Review: Beyond the Grill by Tracey Michael

Justin Walker is used to being the hookup but never the boyfriend, and that’s okay. Justin has goals—he might sling burgers by night and work on his car by day, but he has plans to go to school and make a life for himself. He also has a few friends and loving parents.

What more could a guy ask for?

Hot, muscular, manly Shane Steel is a walking wet dream. Justin fantasizes about having Shane as more than a casual acquaintance, and one night he works up the courage to flirt with Shane. To his surprise—and terror—Shane is interested. Very interested.

As they bond over their love of cars and drag racing, Justin begins to believe he can be more to Shane than a side guy. Too bad Shane’s manipulative and dangerous ex is dead set against letting that happen.

Based on the blurb, I thought I was going to get a redeemed cumdump romance novella. I was hopeful for a reformed cum dumpster who doesn't know their worth, and they finally realize it on their own and also rebuild self esteem to find love. (Without a magic penis please.) Alas... that wasn't to be found here.

In fact, it barely delivers the blurb.

Justin is (who knows how old) but he works in a fast food chain as an assistant manager and learned to fix cars because he read a manual. He flirts with his friend/acquaintance who he thinks is straight and doesn't know how read his stalking signals. (I'll get to that later) This friend/acquaintance owns a mechanic shop, is "alpha" (and not a shifter--trust me I checked) and doesn't know how to communicate well.

The two sloppily date, drily start a...relationship(?) (I don't know what to call that when it was poorly executed within such a short time frame). Spoiler-ish: the story's tone is so monotone, a third person is thrown in for left field drama which includes roofie and coke use. (Side note: I'm not going to lecture on how to use roofies, but just to take a picture of a person naked?)

I could go on for hours on the book's so-called villain or the nonsensical scenes such as characters commenting smelling smoke when there was a locked door. You'd think there was a fire right? Wrong? It's a guy with a gun. Potential triggers: attempted rape

Basically, it was a no from the first page, but I was still holding out hope for a personality transplant.

Shane stalks Justin, who is presented as a doormat in the beginning. And is a doormat throughout the story. He learned nothing and did nothing. Shane actually hooks up with someone else very easily when his access to Justin is denied, so any feeling (which is questionable from the start) is meaningless.

The writing style is too underdeveloped for the mediocre plot.  Who are the main characters? How old are they? Why would the "villain" want to be with Shane? Or Justin? Rather than spend time on discussing drag racing, Fast and the Furious (which I've never watched) and the NHRA, it could have been spent on making the characters three dimensional and more than one note. Justin and Shane just continued to say they were lonely instead of show, a main problem of the book. Too much tell, not enough showing. And then when it came time to make a difference with the story, it was way too late.story could've been cut in half or written differently if the characters were developed more.

The best thing about the book? It's an AngtsyG cover. I kinda fell for the cover and then read the blurb.

Beyond the Grill is not the worst book I've read this year, which is also a plus in its favor. I just can't recommend.

The story ends with a HEA. And if you prefer a book to be penetration free, look no further. I can guarantee, this will be my last time reading from this author.

P.S. If anyone knows of cum dumpsters who reform and find self esteem with a romance added in, please point me in the direction. I'm on the hunt for reading something like that.

Find on Dreamspinner Press or Goodreads!


  1. I also thought that this book has better blurb than story itself. I requested the ARC and now I felt kind of relieved that I didn't buy it myself. Also 2-stars from me

    1. Same. This is definitely a 'Read the Sample First' book.

      The blurb writer deserves a medal.