Title: Vodka & Handcuffs
Author: Brandon Witt
Series: Mary’s Boys
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: 04-26-2017
Genre(s): M/M Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 124
Heat Level: 1 flame out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Vahin Arora, Hamburger Mary’s sexy bartender, plays the flirtatious role so well even his closest friends—his chosen family at Mary’s—don’t realize Vahin hasn’t had a hookup in months. Then Tall, Dark, and Handsome steps through the door, and Vahin’s libido races back to life.
Being a black cop on the Denver police force is no easy job—Marlon Barton can’t imagine adding being gay to the equation. And while Marlon loves his work as an officer, his life has taken a turn for the hellish because of his new partner, the nephew of a senator.
Fleeing his partner’s company one night, Marlon stumbles into Mary’s for the first time… and wakes up with a hangover in the bartender’s bed. The one-night stand heats up into a budding romance, but not without stress as Marlon’s partner’s actions threaten Vahin’s livelihood and Marlon’s future on the force. Can Vahin and Marlon face the challenges and hold on to the love, friendship, and family they’ve found?
A palate cleanser is typically a food, or in this case, a book, that allows you to transition from one flavor to another. Brandon Witt has a tendency to write the perfect palate cleanser. Where a lot of books seem to thrive on their own angst and high drama, he has the ability to craft a story that is compelling and not full of itself. Vodka & Handcuffs is no exception. Make no mistake, there is drama, but it’s not so over the top that it detracts from the story. Instead, the drama is folded into the story in such a way that it draws the two characters together.
While it’s not entirely uncommon to have one main character be an ethnic minority, it uncommon that both are minorities. In this case, Marlon is African-American and Vahin is Muslim. I found this approach refreshing. Much in the same way that, in years past, members of the LGBTQ+ community were underrepresented or poorly represented in media, be it books, television, or movies, so to are minorities. Choosing to have both of your main characters be ethnically diverse isn’t brave, it’s to be applauded. It creates the sense of inclusion that all of us within the LGBTQ+ community are seeking. This also allows the author to cast a spotlight on some of the issues not often discussed within the pages of a romance novel, from racial bigotry to religious persecution. Both of these are touched upon in this book, to somewhat chilling effect. Given the current political climate, this is very timely and relevant. My only wish is that that the book were a full length novel as opposed to a novella, to give Brandon ample space to explore this deeper.
While the second book in the series, reading the first is absolutely not necessary to read this one. Yes, the central couple from the first book are present, but they are only minor characters, and their presence does not detract from this one. Hamburger Mary’s continues to play the perfect backdrop, creating the sense of friendship, family, and belonging that both Marlon and Vahin need. There is a rich sense of history with some of the minor characters which helps to create that familial safety net that both Marlon and Vahin need, . The banter between Vahin and Steve gives a sense of history without overshadowing the budding relationship between the former and Marlon. And, as always, ManDonna is not to be missed.
This book is for anyone in need of a relatively quick read that won’t leave you with a deep ache in your chest.