Title: Heart of the Steal
Publisher: Philtre Press
Release Date: July 11th, 2017
Subgenre: Contemporary queer romance
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.
“So, Will, what brings you here?”
“My sister’s the event planner. Charlotte Fox.” I spread my arms out and smiled. “So I’m just here for the good whiskey, the free food, and moral support. You?”
“The asparagus quiche was delicious. Please convey my compliments to your sister. And I suppose you could say I am an investor, of a sort. I’m the head of my family’s philanthropic foundation, and that means I attend quite a few parties. Most of them are exceptionally dull.” He moved closer, and my heart rate kicked up another notch. “I’m finding this one unexpectedly enjoyable, however.”
“That because of the art collection?” I asked. Warmth curled in my stomach and spread through me, like the sunset from the Staunton had slipped directly into my veins. He smelled good, Vaughn. I caught eucalyptus and amber, along with something woodsy and natural, like pine. It made my mouth water.
“The Staunton is lovely, but I’ve seen better.” He reached out slowly, eyes still on mine, and drew a single long finger down the lapel of my suit jacket. It was one of the hottest things any man had ever done to me, dressed or undressed; in bed or out. I shivered, and my breath caught in a sharp inhalation. I could see how much he liked my reaction. There was something sly and challenging in his expression before he leaned down and kissed me.
His mouth was hot and his hands were suddenly on my shoulders, giving me a little push until my shoulders hit the wall. I slid a hand around the back of Vaughn’s head, fingers caressing the strands of braided hair. I slid my other hand down his chest as we kissed, feeling lean muscle, strong but sinewy. I rested my hand on his stomach as we kissed, as if I could measure the space between us, and I made a sound as we broke apart to breathe.
I did not make out with strangers at parties. I couldn’t even really blame the whiskey either. Vaughn was overwhelming, as bold as that goddamn Staunton, and so attractive that the second his mouth met mine I knew I wasn’t going to push him away. Vaughn dropped one of his hands and began to boldly rub me through my pants while his mouth did wicked things to my neck.
“You—” I didn’t know what to say, so I just pulled him back in and kissed him again. He nipped at my bottom lip with sharp teeth, and I widened my legs as his hands began to work at my belt. There was a momentary pause that I took as him asking for permission, and I gave it with a rough jerk of my head and a choked groan.
I’m an Avon and Roan fangirl, and I’m not ashamed to admit that. When I saw they were teaming up for a book, I was pumped. I had pretty high expectations going in, and Heart of the Steal lived up to every one of them.
The writing in this novel is absolutely beautiful. As I’ve come to appreciate in both of these authors’ books, the beauty in the prose is subtle and you could almost skip right over it if you’re reading just to get to the end. My advice: enjoy the journey. Read it slowly and savor the words Avon and Roan put to paper. My personal favorite quote:
“When we spoke of our relationship, when I thought about it in terms of beginning, it was our first date: the picnic after the gala. The day he’d agreed not to take things that weren’t his, and I’d let him take me.”
I think perhaps the thing I loved most about this book was the lack of drama for drama’s sake. I mean, FBI art crimes agent meets art thief? Government employee meets billionaire? It’s such a ridiculous, TV movie-esque idea. It would’ve been so easy to make this theatrical and chock-full of plot devices. But Avon and Roan made it so much more. I kept waiting for something ridiculous to happen (Will’s boss find out about Vaughn’s extracurriculars, or Vaughn finding himself in a trap), but I was instead continually impressed by the depth of the characters they created and the super common things they had to work through for their HEA.
Amory stole my heart. I totally expected going in that Will was going to be my favorite (I’m more of a follow-the-rules kind of gal, just like him), but Vaughn knocked my socks off. His love for Will, his lack of family, his insecurity and the way it juxtaposes with his confidence, why he does what he does – it all melted my heart. That he looks like Lucius Malfoy (come on, who *didn’t* have a little bit of a crush on him, am I right?) didn’t hurt.
If I had to pick a complaint, it’d be that the ending was a bit… abrupt. I would’ve absolutely loved an epilogue or some snapshot of them further down the road. But seriously, I’d only complain about that if you twisted my arm. After stepping away for a bit, I think the ending fit the subtle and beautiful spirit of the book.
I cannot recommend Heart of the Steal enough. It’s got everything – heart, steam, humor, feels. Easily a top read of the year.
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.
“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