Author: Jamie Fessenden
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: August 7th 2015
Genre(s): M/M Contemporary
Page Count: 256 pages
Reviewed by: Belen
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
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.
*coughs…steps onto soapbox*
“There is no such thing as ‘rape prevention.’ The only way for people to not get raped is for people NOT TO RAPE THEM.”
*steps off soapbox*
This story was at times very hard to read. I think anyone who has been sexually assaulted, or experienced the aftermath of assault, whether personally or peripherally, would find this hard to read.
After Derek is raped by his manager, and best friend, Victor, he experiences what I thought felt like a very realistic depiction of the PTSD, guilt and despair that can happen after such a traumatic event.
The rape, which is really another character in the story, and it’s aftermath, was almost chillingly well done.
He knew he’d blown it. If he’d had the brains to file a police report immediately after returning from Tampa—and had an examination done—he might have had something to defend himself with against Victor’s accusation. But not now. He was as helpless now as he’d been in that hotel room bed.
His career was over. His relationship with Tim was crumbling. He had a mortgage on the cabin and no income. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t stand the thought of sex. His entire life was falling apart. Victor had won.
He’d destroyed Derek as utterly as if he’d put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
Derek’s isolation was particularly difficult to read. As the reader we have a unique perspective, which allows us to see the abusive relationship Derek has with his fiancé, which he doesn’t recognize until much later than the reader catches on.
He was alone now. In part, he realized, because Tim had wanted it that way. The man had never liked it when new people came into their lives. He hadn’t enjoyed going to parties or having company over. He’d always had unpleasant things to say about anyone who tried to befriend them—even women. And God forbid a man should smile at Derek! He’d wanted it to be just the two of them. Because it was easier than fighting, Derek had gone along with it.
And now Tim had accomplished his goal. They were isolated, with just each other to depend on. So either Derek would have to go groveling back to him and beg for forgiveness—forgiveness for “allowing” Victor to rape him—or he’d find himself completely alone.
“No. File the report. Even if it never goes to court, having it on record might help you in the future, especially if you feel the need to take out a protective order. And if Victor assaults someone else, having a previous report filed against him can help that person.”
“You’re not a freak.” Russ felt his anger rising again, but he clamped down on it and forced himself to speak calmly. “You’re someone who got raped, okay? You’re the survivor of a crime. It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t something you did. It was something that happened to you, like it happens to way too many people all over the world.”
“How many men have reported being raped in your precinct?” Derek demanded.
“I don’t know.”
“Have you seen any?”
Russ shook his head. “Not until you.”
“Because it doesn’t happen. Not to men!”
“Yes,” Russ said patiently, “it does. But men hardly ever report it. They’re too ashamed. Just like you.”
The story is told with each chapter containing a dual POV – Derek and Officer Russ Thomas, Derek’s lake neighbor.
Personally I felt the scenes flipping from Derek’s POV, his life, rape and aftermath, over to Russ and his search for love, was off-putting. I wanted to read about Derek’s story, not get to a difficult part and have the story change gears, downshifting rather radically at times, to Russ attending yet another pot-luck looking for love, or worse, Russ having sex with some guy.
I realize this wasn’t a traditional “romance” story, but I still found it off-putting when Russ, who I know from the blurb has been slated to fall for Derek, has on-page sex with multiple partners other than Derek. However, once the two “get together” and I use that term very loosely, as Fessenden does an excellent job not sprinkling magic fairy dust over Derek to make the aftereffects of his rape magically go away, the POV changes are far easier to enjoy and flow more easily.
I thought I would cry more, but I spent most of my time angry…
- angry at Victor for raping Derek, at Derek for not reporting it until circumstances absolutely forced him to do so, Tim for being a gigantic douchebag, Fessenden for the early weird POV changes…
The thing is – this book made me FEEL. For that alone, I recommend.