Review: Bad Reputation, by Ajax Bell

Blurb:

cover-ajaxbell-badreputationDoes Seattle give a damn about his past reputation?

After being caught in a backseat tryst with the mayor’s son, twenty-one-year-old Shane Fontaine is exiled from his small hometown. Now, alone in the city, he seeks solace in punk show mosh pits and bathhouse saunas.

But the music scene and gay community in 1982 recession-era Seattle aren’t always safe. Rescued from a brutal beating, Shane forms a friendship with a Russian engineering student that launches a confounding set of traumatic and ecstatic encounters.

Shane’s quest for human connection sends him down dark, dangerous streets. To survive, he must become the man who chooses to persist, to do the right thing and stand up for others.

This close-up portrait of pre-AIDS Seattle illuminates dark corners, where homeless kids cluster for safety near the revitalized Pike Place Market. Bad Reputation contrasts the deeply personal need for friendship with the universal dilemma: people aren’t always what they seem.


Stats:

Published:
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Genre:
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Dates read:
Edition read:
July 1, 2016
Jagum Press
Contemporary (or Historical 1980s) M/M, LGBT+
284 e-book pages
3rd person
Queen City Boys, book 2
July 14-17, 2016
Kindle Edition
See the book on GoodReads.

Rating:     ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
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Review:

Bad Reputation takes place in 1980s Seattle. And anyone who says the 80’s classifies as historical can bite me. THIS IS MY ERA! Mostly. I was a little kid thru teenager and have some great memories.

Because I’m guilty of blurb neglect, I thought this would take place around the time of or after book one. But it steps back a few years to the story of a few characters who had a small role in This Charming Man, and that was a nifty surprise.

This story dug right in and had me GLUED to my Kindle from the start, and I didn’t want it to end.

The place and time are just as much characters as Shane, Bash, and all the side characters. Seriously. I love when authors pull this off because it truly makes the book a total escape.

It’s a gritty landscape, not exactly the gleaming Emerald City usually portrayed in books or movies. It’s kind of rough and a little lonely as we tour bath houses, punker dive bars and cheap motels. It’s a bit of a walk on the wild side as well as memory lane…ahem, for those of us whose memories go back that far.

Shane is…my God, the punches life throws this guy. At every turn he gets kicked in the nads. He gets tossed out of his hometown, what he has left of family is horrible to him, the people he meets along the way and trust disappoint — or try to destroy him. I just…this guy couldn’t catch a break. And he wasn’t doing anything wrong while trying to fucking survive, other than maybe trusting too easily. I can’t condemn him for that though because, for the most part, that’s human nature. It’s just doubly worse that every time he’s kicked in the teeth too many people find out, twist it, and fault him — giving him this Bad Reputation he doesn’t deserve.

Bash — I loved the big teddy bear Russian like crazy. He’s kind, insightful, a bit BASHful (I know I’m a dork), and the perfect calm to the storm swirling around Shane. He’s so patient and forgiving when disappointment would send others running. He stays. He’s constant. Even when he has every right to be angry or confused he sticks.

With Shane in such a low spot it’s too much to hope that Bash is interested in being more than friends, or more importantly, attracted to men at all. So a friendship transpires that comes to mean everything. They have their ups and downs and some miscommunications but it’s all so beautifully authentic. And then, then, then…when they come together my heart melted, reshaped, and swelled to bursting. They were so perfectly sweet together, both stronger, two halves to a whole.

Through lots of twists and turns and with delightful side characters who add highlights and lowlights this story is full of hope, tenacity, and redemption.

And surprise of surprises, we get some glimpses of John from book one in earlier days as a way to further tie these Queen City Boys together.

If I was even a wee bit unsure before (which I don’t think I was), Ajax Bell is absolutely one of my favorites.

This review also posted on GoodReads.

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