The Darkest Flame is the first book in the new Roadmap to Your Heart series by Christina Lee. This book is also a spin-off from her book, There You Stand, where Smoke and Vaughn are first introduced as secondary characters. It is not necessary to have read There You Stand before The Darkest Flame though, so don't worry if you haven't read that one first as you can still understand this one with no problems.
Being part owner of the Hog's Den, Vaughn has been privilege to club business when it comes to the Disciples of the Road. Though he is interested in women, Vaughn is also drawn to men, a secret he has no interest in having the Disciples find out. So when their new member Smoke walks into his bar, he knows that he has to do whatever it takes to keep Smoke and the rest of the members from seeing how drawn to him he is. Smoke finally feels as though he has found a place where he belongs, and that is with the Disciples. So when he meets Vaughn, he knows that he needs to stay away from him and stick to the path he is on with the Disciples. But when the Hog's Den needs some help, Disciples Prez Mal assigns Smoke to help Vaughn out. As the two spend more time together, they begin to realize that the attraction between them is mutual and though they know they should stay away from one another they find it impossible. But when Smoke's past suddenly starts to mess with those in his life, Smoke realizes that he might have to come clean and risk losing everything in order to protect Vaughn.
I liked both Smoke and Vaughn. These two were great together, and you could feel the chemistry and connection between them right from the start. I do feel like their circumstances were sort of set up for them though, and I would have liked them to have come together more naturally. It seemed like the only real reason that anything happened was basically because of Mal sort of forcing them together in a way. I wanted to see them really face their connection and go for it themselves. I liked that they both really seemed to share a lot of common interests though, especially working behind the bar. That really brought them together, and it was nice to see them have some common ground. The one thing that kind of bothered me here though was that they were both bisexual, and I felt like for a M/M story, that their connection wasn't as strong as it could have been because of that. I didn't want them talking about or thinking about hooking up with women, it was bad enough with them and the men from their past. There was one scene that was slightly menage (I say slightly, because there wasn't a ton of participation all around and things didn't go all the way), but with them only wanting each other rather than the woman and the fact that they didn't touch each other, it just came off as really awkward and I didn't understand the need for it. Though they were trying to keep things between them under wraps at that point of the story, it just didn't add anything and I think it actually sort of took away from the relationship forming. I did think that these two were hot together though, and that is one part of this book that was absolutely fantastic. I couldn't get enough of these two together, and they definitely had a crazy amount of steam between them.
Besides the issues with the circumstances surrounding these two, I felt like this book had a tendency to tell rather than show. There were times that these characters had a huge amount of detailed thoughts about their pasts and things going on in their lives, and I would have liked it better had these been incorporated more into the dialogue of the story. I wanted to see them talking to each other more and developing a connection, rather than a huge info dump from the author via inner monologue. It distracts me from the story, and causes me to lose interest quickly. I also thought that there was an issue here with the dual POV. While I enjoyed getting both Smoke and Vaughn's POVs, there were times that the chapter would state it to be one's POV but we would actually get thoughts and dialogue/info from the other character. It would usually switch back pretty quickly, but it was very confusing at times. There were several instances where I didn't know what was going on or which guy's head we were in because of it, and I wish that that had been fixed. This could have been because I had an advanced copy though, as I was given a copy before the book was published. Hopefully this was fixed before the book was published, though I cannot verify that it was as I don't have access to the published version. I do think that this one needed an editor or beta reader though from what was evident in the copy that I had. So while I did enjoy parts of this story, especially the sexy scenes, I just think that this one needed some work. I will be interested to see what happens in the next book and as the series continues though. If you are a fan of the M/M genre and like MC stories, this one is worth giving a shot. There are plenty of sexy scenes and suspense that kept me interested in Vaughn and Smoke's story, even with the things that I had issues with.
**ARC Provided by Author**