Reviewed by JustJen
Author: Michael Murphy
Genre: MM Contemporary
Length: 200 Pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: May 27, 2015
Available at: Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads
Blurb: While on a mission in northern Afghanistan, Benji’s helicopter is shot down. Benji went in with a band of brothers but comes out with a stack of body bags, including one for his partner, Blade.
After recovering physically in Germany, Benji is sent home to San Diego. He’s been a soldier so long he doesn’t know how to live as a civilian. The loss of his brothers and his partner weighs heavily on him. Benji’s body might be healed, but he is still a very broken man. Unable to find work, Benji turns to drinking, bar fights, risky sex with anonymous men, and striking out at everything. As he spirals out of control, he even tries volunteering in a BDSM club as a sub for demonstrations and private scenes.
Despair drives Benji to action, and he meets Nick, a young man in desperate need of hope. With his options and his money running out, the only question is if Benji will find his way in time.
Review: This is labeled as BDSM, but really that’s not what it’s about. This story focuses on Benji and his life with PTSD and how he deals or doesn’t deal with it.
Benji returns home after being discharged from the military after he is wounded and is the only man to survive the attack he and his team were involved in. Upon his return, he finds that he has trouble fitting in and things just aren’t the same anymore. Everything he and his partner had planned for their return six months from now, were blown to smithereens in the same attack that took Blaze from him. As a further result of that attack, he suffers debilitating flashbacks, as well as overwhelming guilt at being the last man standing. His first attempts at trying to drown out that pain are not pretty.
Benji resorts to risky unsafe sex with random strangers night after night. When that doesn’t work anymore, he turns to drinking. By chance, he ends up at a BDSM club where he finds a new kind of pain to take away the old. Things get pretty heavy for him at this stage, but it only puts a band aid on the problem. Eventually, he reaches a limit and closes that door.
Unfortunately, he has hit rock bottom and decides to climb a bridge. It takes a good part of the book to get to this part, but it is worth it. It is here that he meets Nick, a young guy who is ready to give up – he came out, parents kicked him out, he lived on the streets, lost his job – because he is gay. Through helping talk Nick down, I think Benji was reminded of a few things himself.
Though Nick is a bit younger (19), he is wise beyond his years, and the two really hit if off. Benji finally finds something else to focus on and has feelings of happiness for the first time in months. However, they take things pretty slowly, enjoying spending time together, getting to know one another, etc. It isn’t until they both get tested (Benji was most concerned due to his prior risky behavior) that they take things any further. When they do, there is quite a noticeable difference in the sex from what we experienced up until now. For one, Benji is actually enjoying himself, and for another, you can feel they actually care about each other.
These guys shared a very special personal experience together that bonds them. Benji’s PTSD does not go away, but he is better able to deal with it, especially with the help of Nick. Through Nick, Benji finally feels worthy, and it was nice to see how they helped each other in different ways.
This is not a typical romance. It deals very strongly with the PTSD issues, in case you haven’t caught on to that so far. I love reading about these stories, no matter how horrible the circumstances, and especially love seeing the guys pull through and conquer the demons thus enabling them to return to a better life. They all deserve so much more than they get when they return home, and they should receive the utmost respect and support we can give them. This story does a great job portraying what it must be like for these guys to re-acclimate to life outside the military, and I look forward to reading more from Mr. Murphy in the future.
Overall Impression: I loved it
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.*