Review: Ironbound Kisses by Jessica Walsh

Don’t talk to him. For all intents and purposes, he doesn’t exist.

Thomas knows the rules when he takes a job with the circus, but he can’t stop thinking about the strange young man hidden away in the manager’s trailer. After a chance meeting with Isle, Thomas is even more intrigued, despite Isle’s warnings. As his obsession with Isle grows, Thomas vows to solve the mystery surrounding him and rescue him from his prison. But nothing is what it seems—especially not Isle—and Thomas is left unable to trust his own mind. Amidst the sparkles and illusions of the big top, Thomas can’t tell whether the spell he’s falling under is love… or something very different. He just knows he has to have Isle, and he’ll do things he never imagined himself capable of to get him.

I love, love, love fairy tales. Not the “pointless princess being rescued by pointless Prince Charming ending with a traditional pointless HEA” kind. No, I like the ones that are darker, deeper, where the lines between good and evil are blurred and the HEA is hard won and a little compromised. That’s how Ironbound Kisses read for me.

Ironbound Kisses is in a modern setting but the story’s feel could have easily been set in a fantasy world making it read timeless without ever being out of place. That could easily be attributed to the MC Thomas. I really don’t have the words to describe how much I liked and respected his character. He’s got a quiet and unassuming strength that was so natural for him the author didn’t ever have to tell me what he was like. I was shown his personality in his thoughts and action, it was very well done.

Thomas is a bit of a gypsy completely by choice. He’s got a decent relationship with his family, can go home anytime, but has no interest in a 9-5 life. He’s good with living like a nomad and it fit his personality well. I liked that he didn’t have a ridiculous amount of trauma and angst in his past that forced him to live how he did, he just plain liked it. He makes his way to a traveling circus and gets hired on as part of the ring crew. The Manager (he’s only referred to in this way through most of the book, names play a HUGE part in the power plays throughout) sees something unique in Thomas but it’s not something defined as of yet, but Thomas does have a way with the animals in the show that piques the manager’s interest but is completely natural with Thomas’s personality.

Life in the circus works for Thomas well. And, before I go on I have to say, I HATE circuses. I hate clowns, animals for entertainment, and clowns. Yes, I said clowns twice. So, in my head they always have a dark cloud of foreboding over them and I absolutely love them as a setting for anything scary. Think American Horror Story Freak Show. Love it. Now, this story is nothing like that, but it does have that sense of grittiness and mystery to it. Not everything is as it seems, but it’s a subtle feel that makes it all the better.

Anywho, there is a mysterious and beautiful young man that lives in the Manager’s trailer and Thomas is warned never to speak to him or of him. Anyone who has in the past has disappeared. No one knows what happened to them, some laugh it off, while others are dead serious. Well, you can’t tell a person as wise and altruistic as Thomas not to question why the young man is kept captive and not question the “why”. Thomas pushes his way in subtly and chance circumstances throw him together with the young man.

This is where things could turn hardcore spoiler-y and I don’t want to do that. You need to work your way through the story like I did. So, I’m going to try and describe how I felt reading the story while being vague on the specifics. Questions did get answered and Thomas’s curiosity was quelled, but the story was far from over and the overall sense of foreboding carried on beneath the surface of the temporary happy. And it wasn’t just the sense that someone or something was coming for Thomas and the young man, but that their relationship wasn’t quite right yet. As much as I wanted it to be, the supernatural element of things would have made an HEA at this point a bit of a lie. Was it true love the two men felt or were supernatural shenanigans at play?

This is the point where “the shit went down” and I loved what the author did in Thomas’s head. This is where he went from being a good guy to a wise man. As said shit went down I really didn’t know where he was going to go with his actions. Was he going to give in to his heart or his head? Or was there going to be something else altogether? Once you get to the “shit goes down” part of the book, don’t plan on putting it down. Up to that point the story was more quiet and full of subtle discovery.

The steam level is relatively low but the steam that is there works perfectly for the characters and pace of the story. Anything more would have read false and detracted from the overall story. This is an instance where the subtle works and being shown instead of told worked out perfectly. Jessica Walsh writes my kind of paranormal and I look forward to reading more of her words.

For more info on Ironbound Kisses, check it out on Goodreads.
**a copy of this story was provided for an honest review**

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