotionally intense whipping but the scene itself isn’t too graphic to turn off those readers who aren’t too into BDSM. The themes are integral to the story but I don’t think would bother many readers. Instead I’d easily recommend this as a great blend of action, adventure, D/s, romance, and a quirky cast that will stay on your mind. The story is nicely wrapped up so I can’t imagine a sequel but I’ll simply wait and buy whatever Gala wants to write next.