Some stories are just so impactive (Is that a word? It is now.) that not only can you not put them down; you can’t stop thinking about them for a while after you finish reading it. There were moments I laughed so hard and on the other extreme there were moments when my tears of sadness just flowed without my knowledge. This is the sort of ‘coming of age’ story for one hero that you want never to happen in reality, but if so, you hope a tender, but solid man like the other hero is there for him to survive and thrive. Readers who prefer lighter tones to their stories or readers with past experiences with abuse should cautiously approach this story. It was such a triumphant story for both heroes that it will be one of the best reads of the year for me even with the year not even half over.
The story opens with a very young, painfully shy, college age kid, Lane Moredock, at the end of his rope. He grew up the only son of a wealthy family. He had it all until his parents swindled people who invested millions with the Moredock’s financial company and pulled it off. His mother is in prison and his father made it out of the country, but poor Lane is left holding the empty bag. The Feds seized all assets barely letting him leave with the clothes on his back and they now hound him constantly to know where the missing millions are. Nobody believes that he is innocent and knows nothing. He is the pariah of the town and now lives in a cheap motel in a hand to mouth existence. Lane goes to his parents’ old friend, Acton, who was his childhood crush and still stars in his dreams for any help Acton can give him knowing that Acton lost a lot in his parents’ scheme too. Acton was the only one to return his phone call and Lane soon learns why. Acton has a proposal of revenge that a sadist would cringe over.
Derek Fields is a middle age man who has just started over with a new career so he’s doing something he loves. He is lonely and afraid that he’ll never find the perfect submissive who will match his particular needs. It is harder when he sees his friends in relationships around him. His life is dreary for another reason. He’s just lost his nest egg to the Moredock scandal and like everyone else he’s utterly convinced their young son, Landon is in it up to his eyeballs. Derek’s bitter anger spills forward when he catches Landon at Acton’s party drunk and wanton like he doesn’t have a care in the world.
Several days later, Derek gets his big opportunity to tell Landon Moredock personally what he thinks of him when he spots him in an alley after watching the kid get turned away for a low paying job. The trouble is that Landon stood there and took his verbal vitriol and walked away looking like a beaten puppy. The satisfaction of verbally ripping into the kid rings hollow to him and he starts to wonder if everyone has it wrong about Landon. It is after he watches him some more and sees the evidence that the kid has been severely abused that Derek decides to do what he can to help this closed off defeated young man.
The long journey that Derek and Lane follow to a trusting relationship takes up the majority of the book with occasional flashbacks when Lane remembers that truly horrendous week he spent with Acton. The abuse both scars and scares him, but it doesn’t dampen an emotional need in Lane to be punished. Derek has to tread lightly even while giving Lane what he needs. Just as things seem to be looking brighter, it all falls apart again.
This plot is a slow to develop piece that is retrospective and introspective much of the time though it does keep moving. The pace is interruptive when it starts in the present, then skips Landon’s week of horror, only to come back to it in flashback moments. Its not hard to follow when this happens. Lane’s tragic week is slowly fed to the reader throughout the story- and thank goodness because it was really severe physical, sexual and emotional abuse going on that I wouldn’t have had the guts for reading all at once. This story is a love story, but Lane’s needs are so severe that its gritty and dark much of the time. Lane’s needs involve pain, but Derek has to be so careful how he helps satisfy the need because of the way Lane was abused. Derek also has to find a way to unlock Lane’s silence and also teach him to trust Derek with his needs.
That leads me to speak of the characters. Lane and Derek are flawed and beautiful. The story alternates between their viewpoints. They are surrounded by a great cast that include Derek’s mom, Erin who cracked me up with her open acceptance of everything about her son and her idea of BDSM, his animal loving sister who has a hilarious menagerie living with her, his friends including the bigger than life Brin who are in a committed D/s relationship, the animals at the shelter (yes, they are wonderful key players), and the villains of the story. My favorite secondary character was that nutty parrot who was previously owned by a crabby old man who taught that parrot words that ranged from health issues, to name calling to suggestive words. Holy Toledo was he funny and lightened up many a scene.
I should probably mention that the BDSM between Derek and Lane is moderate involving puppy play, use of alternative objects to give pain and also spankings. The abuse with Acton is described in a way that it is detailed, but fades to black when Lane is remembering it buffering the reader a little bit as a result.
Thus, it’s a wonderful character driven plot that is not for the faint of heart or someone looking for a light romance. Those who enjoy emotion-engaging m/m contemporary romance should give this one a try.