Book: Heart of Steal
Publisher: Philtre Press
Publication date: July 11, 2017
Length: 80k words
SubGenre: Contemporary Queer Romance
Reviewed by Erin
Responsible, disciplined William Fox channeled his love for art and his faith in the rules into being an FBI Art Crimes agent. Right and wrong, justice and injustice—the differences are clear, and Will has spent his career drawing a line between them. Maybe his convictions have cost him relationships, but he’s not willing to compromise what he knows is right. Until the night he meets Amory Vaughn.
As the head of his family’s philanthropic foundation, Vaughn knows very well that being rich and powerful can get him almost anything he wants. And when he meets endearingly grumpy and slightly awkward William Fox, he wants him more than he’s wanted anything. Vaughn is used to being desired for his name and his money, but Will doesn’t care about either.
When Vaughn falls back on old habits and attempts to impress Will by stealing a painting Will admires, their nascent bond blows up in his face. But Vaughn isn’t willing to give up on the glimpse of passion he saw the night he took Will apart. Before Will knows it, he’s falling for the man he should have arrested, and Vaughn has to realize that some things can’t be bought or stolen. Love has to be given freely. But can a man who lives by the rules, and a man who thinks the rules don’t apply to him, ever see eye to eye?
Heart of the Steal is a standalone romance with a happy ending. It features a Southern gentleman who thinks he’s always right, a buttoned-up FBI agent who secretly likes his buttons unbuttoned, and wall sex. And desk sex. And picnic blanket sex.
Quotes from the Authors
“Writing this book with Roan was so much fun! It was a joy to create these characters and take them on a journey to their hard-earned HEA. Even if we had to suffer some pretty bad hotel breakfasts of our own.” --Avon Gale
“I adored writing with Avon. It felt like I got to crack open her skull and peek at her brain. Which is my idea of heaven :)” --Roan Parrish
I could give Heart of the Steal all the stars in the world simply for the cover alone because, damn. I don't know that there's been a cover quite like this one, ever, or one that I've loved so much I want to frame it just so I can look at it all the time. But, this is Avon Gale and Roan Parrish we're talking about, collaborating for the first of what I hope is MANY, many times, so you know you're in for something amazing with these two. It's kind of like Christmas, only better, when two of your favorite authors write a book together and Heart of the Steal was better than all the presents under the tree.
This book was everything you'd expect from an Avon Gale/Roan Parrish collaboration. Brilliantly crafted, evocative, witty writing, banter to die for, and two characters who are just out of this world fantastic. Will and Vaughn totally enthralled me and I loved every single moment of Heart of the Steal. A story about an FBI agent who specializes in art crimes and a philanthropist with a thirst for stealing works of art, Gale and Parrish have given us a story that encapsulates the very best their immense talents can deliver. This book is probably not what you're expecting either. Sure, some of the trademarks Avon and Roan are known for are present, as I've mentioned already, but from the blurb you might expect lots of action and maybe a bit of suspense. After all, we're talking about a by the book FBI agent and an art thief—surely there must be investigations and close calls and whatnot, right? Well, no. Heart of the Steal is about William Fox and Amory Vaughn, who they are as men, who they can be together. Character driven much more than plot driven, Heart of the Steal is a quiet, sometimes achingly tender story of two men who seem so opposite, finding one another and falling in love.
I loved William Fox like the rip of lightning through a sky I thought would always be dark. Like a shout echoed back to me from a great depth, rounded by distance and time, but still recognizable.
I absolutely adored the contradictions in this one. A philanthropist that has a bit of a rebel/thrill of the hunt bent to him. Vaughn is privileged and used to getting his way. He's used to people listening when he says something and when he wants something, or even someone, he gets it. He's not used to hearing the word no ... which is all he hears from Will.
“Now you love it,” I murmured.
“Now I love it.”
I couldn’t have predicted how the word love on William’s perfect lips would affect me. I felt something kindle in my stomach that wasn’t precisely lust, nor was it hunger, exactly.
Longing. My brain finally supplied the word. I felt an unfamiliar longing to know more of these things about William. I wanted to hear all the stories about him and Charlotte as children, to know what their father yelled about. How Will dressed in high school, and who he took to the prom. What books he liked to read, and whether he listened to music in the car. Whether he wore pajamas to bed, or underwear, or nothing. How he took his coffee. Whether he liked Christmas, and what his best birthday was, and what he smelled like first thing in the morning, sleepy and warm in my bed.
I wanted to know all these things and more, and I was struck with a jolt of panic that maybe he wouldn’t let me find out. Maybe, for the first time in a rather long time, all the money and all the charm in the world wouldn’t be enough to get me what I wanted.
And the thought of it was unbearable.
Then we have Will. He's as straight-laced as they come, rumpled, ill-fitting suits notwithstanding. He's a very black and white, right or wrong kind of guy. Will is certainly not used to someone like Amory Vaughn...or the feelings Vaughn stirs within himself.
The eyes that met mine were wary, confused. And though I didn’t mean to, I felt that wariness like a slap.
I kissed him instantly. “What? Tell me what you need. Anything, of course.”
But he shook his head and bit his lip. “I need you to not be…who you are,” he said, the words opening cuts in his wake.
“I need this to not be a terrible joke where I’m a cop and you’re a robber,” he went on. “I want to date the guy who throws nice parties and helps the caterer clean up, not the guy who steals art.”
There is a lot of emotional depth to this story, a lot of self-reflection that I found utterly fascinating. Watching Will struggle with his growing feelings toward Vaughn, knowing that he's broken the law (I won't spoil anything) but unable to stop himself from getting closer, from actually liking Vaughn was wonderful. Vaughn is such a pretentious fellow but damn I adored him. He was so charming and to be honest, the silver fox angle was all kinds of yes, please.
Of course, with Avon Gale and Roan Parrish you're going to get lots of snarky, often hilarious banter and it so works in Heart of the Steal to help balance the seriousness of Will and Vaughn's developing relationship. These two guys genuinely like one another, they love to spend time together, and it leaps off the page at you. The sexy times are emotional and intense as fits with these two. It's about connection and feelings, not solely to get off. Even their first hot and quick encounter was more powerful than either expected...or wanted. There are SO many sweet, tender and very swoony moments between these two. At heart (see what I did there?), this is absolutely one hell of a satisfying romance.
Stealing your heart fees like the greatest theft I have ever perpetrated.
Will shook his head in frustration, his irritation clear. I could work with irritation. One strong emotion would do just as well as another. “Don’t act like we’re close. Like you know me. Like you know what things I like and who I am. Because you don’t.”
“But I’d like to. I’d like to know who you are inside and out. I wanted to see you again.”
I’d banked on the same spark that had flared to life in my study after Val’s wedding reigniting, if I could just get William close to me again.
I let go of the check then and it fluttered to the floor at our feet. Will glared at me, eyes wide, cheeks flushing. He stooped and snatched the check up, slapping it down on the desk and whirling back around to face me.
“You think that you can do anything, get away with anything, because you’re rich and privileged and handsome,” he spat out, though his lip twitched at “handsome,” suggesting he hadn’t meant to include it in his list of offenses. “But it doesn’t work that way. Eventually, things catch up with you. Eventually, you make a mistake and give the game away. Eventually, you get caught. And I’m going to be there when you do.”
He’d closed the distance between us and I could smell him: inexpensive aftershave and soap, and a hint of stale, after-work sweat clinging to his clothes. It was the smell I imagined was associated with the first kiss after a lover walked in the door. The kiss that said, I’m so happy to be done with work and home, here, with you. The kiss that said, I’ll go change and then we can start our evening together. The kisses I’d thought about enough that they felt real, but never actually had.
“You’re here now,” I murmured, mostly to myself. I’d lost the thread of the conversation a bit, distracted by thinking about William coming home to…me. I wasn’t sure where the thought had come from. I wasn’t the coming-home-to type, or so I’d been told by enough lovers I assumed they must be onto something.
But William’s eyes were narrowed and his color was high and his breath was audible. Either he was about to hit me, or—
The kiss hit me like a fist, and I had to grab him around the shoulders to keep from pitching backward under the onslaught. I allowed myself the briefest moment of victory that my plan had worked, and then I sank into the kiss. His mouth had the slightly sharp bite of coffee, but that gave way almost immediately to the warm caramel taste that was Will’s alone. It was sugar and heat and richly turning leaves and I opened my mouth, desperate for more of it.
About the Authors
Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.
When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique.
She is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.
Avon Gale wrote her first story at the age of seven, about a “Space Hat” hanging on a rack and waiting for that special person to come along and purchase it — even if it was a bit weirder than the other, more normal hats. Like all of Avon’s characters, the space hat did get its happily ever after — though she’s pretty sure it was with a unicorn. She likes to think her vocabulary has improved since then, but the theme of quirky people waiting for their perfect match is still one of her favorites.
Avon grew up in the southern United States, and now lives with her very patient husband in a liberal midwestern college town. When she’s not writing, she’s either doing some kind of craft project that makes a huge mess, reading, watching horror movies, listening to music or yelling at her favorite hockey team to get it together, already. Avon is always up for a road trip, adores Kentucky bourbon, thinks nothing is as stress relieving as a good rock concert and will never say no to candy.
At one point, Avon was the mayor of both Jazzercise and Lollicup on Foursquare. This tells you basically all you need to know about her as a person.
Avon is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.
Win a copy of Heart of Steal
(gifted through Amazon)
Contest will end July 16th
a Rafflecopter giveaway