FIVE STAR FRIDAY Review: Chasing Death Metal Dreams, by Kaje Harper

QRM Badge 2015I chose Chasing Death Metal Dreams this week for a few reasons. One being this is a really fucking good book. Next, we’re still observing Queer Romance Month and this is a prime example of the stories that are needed. Everyone needs a love story. Also, it doesn’t hurt those of us who walk a different path to read these stories. This was the first book of this particular flavor I’ve ever read. I learned SO much. I cried SO hard. I felt…all KINDS of beautiful things. I thought about this book for days and days after I finished reading it.

I’m excited to tell you about it.

The Blurb:

Cover-DeathMetalDreamsCarlos Medina has spent years of sweat, pain, effort, and money becoming the man he is. He writes original songs, plays lead guitar, and wears his death metal front-man persona like armor. With an excellent drummer and a talented bassist, his band, KnifeSwitch, has what it takes to succeed, if they can just catch a break. But it’s been a long road already, and there’s still a mountain left to climb. Carlos isn’t looking for anything more in his personal life than an occasional hook-up with a hot guy, preferably outside the less-than-gay-friendly metal scene.

Nate Goldstein has no intention of dating a musician. His twin brother fronts a band, and he knows band guys are all busy, broke, and obsessed with their music. But Carlos catches his artist’s eye. Nate is wary – he has a history of picking the wrong guys. Still, he might be willing to break some personal rules to find out what’s behind Carlos’s dark gaze and imaginative lyrics.

Getting together the first time is easy and fun. The second time is more complicated. And when music, ambition, and personalities clash, the guys will have to decide if they have a future worth fighting for.

This story was written as a part of the M/M Romance Group’s Love is an Open Road” event. Group members were asked to write a story prompt inspired by a photo of their choice. Authors of the group selected a photo and prompt that spoke to them and wrote a short story.

Dear Author,
I was sent to the US at the age of 10 by my father who could not accept me. You see I was misgendered at birth and I started fighting against my body at a young age. My father sent me to live with my cousin’s family along with enough money to pay my way for a few years. Little does he know he helped to fund the many surgeries and hormones to fulfill my dream of having my outside gender match the gender my brain has always known myself to be.

What do you think Author? Not many know of his secret. He is a gay man. Is he in a gang? Is he in a band? How will he find love? How will he be accepted?

Photo Description:
A young bare-chested man stands staring boldly outward from below his raised arms, hands pressed together in his black hair, elbows winged out, colorful dagger tattoos on his forearms. Another tattoo near his neck forms swirl of dark curves with “Boy” over his left collarbone. His biceps are strong, his stomach and pecs flat, his nipples small, above a thin treasure trail leading downward. Below each nipple is the unmistakable, long-healed scar of top surgery.

This story may contain sexually explicit content and is intended for adult readers. It may contain content that is disagreeable or distressing to some readers. The M/M Romance Group strongly recommends that each reader review the General Information section before each story for sto
ry tags as well as for content warnings.

The Stats:

Published:   August 2, 2015
Genre:          Contemporary, Trans*
Length:         265 pages
POV:              3rd person
Type:             Stand-Alone
Dates I read this:    August 2-3, 2015
Edition I read:         e-book
See the book on GoodReads.

NOTE:  This book is FREE and available for download in multiple e-book formats from the M/M Romance Group website.

The Review:

5StarI picked up this gem of a book because I follow the author and saw the release on the GR update feed, and hello…FREE!

It took me a bit to understand what I was getting, because I had to follow a link to an unfamiliar location to download it. And, because I didn’t really understand what the “Love is an Open Road” event was all about. I totally get the concept of an author writing from inspiration garnered from a photo, or a letter, or…finding a story on the wind. But, I didn’t really get down to my bones what was being done until I’d downloaded on my kindle and I read the information page.

What a beautiful thing this is. For this event, I’m guessing most stories the authors write are shorts or novellas – rarely a full novel. So that’s one thing that makes this truly special. That Kaje Harper was inspired to write a full novel from a photo and a two paragraph letter from a reader/fan/group member is huge, I’m guessing. That shit takes time – lots of time, and research, and development of characters, plot, and on and on. Then add in the time for betas, editors, all the revising and edits, formatting, cover art, etc. HUGE effort!

So thoughts…I’m a bit overwhelmed to be honest.

I’ve never read a book with a transgendered hero. I can’t say I’ve avoided it, because I don’t think that’s true. But it’s not something I’ve actively sought out, and, as far as I’m aware, it hasn’t crossed my radar.

So, here I am with this book, my first transgendered based romance. It was a whole new experience for me. And it fucking did its job in a glorious way. It took me to a new place and into an unfamiliar mindset of a specific sort of life experience, pain, and wanting of which I had only my own intellectual assumptions.

Before the story even started I was moved to tears by the Dear Author letter. I haven’t seen the inspirational picture – but it’s in my head in a crystal clear kind of way that I don’t know that I really have to seek it out. I think I’ve got it – or I just really, really like the picture in my head.

The prologue – GOD! Tears…and and more tears. What fucking palpable and gut-wrenching fear and courage for little Carlos. I could just see it – and almost smell the classroom – and wonder if my 10-year-old self would have made friends with the new kid in town. I think I would have.

The story from beginning to end, the hesitancy, the fear, but above all the fucking life-long determination for an honest life, love, and a long-shot career – all of it was phenomenal. And, I’ll add that it wouldn’t be a hardship for this reader if Kaje Harper turned this into a series…*hint, hint*

Kaje Harper can tell a story with layers of down-to-earth humanity surrounding the MCs with a real and diverse cast of supporting characters that makes this reader want to just immerse myself among them all and be their friends and supporters. I wanted in to mosh with the headbangers, and hug the tough and feisty Carlos, and to cheer for him to get to the place of trusting Nate. I loved them all.


QRM Badge 2015

Those folks at Queer Romance Month are posting some fantastic blogs and stories. Don’t forget to give them a visit.

Tell me what you think!