Title: Aaron (A Survivor Story #1)
Author: J.P. Barnaby
Cover Artist:  Pride Media
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link:  Buy Link Aaron
Genre:  Contemporary M/M
Length:  238 pages
Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Andrea

Review Summary:  From a dark and depressing start emerged an exquisite romances that I’ll never forget.

I can’t describe what it’s like to want to scream every minute of every day.

Two years after a terrifying night of pain destroyed his normal teenage existence, Aaron Downing still clings to the hope that one day, he will be a fully functional human being. But his life remains a constant string of nightmares, flashbacks, and fear. When, in his very first semester of college, he’s assigned Spencer Thomas as a partner for his programming project, Aaron decides that maybe “normal” is overrated. If he could just learn to control his fear, that could be enough for him to find his footing again.

With his parents’ talk of institutionalizing him—of sacrificing him for the sake of his brothers’ stability—Aaron becomes desperate to find a way to cope with his psychological damage or even fake normalcy. Can his new shrink control his own demons long enough to treat Aaron, or will he only deepen the damage?

Desperate to understand his attraction for Spencer, Aaron holds on to his sanity with both hands as it threatens to spin out of control.

A Survivor Story


I’ve been wanting to read a J.P. Barnaby book for quite a while.  I’ve slowly started collecting the Little Boy Lost series but have yet to actually start reading them.  I love books in a series but I have a compulsion to read the entire series at once.  As Aaron is a stand alone, it provided me a chance to get a feel for the author without having to commit to a large series.

It took about two pages for me to realize that this was going to be dark…  really dark.  I like dark but this hit the level of bleak hopelessness I only expect in a horror books.  Aaron and his best friend were kidnapped, tortured, and left for dead two years ago.  Aaron lives in a constant state of terror as he relives those events every minute of every day.  He has lost hope for ever regaining a normal life.  He simply exists from one minute to the next trying to mask his agony from his family in order to spare them from his reality.  The author did an amazing job of convincing me that Aaron might be broken beyond repair.  It was so depressing that if Aaron’s point of view was the only one I got, I wouldn’t have kept reading.  The reason I kept going was because Aaron’s point of view kept being interrupted by Spencer’s point of view.  I knew that the two men would eventually meet and that gave me some hope for a brighter future for both of them.

The lives of Spencer and Aaron run parallel through the first half of the book.  I got to know them separately.  In most books, Spencer would be the damaged hero.  He’s deaf, depressed and lonely.  He goes about finding human interaction in ways which only make him feel more alone.  In this book, Spencer is well adjusted in comparison to Aaron.   🙁

Once they finally meet, they slowly form a precarious friendship.  As their friendship deepens and evolves, Aaron begins to heal and emerge from his dark shell.  He’ll never be normal but he begins to enjoy life again.   Over time they begin to trust one another and their relationship becomes a source of strength and hope for both of them.

I wish I could give this book a rating of 5, but I just can’t do it.  The stifling darkness at the beginning was too much for me.  I didn’t enjoy reading the early scenes of Aaron’s life.  I’m a big fan of thriller, suspense and horror books so not enjoying that was a surprise to me.  I connected with Aaron but I was uncomfortable reading about him early on in the book.  It was once Aaron and Spencer met that the book took off for me.  I did love it from that point on.  Their relationship was unlike anything I’ve ever read before.  Aaron and Spencer aren’t capable of having the standard romance book version of a HEA ending.  The beauty of their story is that they got a unique version of a HEA which was perfect for them.  I loved that!

This isn’t a book for everyone.  If you’ve read the blurb as well as my review and still think you might enjoy it, I highly recommend it.



  • Andrea –

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and review Aaron. I know his journey is not an easy one, and believe me I wish there had been an easier way to do it, but it was his story to tell. This book gave me nightmares as I wrote it. It took two years because I had to keep stopping and putting it away for a while to keep my own sanity. 🙂

    • I have to admit, I did wonder about the sanity of the person who thought this one up. :blush:

      Those early scenes with Aaron were like a window into his mind and it wasn’t a fun place to be. If it was that bad for the reader, it must have been a lot harder for the author! Even thought I complained about how dark it was, it had to be that way. I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the progress Aaron made without it.

      Thank you so much for writing Aaron’s story. It was original and brilliant.

  • Great review. I loved this book because it was so different and dark, and then getting more light towards the end. If I remember correctly J.P mentioned somewhere that she might write a sequel to Aaron if people where interested. I’d really like it if there was a sequel so we can see more progress and a more HEA-ending.

    • Hi Madde!

      I did. Aaron spent two years whispering in my ear about monsters in the dark, and I knew his journey would not be an easy one. As this book is very personal for me, I wanted to see how it was received before I decided to commit to another chapter in their story. I’m happy to say that people have been very supportive of Aaron, so at this point there will be two additional novels. The first, I’m currently working on titled Painting Fire on the Air is about Ben, Juliette’s older brother who uses BDSM to punish himself for failing his sister in the worst way possible. The second book which I have not yet started will continue Aaron’s and Spencer’s stories as they continue to struggle with their new-found relationship.

      • Awesome plans 🙂 Can’t wait to read both books. Like I said in my goodreads review; this is the book of the year for me, can’t imagine I’ll read anything as emotionall and moving this year.

    • I’m thrilled to see that I’ll get to see more of Aaron and Spencer. They still have a long way to go and I would love to see how they deal with it. 😀

    • Hi Lasha – by both, she means both Aaron and his best friend Juliette, not Aaron and Spencer. Spencer has never been subjected to that type of violence.

      Aaron and Juliette were assaulted off-page two years before the book starts. You learn of that information in the book through fragments of memories and flashbacks from Aaron.


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