Reviewed by Morgan
Author: Jamie Fessenden
Narrator: K.C. Kelly
Heroes: Derek Sawyer/Russ Thomas
Genre: MM Contemporary
Length: 9 Hours, 42 Minutes
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: March 21, 2016
Available at: Amazon, Audible and iTunes
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads
Blurb: Derek Sawyer thinks he has it all—a high-salaried position, a boyfriend, a dog, even a new cabin on the lake—until a business trip with his manager and best friend, Victor, shatters his world.
One night of drunken horsing around in their hotel room leads to the most intensely personal violation Derek has ever endured. As if the humiliation of working under his attacker every day isn’t enough, Victor reports Derek for sexual harassment. Now he’s without a job, without a boyfriend, and the mortgage on the cabin is due.
Officer Russ Thomas has worked with rape victims before, and it doesn’t take him long to sort out the truth in Derek’s tale. With his support, Derek finally reports the crime, months after it happened. But restraining orders and lawyers further Victor’s anger toward him, and even though a relationship develops between Derek and the policeman, Russ can’t be there to protect him all the time.
Review: This is a tough, tough story about a man whose identity as a man has been amazingly distorted not just once but many times over. It’s bad enough that he’s endured a rape at the hands of his best friend, but the fact that it was anal sex in particular strikes a chord in him due to his father’s horrible abuse. In addition to that, his boyfriend doubts him, the people at work doubt him, and frankly, he doubts himself.
What makes this a good book is that it doesn’t try to make anything perfect or “fixed”. Even at the end, it’s a work in progress. Though it’s lovely when all the ends are tied up neatly by the end of a story, it’s rarely realistic and this acknowledges that fact. The epilogue shows our MC two years later and he’s still far from perfect. I guess that’s a good thing to know going into this – if you want a fairy tale – this isn’t that book.
Jamie Fessenden has given us a romantic work of fiction – but at its heart, it’s a story about one man’s struggles with his own life – and how his new partner can help him – but mostly it’s about him.
The writing is excellent. Gritty. Honest. Sweaty and messy. Derek isn’t perfect before the attack and he’s not after. Neither is Russ, Travis or anyone. They all make human mistakes and do the wrong thing sometimes. But it’s their heart that matters and both Derek and Russ have great heart – that’s what gets shown here.
This was not at all what I was expecting and part of me absolutely cringed as I was listening to it. Not just the attack – that’s obviously horrible – but the author chose to show us both Russ and Derek in relationships before the attack so that we’d get a sense of who they were before and after.
Again – that’s good to know going in – if you don’t like to see your MC with other people, this will be uncomfortable for you.
I found there were other parts of the book that were fascinating as well. It’s another look at being gay and gay sex in a way that – at least for me- I hadn’t really seen before. At least not in this way. Derek is an openly gay man but with deeply rooted fears about anal sex and how that’s perceived to be the receiver. In one session with his therapist, Derek is reminded that anal sex isn’t even the most preferred method of sex in most relationships. This is important to remember, because in the romance world, it feels like penetration is the be all end all of sex and intimacy.
I think listening to this was probably a lot harder than reading it. You’re sort of forced to hear every word and it makes it a bit more stark than if you can skim through an uncomfortable part.
If I’m being honest, I wish there’d been more to the ending than there was. We spent so much time in preparation – learning about all the characters and setting the scene. Then there was so much time spent in the aftermath. Rightly so. But the “happily ever after” was very brief. Maybe intentionally so, I’m not sure. But I do know that I really wanted to see Derek happy again as we’d spent so much time with him miserable. For me, what I want in a true “romance” is that healing, the place where the couple bonds and finds love with one another “post apocalypse” and we really miss that as it’s simply summed up in a couple of sentences. Again – this is important to know as you go into this – if that’s what you’re after, it’s really not here – not in a satisfying way.
Review – Audio: K.C. Kelly is a great narrator, and he has the acting chops to make the emotion in this as real as possible. I think he did a good job and I really think he was a good choice for this. The sound quality was great and I think listening to this absolutely added to the overall experience.
All in all, this was a really well written story and not something easily forgotten.
I think, based on the great performance, the tough subject matter and the lack of a “perfect romance”, I’d give this 4 of 5 stars.
Overall Impression: I really liked it
*I received a copy of this book from the author in return for a fair and honest review.*