Title: Dark & Dazzling
Series: Sassy Boyz #2
Author: Elizabeth Varlet
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: Nov. 07,2016
Flames: 4 out of 5
Stars: 5 out of 5
Pre-Review Disclaimer: I will not apologize because I loved this book but I will warn you, there are probably wayyyy too many quotes and gifs in this review.
5 Sexy Stars from me – this book was everything I wanted and more! I honestly wasn’t sure if I loved or hated Azariah, but that sassy bitch killed it even without the heels.
When I sat down to read Dark & Dazzling I was both uncontrollably excited and afraid. The first book in the Sassy Boyz series (Fierce & Fabulous) made my top 10 of 2016 list before the end of chapter 5, so I was very aware of what Elizabeth Varlet was capable of as an author. I was also afraid to read it in case it didn’t live up to my expectations (lets face it, Ansel’s pretty hard to beat).
But Azariah Hayes, better known as “Z”, was an amazing and strong character in his own right.
He’d never dated someone whose mere presence simply demanded attention.
From the very first introduction of this character in Fierce & Fabulous, I knew I wanted to read his story (I did not, however, anticipate it being the next book in the series). Azariah was anything but ordinary and his friendship with Ansel was so important in the first book that I wanted to know him as more than just a supporting character.
From the get-go, it was clear that loss and heartbreak were major influences on who Z had chosen to be.
He’d loved those moments with his mom. Watching her put on her makeup and eventually getting up the courage to ask her to do his. The first time she’d rouged up his cheeks he’d felt like a princess and the way she’d smiled at him-it was like he was her entire life. Her everything.
Z hid behind his sarcasm and quick wit, making sure that who he really was and how he felt were concealed from obvious sight. He’d somehow found a way to use being an asshole as a defense mechanism to protect himself. His flaws, and he had a lot of them, were part of what made him so relatable and lovable as a character, even though I wanted to rip my hair out at times.
Despite all odds being against him, he’d built a family with the Sassy Boyz, and dancing had become not only a source distraction and income, but also an emotional crutch.
Being onstage was a form of worship for him. His way of giving thanks, even though he rarely had much to be thankful for. It made his soul purr.
I loved the relationship that these boys shared, and I was actually a little disappointed that I didn’t get to see more interaction between them. I think their familial bond and sassy banter with each other was one of my favorite parts of the first book, and now I’m holding out hope that the third book will have more of that in it.
Plus, I’d love to get more insight into Ansel and Azariah’s lives (even though their books are over).
In his heart, there was only Azariah’s aching vulnerability and the certainty no one else had ever seen it-because if they had, they never would have let Azariah go.
Z wasn’t ashamed of who he was, and he was only afraid to pursue what he wanted if it meant he’d lose something he couldn’t be without. And Detective Connolly Reid scared the shit out of him.
Connelly was the white-knight type of character and I fell in love with him immediately. I wish that were saying something, but I always love the detective MC’s (despite really disliking mystery books). Reid was loyal, intelligent, and protective, the perfect detective, but he was also more than that.
There were two types of people in the world, those who hurt you and those who changed you. Z knew without a doubt that Connelly was going to be both.
Connelly challenged Z in a way that nobody else could. He took the focus off of his failures and redirected his attention to what could be if he let it. These two were honestly so cute together that it was plain sickening at times (and don’t get me started on the nicknames).
“Make me feel good again, Hot Fudge. Make me feel alive.”
Reading about these two together was like fire. The chemistry was all there (and they both knew it) but they spent so much time fighting their feelings and fighting each other because it just “couldn’t” happen that I actually thought we were going to go off script and there would be no HEA for Azariah… Which, was actually upsetting because I’d kind of grown attached to him already, the little shit.
Z had put a lot of time and effort into safeguarding is heart and building up those walls so high that nobody would ever see over them, much less get close enough to make him feel.
“Give it to me,” Connelly said. Then, with everything in his heart, he whispered,”Give me that part of you no one else has seen.” The sob that escaped Azariah’s lips was full of denial.
“Come on, Azariah. Please.”
And Connelly completely broke him down until Z didn’t even know what a barrier was.
Love isn’t about dependence or independence. It’s about support. It’s about wanting to see someone else smile more than you want to breathe.
Aaannnddd then he had to go and screw up (but we all saw that coming anyways). I was so hopeful and frustrated with Azariah throughout the book (it was a little like a roller coaster actually) that I think I was very lenient on my judgement of Connelly. But he had some major flaws too, and his seemingly justifiable mistakes didn’t seem so clean cut when the consequences had the potential to destroy everything he’d worked so hard for.
Azariah growled in frustration. “Why won’t you just leave me alone?”
“Because I like you, you asshole.”
I was actually really surprised that he put up with Z the way he did. Despite not being a perfect person, Connolly didn’t treat him like he was the scum of the earth or like he didn’t want him because he was imperfect, and I think that’s the perfect example of why these two MC’s work so well together.
This book was a complete joy to read, and definitely worthy of a top 10 award. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. The next book can’t come soon enough, and oh, do I hope we get to read about Tam next.
Reviewed by Jordan at Alpha Book Club.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the author or the publisher in any way.