Volatile: A Black Diamond Novel by J.R. Gray

Volatile is a standalone story in the multi author Unlucky 13 series that ties into JR Gray's popular Pretty Broken rockstar series.

From the blurb:

Welcome to Black Diamond Resort and Spa… and my exile…

A guy in a skirt wouldn’t turn a straight guy on, right?

I spent the last decade performing next to him.

I’ve never looked at him as more—until I walked in on him in a skirt.

He’s as broken as I am. We survived our childhood together. And when he’s finally trying to embrace the parts his father tried to beat out of him, I can’t handle it.

He’s taunting me with smeared eye-liner and a filthy smile, singing to a sold-out crowd, and it’s getting too hot under these stage lights.

I can’t look him in the eyes.

I can’t be with him—not like that—but I can’t stop thinking about him.

He's pushing me over the edge.

Now we’re banished to this forsaken celebrity timeout—to play emotional chicken—and he’s determined to make sure I lose.

He’ll push every button I possess until I give in.

Sheena's Review:

Volatile is part of the multi-author Unlucky 13 series, but can be read as a complete standalone. It's set in the same universe as Gray's Pretty Broken series which I did read and loved. This is Aspen and Royal's story, they have been best friends since school, in a successful band together but Royal has always been straight while Aspen is bisexual and proud. It isn't until Aspen embraces his love of feminine clothing one night on stage that it all changes for them both.

These two push and pull at each other, it's hard at times but there's always that connection there between them. Royal seems to really struggle with the change in his feelings towards Aspen, suddenly realizing he's attracted to his best friend after so many years must be a real struggle. That said, neither of them handles it very well, Royal particularly has serious anger management issues so it's no real surprise when they're sent away to deal with it when it starts to affect the band.

There's a lot of anger here on both sides, but I did like both Royal and Aspen. They really push each other - not always in a good way at the start - but they're always supportive of each other. Royal had a really abrupt 180 turn though when he and Aspen eventually get together and the last third of the book is quite different to the rest, you really get to see how much these two care and support each other, right up until that satisfying ending. This is pretty dark, angsty and the triggers are there for good reason.

Rating: 4 Stars

Heather's Review:

Unlike many of the Unlucky 13 novels, we get a lot of back story with Royal and Aspen before they wind up on the Rehab side of the island.  Their inability to communicate, volatile tempers and chemistry combine to cause a perfect storm that sends them to the island in a forced proximity, only one bed scenario, cut off from the outside world.

This book takes place in three parts - the descent, the anger and the acceptance... and while each one has it's place, it is so beautiful to come out the end with a satisfying HEA and a good dose of steam!  

Whether you've read the other bandmates stories in Pretty Broken or you're experiencing the characters for the first time, you'll want to grab your copy of Volatile if you like books with a darker edge and a fair amount of angst.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Jacqueleen the Reading Queen's Review:

"And no matter how much it was beyond my control, I hated the demons he lived with from those long nights before he came home with me. I'd spent the last twenty years watching him battle those demons."

Aspen and Royal man. These two just could not get out of their own way. If you've read the Pretty Broken series then you'll know these two as members of Pale Pink Lips, the band that Alister's boyfriend Kingsley is a member of. In fact, Aspen is Kingsley's brother. Royal's been taking care of Aspen long before their band became famous. It was a stroke of luck they even met as kids. They formed a bond. The best of friends. An unspoken pact to always have each other's backs.

"Aspen might think of himself as ruined because of what happened to him, but I can't imagine loving him any other way. I wouldn't want him to be any other person."

Aspen has spent many a night in Royal's bed to keep his nightmares at bay. But as the years have gone by, it's gotten harder and harder to climb into his best friends bed and lay next to him, when all he truly wants is to climb on him instead. Royal, the oblivious idiot, has no idea. It's not until Aspen sports a flirty new look that the truth hits Royal like a ton of bricks. He fights it. Oh boy he fights his attraction hard as hell. But no one ever said life was fair and Aspen sure doesn't play by anybody's rules but his own. When Aspen finally realizes what's got his best friend so worked up? GAME ON BABY!

I loved the steam between these two. It was rough and passionate. It was punishing and soothing. It was everything these two ever wanted but never had. I liked how at the start both of them were resistant to the reason they were at Black Diamond, the reason being anger management therapy. Then as the book progresses, along with their relationship, they start to change their tune. They find merit in some of the things they are being taught and even go on to use it when they return to the real world. It was nice to see and gave me hope that their relationship would continue to flourish while living their HEA.

Rating: 5 Stars

Volatile is available to buy as an ebook, paperback, or to read with Kindle Unlimited subscription.