Petty thief Ashoka “Ace” King knows better than to get in the way of Tophet’s Anti-Terrorist Unit. Rightfully feared in Tophet’s crime-ridden underbelly, a face-to-face encounter with an ATU is almost certainly a death sentence. But Ace has never been one to follow the rules.
Soren Lau might be an ATU rookie, but he’s not naive enough to believe everything his superiors tell him. Then again, he’s not stupid enough to disobey them, either. If he doesn’t shoot and kill as ordered, he might be next on their list.
But when Soren meets Ace, a moment’s hesitation is all it takes to put both their lives on the line. They don’t know each other, they don’t trust each other, and there’s no way in hell they can both walk away from this alive. But with suspicion and mortal danger mounting against both of them—and the forbidden attraction blazing between them—there’s nothing they can do but try.
The Bliss series scares the bejeezus out of me. Not because it’s horror or gruesome or gory or anything like that. No, this series scares me because I can easily see the world turning the way of Tophet and Beulah if the wrong people ever got into power and abused their authority. While Tin Man didn’t freak me out as badly as Bliss did, it still affected me because even in this day and age, members of the military are expected to follow orders without question and Tin Man shows just how dangerous that can be.
As we saw in Beulah, the powers that be in Tophet have skewed the laws in their favor and made it nearly impossible for those on the bottom to make a better life for themselves. Being unemployed is a crime. Being homeless is a crime. Publicly speaking out against the government is a crime. Being homosexual is a crime. As Ace meets three of those, he’s definitely considered a criminal by the Tophet government. So when he and his acquaintance, Chen, are asked for their papers to prove their employment and residency, Ace knows that his time is up and does what he can to secure Chen’s escape as the man has saved his life more than once and has children who depend on him. But being a criminal does not mean that Ace is the heartless, amoral animal that Soren has been taught crims are, which proves fortunate for Soren when he finds himself hanging on by the tips of his fingers – literally – trying not to plummet to his death. And yet just as Ace saves his life, Soren still attempts to follow orders and capture the crim. But Ace refuses to go down without a fight and in the midst of their struggle, he learns something very telling about the Anti-Terrorist Unit officer – he’s homosexual. What follows is a scene that is complicated emotionally, but hot as heck as Ace shows Soren the benefit of being a crim. As each man endures their own trials after the encounter, it isn’t until they come face-to-face again that they realize just how much that single encounter affected them.
Despite this being a novella, Henry and Belleau don’t skimp on the storytelling in Tin Man. Because this isn’t a romance per se, there isn’t a happy ending but rather the closing of one door and the opening of another. We don’t know what is to become of Ace or Soren because this is merely one chapter in their lives. The disparities between the classes is quite evident, especially towards the end of the book when we visit Soren’s apartment. That the laws are made arbitrarily and seem to be designed to keep people from bettering themselves, it’s disturbing just how much trust Soren has in his supervisors – at least until a condescending comment is made by a colleague. Yet it was this simple throw away comment that sent Soren’s world spinning off its axis as he began to wonder who it was that he’s really fighting. The chemistry between Ace and Soren is ridiculously hot and we get some seriously angry sex between the two, with the BDSM elements ramping up the heat. I thoroughly enjoyed Tin Man and am already looking forward to the next book in the Bliss series.