DUELING REVIEWS: Hard Line by Sidney Bell

Author: Sidney Bell
Book: Hard Line
Series: The Woodbury Boys, Book #2
Page/Word Count: 352
Categories: Gay Romance, Mystery & Suspense
Release Date: April 2, 2018
Publisher: Carina Press

Premed student Tobias Benton is making amends for his past. He keeps his head down, mouth shut and colors within the lines. But when his close friend Ghost goes missing, Tobias will do whatever it takes to get answers—including using blackmail to enlist some help. The last thing he’s looking for is romance.

Private investigator Sullivan Tate isn’t above a little breaking and entering to solve a case, but when Tobias catches him in the act, it’s almost game over. Their uneasy alliance only gets more complicated when Sullivan learns that Tobias shares his interest in kink. Mixing sex and work could kill Sullivan’s career, but Tobias’s acceptance of Sullivan’s darkest urges is nearly impossible to resist.

Side by side, Tobias and Sullivan spend their days searching for the truth and their nights fulfilling their respective fantasies. But the answers they seek are far more dangerous than they realize, and soon they find themselves fighting for more than just each other.

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5?s – Two things I love: new to me authors and books that blow me away. Sidney Bell (new to me author) did it in the first chapter. Our introduction to Tobias left me stunned. So much so that I went back to the blurb to see if I missed the big neon sign that said “this author will rip your heart out on page one.”

It’s important to note that until I read Natalie’s review below, I didn’t know there was a “book 1,” and I can’t say that I was lost at all. Intrigued about Church, Ghost, and Tobias, absolutely! That’s why I 1-clicked it as soon as I realized…and you will to. In order, out of order, you won’t be disappointed.

Okay, so Hard Line…before I get too deep into Tobias, I need to talk about Sullivan. Aspiring PI, he’s starving for information, input, puzzles, anything to keep his overactive brain busy. College is out because how can he pick just one thing to learn? And what goes in, must come out in some delightful ‘monologuing’ throughout the story. Private investigative work would be perfect because every case has puzzle potential, if he could work his way up from serving subpoenas. All he needs is one impossible-to-solve case to prove his worth and when it comes, he doesn’t hesitate.

Where others have tried and failed, that ever-inquisitive brain will put Sullivan on the right path, both to find a missing girl long after the trail has gone cold and to collide with Tobias, who is searching for Ghost. I think I smiled through their whole meet and didn’t stop until I hit the end.

Now, not gonna lie, Tobias is going to keep taking jabs at your heart. He tries so hard to be whatever he thinks everyone else wants and created unrealistic, impossible expectations for himself. When he meets Sullivan, the angst that’s been on low rolling simmer surfaces. Sullivan is a stranger, no one, and that makes him the safest person to stand up to because he isn’t someone Tobias fears hurting. At least, in the beginning.

The journey from colluding on a little B&E to the end was glorious. A fully balanced story of Tobias and Sullivan individually, their respective missing person and how they were connected, and their burgeoning relationship. And because life isn’t neatly packaged into chapters, every scene is written to illustrate how it all goes together in the big picture that becomes Tobias and Sullivan together.

And boy do they ever. Their chemistry was off the charts and the BDSM was…real just like some of the super hot videos from www.hdtubemovies.xxx. I don’t want to get into a lot of detail here because the story needs to be experienced, but Sullivan isn’t your stereotypical fiction Dom any more than Tobias is your simpering sub. The intimate side of their relationship is a discovery for both of them, it’s more than just sex, kink or otherwise, more than just pain play and scenes. It’s natural and necessary and sometimes awkward as they learn to communicate and that affects every other aspect of their lives together.

If I have one complaint, it’s the conclusion of the missing person’s case. On the one hand, there is the symbolism of Tobias choosing to help Sullivan. It’s important, though you’ll have to read the book to find out why. On the other, my bloodthirsty little heart wanted to see on-page justice.

For me, this was a brilliant read and I savored every word. Sidney Bell is on my go-to list now and Hard Line will take its place in my reread pile.


5?s – I was so happy to see Tobias’s story being released! He’s the “good boy” out of the trio of men we first met in book one, which I also strongly suggest reading first. Church, Ghost and events in that story are important to understanding parts of this one. Pure coincidence puts Sullivan in Tobias’s path, but they start out on the wrong foot when Tobias uses their meeting to extort Sullivan’s help in locating Ghost. The case and search is tricky and complex for the two, with unexpected danger and excitement, and discoveries regarding Ghost are quite surprising. The background and catalyst for Tobias’s need to find him is fascinating, rooted in both their time together at Woodbury and Tobias’s adoption, with internal struggles over expectations from his parents and family. Sullivan has his own devils from the past and is torn over his preference for kink. He’s resentful of Tobias for roping him into the investigation but struggling to deny any attraction to the neediness he senses.

I loved both of these characters and the gradual shift from reluctant partners to friends and lovers. I never felt as if the BDSM was used for therapy. Sullivan simply responded to Tobias’s innate, repressed needs, did seek advice from friends about continuing and was quite careful. The level of trust and honesty required with BDSM helped Tobias to express the truth about other parts of his life and for himself. There weren’t a lot of scenes, some bondage, spanking and edging, but might be a little intense those who haven’t read BDSM before. But whew, it was hot af! Secondary characters include wonderful portrayals of Tobias’s parents and siblings. It was a great touch of diversity, with brief insights into some of the culture and history of Haiti. Sullivan’s friends, also into kink, are unique and quirky, playing a part in resolving the plot. There’s a wonderful epilogue, set in the near future, showing a glorious HEA for the couple. Loved it! I will be waiting anxiously for Ghost’s story, as I think his will the most interesting of all.

About Sidney Bell:
Sidney Bell lives in the drizzly Pacific Northwest with her amazingly supportive husband. She received her MFA degree in Creative Writing in 2010, considered aiming for the Great American Novel, and then promptly started writing fanfiction instead. More realistic grown-ups eventually convinced her to try writing something more fiscally responsible, though, which is how we ended up here. When she’s not writing, she’s playing violent video games, yelling at the television during hockey games, or supporting her local library by turning books in late.

Where to find Sidney Bell:

Sidney Bell Amazon Author Page Sidney Bell's Facebook Author Page Sidney Bell on Goodreads Sidney Bell on Twitter Sidney Bell Website

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