Title: Rescue Me
Author: Scarlet Blackwell
Publisher: eXtasy Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Length: Novel (405 PDF pages)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: A well-written book that left me with very mixed emotions.
After a near fatal car crash leaves him scarred both physically and emotionally, Matt Harmon finds the solitude of his huge, lonely house too much to bear. Hiring nurse James Hayden to look after him seems like the best idea for Matt, whose fierce independence has been compromised by his injuries. The two men clash from the start as James struggles to help Matt rebuild his shattered body and heal his crushed soul. The bond they form is forged in fire and ice, and the wounds they inflict on one another can only be erased by Matt’s admission that he can’t live without James’s loving touch. Will Matt realize too late that James is the only one who can rescue him from himself?
Matt is severely injured in a near-fatal car crash, left with multiple broken bones, internal injuries and scars inside and out. He requires nursing care once at home, but after going through two female nurses quickly, he decides to try a man the next time around. James arrives and sparks fly. Matt is not an easy person to be around on a good day, so being laid up in a hospital bed and relying on others makes him even more abrasive. When the one-night-stand womanizer realizes that he may be attracted to his male nurse, Matt runs the other man off, beginning what is a very difficult relationship full of lust, abuse, violence and hopefully something more.
I really, really wanted to like Rescue Me, the first story I’ve read from this author and while I found it to be technically very well written, in the end I had very mixed emotions that prevented it from being a 5-star read for me. It’s an angsty GFY tale with themes of abuse and redemption, and one which I difficulty reviewing because of the conflicts I had.
While completely engrossed from the first page, I was not relaxed reading because of the rollercoaster ride we go on with these characters. Completely dysfunctional and suffering from what I am naming the Fuck and Fight Syndrome, James calls it at one point “their twisted, violent, sick little relationship.” They smexx it up, then proceed to either verbally or physically abuse each other (mostly Matt doing the abusing and James taking it), then walk away saying they never wanted to see each other again, then do see each other again somewhere, then it all happens again. Wash, rinse, repeat. For about 200 pages. After the first several chapters of this, I became weary of the whiplash and what seemed to be the same scenes repeated over and over. But, at the same time, it made me think about abusive relationships, how complicated they can be and why seemingly-reasonable and strong people stay with their abusers.
Deeply flawed, conflicted and suffering from serious anger management issues, Matt is one of the most unlikeable characters I’ve ever read. I realize that he had a difficult childhood, doesn’t understand love or what is happening to him with the unwelcome attraction to James and has body image issues from the accident, but what a bastard he is — to his friends, his employees, his lovers. He is callous, cold, mean, angry, emotionally stunted, selfish, ignorant, spoiled, insulting, hurtful and abusive, in addition to being self-loathing and homophobic. He doesn’t even smile for real until page 364. He is happy to place blame on everyone else but himself, regardless of the situation or whom he hurts in the process, and I can’t imagine why anyone would continue to want to spend time with him. He has a conflict with not just those around him, but himself as well. He feels remorseful, with loads of shame and disgust at himself after being abusive to one character or another, yet he continues to be a total prick to just about everyone he encounters. Words I can think of to describe him are venomous, toxic and cruel. Though I adore me a tortured and flawed hero and recognize there are real people out there like Matt, there were times that I was hoping James would just inject something or one of his friends would shove him down a flight of stairs to take him out of our misery.
Being as this is a romance, I was praying there was some way to have Matt redeemed by the end, though I really couldn’t figure out how that would happen (especially when he is still acting in this manner more than three-quarters through the book). The author tries for that redemption, but unfortunately what we witness seems to be a personality transplant instead. He goes from being this raging, abusive jackass to a love-sick, hand-wringing, insecure, sappy nice guy in the course of a few days. He seems to be able to easily deal with his anger issues, something which has caused him problems his whole life. The complete turnaround seemed unrealistic to me based on what we know of this man and the actions we witness for the majority of the story.
For James, I had to question why he put up with the abuse Matt continually and generously delivered considering he seemed to be a strong, self-aware character in the beginning. His initial attraction (outside of what we are told are Matt’s very good looks) seems a bit dubious since Matt is a total jerk to him from just about the minute they meet, and because we only get a limited POV from James later in the book, I felt like I just didn’t understand. I had hoped that after he left Matt’s employ, he would have put his foot down since his leaving was a strong point, but that didn’t happen. Used and rejected time and again, I simply didn’t get his obsession with Matt.
A few other things:
Warning: there is a scene of dub-con, so for those of you who are sensitive to that, you’ll see it coming and can skip it.
Though set in the LA area, it is very obvious that this was written by a Brit. British words, phrases and spelling appear often. Things like cannula (which we Americans would just term an IV), “lose the plot” (I could guess the meaning, but looked it up to be sure), flannel for washcloth, etc, liberally lace the story. The author has Matt going through customs for a domestic flight, which didn’t seem right to me. As we’ve talked about on this site before, if a story is set in a certain country or culture, many readers expect that region’s terminology, spellings, mannerisms and so on to be present regardless of the author’s nationality.
I thought the epilogue was unnecessary and added little to the story.
Finally, as I’ve found with the several books I’ve read from this publisher, there are multiple, small editing and formatting errors.
While Rescue Me left me with very mixed feelings, I thought it was well-written and that fans of the author will probably love it. I would definitely pick up another book by her.