Mark Thomas owns his own “New York”-themed bar on an off-world colony.
Nate Fox is an ex-con gone straight.
He’s also Mark’s best friend and brother-in-law.
Mark has feelings for Nate. Nate has feelings for Mark.
But neither man is prepared to compromise their friendship or Mark’s relationship with Danny.
Blood Lines is a story about fidelity, trust, and respect. It’s a story about honesty and learning from mistakes.
And it’s a story about second chances.
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When I was a kid, sure I got into trouble. We all did back then. The Colony was still new and lawless. Those trying to make a life here had to put up with Earth’s rejects and it didn’t run smooth like they planned. I guess I was one of those rejects stirring up trouble. And a kid out in the Colony in the early days naturally found trouble. I wasn’t the only one. I certainly wasn’t the last. But I took my punishment for the thefts, served my time, and moved on.
Maybe I got lucky. Straight after prison I got a job – a good job. The hours were long, the work was hard, but it was honest. It was simple. There’s a camaraderie on the docks, working with men carrying similar histories. And when the day is done you can sit together, share a beer, watch some Earth sports. Honest, simple life. That’s all I wanted.
My brother, Danny, never got that. He was too young when he got sent down and found himself playing too many games in prison with dangerous people. He made trouble for himself and used the only smarts he had to get out of it. Jumping from mistake to mistake, I thought he was never going to get out of that place. But he did. And as his big brother, it was my job to keep him from going back.
If he’d wanted to stay clean it might have worked. But Danny didn’t. Honesty, simplicity – neither suited him. And with the Colony now established there were too many ways to extort trouble. I thought he might change, that a couple of months in the real world would settle him down. I thought that marrying Mark would ground him. It didn’t.
He met Mark through me. The barman – my best friend – and brother hit it off straight away. It didn’t matter that Mark was a polar opposite – he was a legitimate business owner, a simple guy after a quiet life. Somehow their differences worked – at least at the start. But Danny wouldn’t change and his common sense was starting to fail him. He dragged Mark into his mess. And he dragged me in afterwards.
Mark has always deserved something better. I know Danny’s my brother, I know that I should love him whatever and I do. But it’s obvious to everyone how damaging he is to his husband. It’s painful to watch a man as good Mark try to make a failing relationship work. But who am I to judge? I stand on the side lines like a bad coach, watching the match fall apart, unwilling to make a change from the play I’ve made. I want to. I want to change the players. I want to change the formation. I want it to be me out there. I want him to be with me.
While this is my first A.L. Bates book, it won’t be my last. This is a great novella that I loved. The characters are amazingly developed, the plot is fast moving and interesting, and overall, Blood Lines is a fun read.
One of the surprising elements that worked for this story was the switching between different characters’ perspectives. We see the story through both Mark’s and Nate’s POV, as well as several of the secondary characters. While this doesn’t always work in books, it works here. The author used these character switches to both develop these characters into vivid, real characters, something that can be hard to do in a novella, as well as building tension and keeping the plot moving along.
For example, I understand what and why Danny did what he did a little more now after seeing a few chapters through his eyes. In fact, the story starts out through Danny’s POV, which definitely made me like him a bit more than if the story had started out with everything hitting the fan. It allowed a slower build in and allowed me to form a very different opinion about a character that could have just been written off as a one-dimensional screw-up. While there were a few awkward parts where the switching perspectives became a little confusing, the fact that the author tried to provide backgrounds and information on all of the characters, even the minor ones, really made this novella work for me as I actually cared about what and why the characters were doing what they did.
And while the plot starts off with a slow build, the action keeps off quickly and draws the reader in, refusing to let up until the end. I felt like I was on the run with Mark and Nate, experiencing everything with them. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put the book down, and ended up staying up late because I had to know what happened next.
My only big complaint about the story was that the sci-fi aspect is played down in it. Aside from mentioning that they were on Mars and describing some differences between Mars and Earth, it didn’t really play a part in the story. The story could be moved and set on Earth and it wouldn’t really affect the story at all. So for me, an avid sci-fi fan, I was a bit disappointed by this because I would have loved a lot more world-building.
Overall though, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would love to see more of Mark and Nate and the world they live in. How do they move on from what happened here? Is everything really over for them? These were some of the questions I had left at the end of the book, and I would love to see them answered in a sequel. I highly recommend Blood Lines as it’s not only a great read, but an awesome novella from an author I can’t wait to see more from.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*
About the Author:
A.L. BATES has a keen interest in Sci-fi and adventure novels and enjoys writing stories with strong characters in imaginative backgrounds. Although an avid writer, Deep is the first published novella by A.L. Bates.
A.L. Bates can be found on Facebook.