A Chip In His Shoulder
Riptide Publishing, November 7, 2011 | 78 pages
Author’s website | Goodreads | Buy book here
“Contract killer” is a fitting job for a vampire, and it suits Liam just fine. Cast down from the wealth and status of the Sky for taking a human lover, Liam lurks in the poor and pollution-choked Gutter, killing to survive. Between his natural strengths and his Cybernetix mods, no mark has ever escaped him.
Liam’s ex-lover Daniel is the heir to Cybernetix—and its greatest threat. Horrified by people less man than machine and the exploitation of Gutter factory workers, he’d rather destroy Cybernetix than inherit it . . . if his father doesn’t destroy him first.
Years of anger and a heap of mods have kept Daniel and Liam apart. When Liam is hired to slaughter a man in his glass Sky tower, he walks right into a Daniel-shaped trap. Daniel’s father has betrayed them both, and only by working together can Daniel and Liam survive the coming day. They have no reason to trust each other, but as the dawn looms, a bargain that began with the simple urge to live soon reminds them of the love they once shared. Can they find each other again, or will the Cybernetix assassins find them first?
Genre & Keywords:
M/M, Romance, Urban Fantasy / Paranormal, Action, Cyberpunk, Enemies To Lovers, Interspecies, Contract Killer, Hacker, Future, Vampire
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 2.5 out of 3
A Chip In His Shoulder is a thrilling read thanks to the fast paced and action filled plot. Combined with a good suspense arc and an engaging and interesting world building it makes this novella a page turner. Add two memorable main characters and one would think we have a winner. Well, yes, I can definitely recommend this story, but I have a few niggles as well. I'll get to them later, first the good stuff.
It's not easy to say something about the story arc without giving away the plot. And that would be a pity because a great deal of this story's power is in that rather suspenseful and action filled arc. So, let's start with the general world building: essentially it comes down to the existence of the Sky vs the Gutter. In the Sky the rich and corrupt people rule. The Gutter is populated with the shunned and poor people, the working class, who gets suppressed by the elite.
Then there's humans vs vampires, who seem to exist in both societies. Big business is mods. Humans have large and successful companies that build modifications for vampires (or at least vampires are big purchasers and financiers because they have lots of advantage from the mods). Since mods mean big money, this business is sensitive to corruption.
I found this world building interesting and well drawn without it being too much in the foreground. It's been gradually presented while we are from the beginning in the midst of Liam and Daniel's story. It's not complete by far though and I found myself wondering about a few things involving this world, after finishing the story.
With the existence of the mods we get to the conflict between the two main characters. Liam has a lot of mods in his body, while Daniel is against the principle of mods. Their fall out as lovers five years ago has to do with their difference in opinion on this subject. A fall out that turned them into enemies. Daniel's father is one of the very rich and influential mod manufacturers. He's corrupt and willing to kill to get what he wants. Daniel is fighting him and his practices. Which makes him his father's next target, a nuisance that has to be eliminated. Liam is a contract killer and he is the one who gets hired to do this job. And there Daniel and Liam meet again, after five years in which they've become to hate and distrust each other.
We're witnessing how the duo learn they've been double crossed by Daniel's father and they have to find a way to work together as a team to escape death. And what follows is a suspenseful, intriguing adventure. The testosterone filled action and the way Liam and Daniel are rather masculine and explosive together, reminded me a bit of the Cut & Run series by Urban and Roux and its couple Ty and Zane, one of my favorite m/m couples ever. Liam and Daniel certainly do have the potential to become another fave couple, although they would need at least another book with more adventures and more relationship development to accomplish a place on that fave couples list...
The characters are both intriguing and unique personalities who have the prospect of depth and growth. I thought they are memorable and three dimensional heroes.
The writing style in this novella is very good at showing the feelings, emotions, thoughts and inner conflicts of the characters (as opposed to merely telling about them). This makes it easy to picture the heroes with all their gestures, movements and positions within their surroundings.
However, (and here's one of my niggles) the relationship building is lacking as opposed to the character building (so far). Their getting back together is mainly driven by external motivation (a very valid but not very romantic motivation: trying to escape death) and I think they have a long way to go before the lack in trust between them will be repaired completely. And there's still the fact of all the mods Liam has and are hated by Daniel. The ending is far from a solid HEA for these two men, even if it's presented as one, because I can see a few relationship conflicts coming up in their near future.
Nevertheless, their physical chemistry is super hot and I would not mind at all to see more of that in a possible sequel, along with a new arc of them handling their precarious HEA.
About that sequel…, I suspect there will be one, it is kind of obvious, (and honestly, I want one, I need one, there has to be one! lol) but why not give it all to us in a novel instead of two or more novellas? I truly don't understand why A Chip In His Shoulder wasn't a novel or extended novel, instead of a novella. Not only the world building asked for a novel, but a novel also could've given more room to the process of forgiveness which came a bit easy, especially from Liam. I also would've loved to see more details of Daniel's expertise and hacking abilities to bring his father down. And we definitely need a sequel for revenge and justice to take place, because there was no room for that in this novella either. This story asked for and deserved more pages in my opinion. I feel sort of frustrated because now all we can do is hope and wait for a sequel.
Overall, I loved this cyberpunk romance in which enemies turn to lovers. As an admirer of L.A. Witt's writing style and a fan of her contemporary romances I suspected I would but couldn't be sure since I'm not much of an urban fantasy reader. However, no matter the genre she chooses, this author can turn every story into a compelling and thrilling experience for me, meanwhile tugging at my heart strings and keeping me engaged with a fabulous plot and three dimensional heroes. Despite my few niggles, I can only highly recommend A Chip In His Shoulder. You won't be bored for a minute, if you're anything like me, you’ll just want more once you've finished it.