Courage can be costly.
Welcome to one of the many stops on the book blitz for Like A Hero by Michael J. Bowler with Xpresso Book Tours. Look for others participating in this blitz across social media and on your favourite bookish blogs October 18-22, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway! More on that at the end of this post.
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About the Book
Like A Hero
by Michael J. Bowler
Published 18 October 2022
Genre: YA Action Adventure
Page Count: 435
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Courage can be costly. Orphaned brothers Vincent and Dennis Villanueva learn the truth of those words when they create a masked crime fighter and turn him loose on Los Angeles. The brainchild of fourteen-year-old Dennis and embodied in twenty-one-year-old Vincent, “Invictus” hits the streets to jumpstart apathetic Angelenos into taking a more active role in their city.
But reality isn’t a comic book. Vincent finds poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, abuse, and cast-off children. Labeled a vigilante and criminal, the shy grad student with formidable martial arts talent and abysmal people skills soon doubts his ability to make an impact.
Forced to straddle an ambiguous line between moral and legal, he becomes disheartened and secretive, hiding the truth of what he’s doing from Dennis and driving a wedge between them. Feeling neglected, Dennis infiltrates a dangerous drug ring to show Vincent he can be just as heroic, not knowing that the woman in charge is weaving an insidious plot against Invictus as part of her citywide scheme of vengeance. In a race against time, Vincent must regain Dennis’s trust before the brother he loves is lost to him forever.
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Vincent had practically grown up in James and Linda’s house. Across the street and a few houses down from theirs, it had been his and Dennis’s home away from home, with James and Linda like second parents to both of them, not just their godson, Dennis. Unlike their house, this one was single story, but it had long hall- ways, a huge kitchen because Linda loved to cook, and a big sparring room off the garage.
Vincent’s dad had installed his own workout room at the house, but James’s was larger and he’d incorporated strength training equipment that the boys had used over the years to strengthen their joints and muscles.
The Villanueva clan had spent many a laugh-filled Thanksgiving or Christmas at the Stevens home, and the large brightly lit dining room felt hauntingly empty without his parents sitting at the table with them. Loy and James had been part- ners in the police department as far back as Vincent could remember, and the families were more like one than two.
Sitting at the burnished wood table passing bowls of rice back and forth choked off most of the words he considered saying because too many memories intruded. Dennis, he knew, felt their missing parents even more acutely.
James shoveled mashed potatoes into his mouth and swigged from a glass of
water. “I still can’t get over what happened yesterday,” he offered. “Only Dennis could have a graduation like that.”
He tried for a smile, but Dennis half-heartedly returned it as he chewed on his chicken.
Yeah, he’s fighting the PTSD again, Vincent realized.
Linda said, “I would’ve preferred to watch the excitement from Vincent’s vantage point – the parking lot.” She smiled and reached out to cup Dennis’s hand with one of hers. “I was so terrified for you, baby.”
Dennis swallowed his food. “Yeah, me too. Lucky Invictus showed up, huh, James?”
James grunted as he swallowed a bite of chicken and placed his fork down onto his plate. “Truth be told, he did save your life, Dennis. He saved everyone. Torres was wrong.”
“You tried to save me,” Dennis added. “Thanks for that.”
“I’d do anything for you boys, you know that,” James affirmed, his face set with determination. “I promised your dad I’d–”
Dennis flinched and averted his eyes.
“Well, uh, I’m happy Invictus showed up when he did,” Vincent tossed out, knowing it sounded lame, but wanting to distract Dennis. “I’m the only one al- lowed to take down my baby brother.”
He elbowed Dennis and drew out the smile he loved.
“Only cuz you outweigh me, Vince,” Dennis said, the fire returning to his voice. “You know I can kick your ass by catching you off-guard.”
“Exactly how many times have you managed to do that?” Dennis laughed. “Okay, once. But I’ll do it again.” Vincent returned the laugh and they high-fived.
Linda chuckled. “I almost had a heart attack yesterday and these two laugh about it.”
“That’s us guys for you, Linda,” James said, and they resumed eating.
Vincent scooped some rice onto his plate and passed the bowl to Dennis. Trying to sound casual, he said, “So James, are you and Torres really gonna treat Invictus like a criminal? I mean, he saved Dennis and those other people, right?”
“No choice, Vince,” James said around a mouthful of asparagus. “Like Torres said, nobody can be allowed to operate outside the law.”
“Even if they’re doing something good?” Dennis asked.
“Even then,” James responded. “If we let guys like that do their thing, order eventually breaks down and we end up with chaos. Your d—” He stopped himself quickly. “You’ll understand that better when you’re older. Life isn’t a comic book.”
“It could be,” Dennis offered before focusing on his food.
Vincent noted James and Linda exchange a confused look and hoped they weren’t making the older couple suspicious. Then James said something that al- most stopped his heart.
“You know, Linda, there was something about his fighting style.” “Whose?”
“Invictus,” James went on, pausing with his utensils in mid-air. “I was just telling Torres today that there was something familiar about his fighting style. Did you notice anything, hun? You’ve trained half the young black belts in L.A.”
She considered a moment. “Now that you mention it, there was something about the fluidity of the body, the way he spun into those kicks.”
“It’ll come to me. I never forget a fighting style.”
Vincent kept his head down, but stole a quick glance at Dennis. His brother was looking his way and wore the same facial expression.
This wasn’t a good development.
About the Author
Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author who grew up in Northern California. He majored in English/Theatre at Santa Clara University, earned a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and a master’s in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills. Michael taught high school in Hawthorne, California, both in general education and to students with disabilities. When Michael is not writing, he serves as a youth mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles, but mostly he takes care of his recently adopted son. He is a passionate advocate for the fair treatment of children and teens in California and hopes that his books can show young people they are not alone in their struggles.
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