We’re only just discovering author Lee Hayes, whom so many have raved over these past few years. But good things come to close who wait so now we’re excited to read and review A Deeper Blue: Passion Marks II, Hayes’ sophomore effort and the dramatic follow-up to Passion Marks. The author continues exploring themes of love, passion, betrayal, and, most notably violence and abuse. But this time there is a twist—we’re served a healthy dish of revenge, which makes for much more dramatic pacing.
A Deeper Blue: Passion Marks II neatly picks up where Passion Marks ended. It has been three years since the end of Kevin Davis' violent relationship with James Lancaster, who was once the ambitious CEO of a rising Houston software firm. Kevin is handsome, educated, and caring—he was also a kept lover who endured a nightmare of abuse at the hands of his seemingly perfect man. Later, in a hail of gunfire and a burning building, James was killed while trying to take the life of Kevin and his friends.
Now, Kevin has put those turbulent years behind him and moved to Washington DC to start a new life with Daryl Harris. But their love is being tested. "Daryl is the man who I have always loved and dreamed about. I have built my life around him, and I thought we'd be together forever. Now, I'm not so sure. Why is it so hard for people who fall in love to stay in love?
Kevin was the main character in the first book. This time around, for all practical purposes, it is Daryl whom we see the most. That's because Daryl is forced to choose between two men: Kevin, his longtime lover and a new temptation, drop-dead gorgeous Temple, whom he meets at Washington’s ultra-cruisy Fireplace. “At that moment, with Temple gazing lovingly at him, his love for Kevin wasn’t enough. Temple grabbed one of the cards off the table and wrote down his name and his cell phone number. Daryl then grabbed a pen from his bag, wrote his cell on a cocktail napkin, and quickly exited The Fireplace, partly ashamed, partly excited, and fully aroused. He had made a decision to play with fire. He hoped he wouldn’t get burned.”
But you always get burned, don’t you?
Daryl must now choose between two men who both have female lovers—one past, one present—who are quite bitter about being betrayed. Kevin’s ex RaChelle enters the scene. She’s written as an Alex Carrington-type who will stop at nothing to get revenge on the man who was not honest with her. Meanwhile, Temple’s girlfriend Cerina—well, let’s just say that calling her a piece of work would be an understatement. The two female characters are featured prominently throughout the book; indeed, much of the drama that is associated with the second half of the novel was created by these two.
We asked Lee Hayes was A Deeper Blue: Passion Marks II marching toward chick lit. Not so, he insists, but adds, “Most gay men that I know have strong friendships with women and those relationships play a prominent role in their lives. Given that reality, for me it makes a more well-rounded novel to feature people who play important roles in our lives.”
There are more than a few subplots here. Kevin becomes obsessively jealous and stalks Daryl's coworker; Cerina and RaChelle become bitter enemies; Temple is blackmailed by RaChelle into having an affair with Daryl (doesn't sound too bad) who is also becoming more involved with cyber-sex; then there are test results ...
Yes, there's more than enough drama in this book. A little more than we usually like and, as Martha says, that's a good thing. Lee Hayes demonstrates how people can be driven to the edge when their emotions remain unchecked. "Mistrust, temptation and infidelity have torn apart more relationships than we can count," Lee Hayes tells Rod 2.0. "Ultimately, my goal in both books is for the reader to come away with some life affirming message such as loving and forgiving yourself for past sins and removing temptation in order to make love last."
Nothing is perfect. If we had our druthers, one or two plot points would be different, mainly, the presentation of Kevin. In the first book, he is beaten and abused; in the sequel, his lover cheats on him and a scheming, scorned woman hatches intricate revenge plots. But as much as we'd like for his character to man-up and face his adversaries, his inaction creates the much-needed dramatic tension that propels the novel. Plus, it's important to demonstrate that domestic violence can happen to anyone, even people who look or sound like ourselves. "We think it is confined to poor and uneducated people," says the author. "Or, some woman living in the suburbs whose story would make a good Sunday afternoon movie on Lifetime. However, the reality of abuse is that it knows no bounds. It does not discriminate and not demographic group is immune or exempt from it."
At 234 pages, A Deeper Blue: Passion Marks II is a fast, compelling read. The characters are driven, the excitement is non-stop, and, bad boys and bad girls almost jump from the pages. We read it overnight—twice. You'll probably do the same.
On Saturday, March 25, Lee Hayes will appear at the Derrick L. Briggs Book Club in New York City to discuss his novel.
A Deeper Blue: Passion Marks II (Amazon)
Passion Marks (Amazon)