Title: Strong Medicine
Author: J.K. Hogan
Publisher: Euphoria Press
Release Date:May 11th 2016
Page Count: 278
Reviewed by: Ele
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Two men who meet in a psychiatric institution couldn’t possibly find happiness together—could they?
The world seemed to be telling disgraced former child star and singer Cameron Fox that he would never be happy again. A drunken car accident gets him sentenced to a work-release at Riverbend Behavioral Health Facility.
Reclusive, traumatized writer Jonah Radley has an entire graveyard of skeletons in his closet. Jonah regularly hospitalizes himself for psychotic episodes caused by a horrific childhood trauma, his biggest secret—one he refuses to speak about in therapy.
Jonah and Cameron form a bond inside the hospital, forged in mutual pain and hope for a better life. Once they leave the hospital, they must decide if they are brave enough to explore the intricacies of living with mental illness—and find a new normal together.
“Love could be a dangerous thing between two people who weren’t free. Jonah had his illness and Cameron had his family. They were two people who should never be together, but the universe kept throwing them at one another.”
This was not an easy story to read and by the time it ended I was exhausted. But at the same time, it sucked me right in and I had trouble putting it down.
Cameron, child-star and famous singer, is sentenced to a work-release at Riverbend, after the drunken car accident he caused. That’s when he meets Jonah. I absolutely loved the character growth we saw in Cameron. It actually satisfied me more than watching Jonah working on his issues. So Cameron starts as this spoiled “kid” and by the end of the story he’s a mature independant, and hard-working man.
Jonah’s head is brimming with demons. What he witnessed as a child, has left permanent marks to his soul and mind. He’s aware of how mentally ill he is, and when he feels a psychotic episode coming, he hospitalizes himself in Riverbend Behavioral Health Center. Being inside his head, was terrifying and fascinating at once. I think the author did a good job portraying how he experienced his episodes.
“What do you see, Jonah?”[…]
“I see fire,” Jonah whispered.
“Everywhere. Always. I see blood and pain. I see people who are dead and people who should be dead but aren’t. And that’s just an average Wednesday.”
Jonah and Cameron form a special bond, which eventually turns into more. But it takes a long while to get there. The burn is really slow. In the first half of the book, not much happens in the romance department and the steam is almost non-existent, but the second half makes up for it.
Their relationship was pretty special, and not just a romantic one, because they gave each other a reason to try to do better. After all these stories I ‘ve read lately that involved a “magic dick”, that cured people, this was refreshing. Cameron and Jonah fell in love, helped each other heal, all while keeping things realistic.
It’s pretty dark inside Jonah’s head, and the reader spends A LOT of time in there. It’s also a pretty long story, and a large part of is all about the illness. There are pages upon pages filled with details about Jonah’s episodic symptoms, treatments, procedures, and therapy sessions. It didn’t feel like info-dump because it was essential to the plot, but still….I wish there was less of this and more relationship development or romance.
Overall, it is great, engaging story, it matched my current mood, and I always love Hogan’s writing. There are some pretty interesting secondary characters too, like Milo or Jaxon. I’ll be a happy, happy girl if this turns out to be a series.
Disclaimer: This book deals with severe mental illness, like depersonalization and hallucinations, that I’m not familiar with at all. I have no clue how accurate all these details about said illness, symptoms, or medical treatments and procedures are. But the author’s previous work was pretty well-researched, so I don’t have a reason to believe this doesn’t apply here as well.