The Red Thread (Belen’s Review)

The Red ThreadTitle: The Red Thread
Author Bryan Ellis
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: September 2nd 2016
Genre(s): M/M Contemporary
Page Count: 256 pages
Reviewed by: Belen
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

After a suicide attempt left him hospitalized for seven months, Jesse Holbrooke is returning home to live with his parents. Despite the treatment he received, his depression hangs like a cloud over his head, casting his life in a perpetual darkness he can’t seem to escape. But just when the obstacles become insurmountable, a glimmer of light appears.

Life hasn’t been easy for Adam Foster, a barista with a bad stutter, but he keeps his chin up and tries not to let the mockery of others get to him. Though shy, Adam is sweet and romantic, and Jesse knows they could be perfect for each other. Adam’s support gives Jesse the courage to face the darkness and believe in the possibility of happiness at last. But if their romance is going to last, both young men will have to look inside and find acceptance—for themselves as well as for each other.

I’ll start by saying I think I was way too invested in this story.

The day I realized I was depressed, I was seven years old. I was sitting in the playground of my elementary school, and all the kids around me were running around, playing. I listened to their laughter, and I watched them have fun. Then there was me. I sat alone on the swing. I stayed away from everyone else. My teachers thought I was merely shy, but I knew even at that age I was sad. For as long as I’ve known, I’ve been a sad person.

Jess Holbrooke attempted suicide about nine months ago and, as a result, spent seven months hospitalized and is now trying to learn to deal with the dark thoughts that plague him daily with weekly therapy sessions and living life one day at a time.

stop crying

I liked the way that Ellis describes Jess’s depression, along with the very realistic way he describes how Jess’s family deals with his prior suicide attempt and his “dark days”, and the very sweet portrayal of Jess and Adam’s initial relationship. I loved Adam and his sunny personality, the way that he looks positively on the world, and his giddiness in text.

making you happy makes me happy

But, for me, having the story come solely from Jess’s perspective meant that his depression was overwhelming. It smothered me almost without respite. I think it would have been easier if I’d gotten Adam’s POV too, just for some breathing room from all the dark. But then I have a history with family members with depression, so most will probably not be as invested or affected by this part of the storyline.

Side note: It ticked me off every time Jess would complain about Adam’s texting or attitude (which is bubbly happy) as “childish”.

The writing style also contains one of my biggest pet peeves: Short sentence bursts. Now, keep in mind this peeve will probably be completely ignored or unnoticed by most, if not all, but me, but since this is my review I get to complain. It just made it an awkward read for me.

Now for the big complaint I have about the story: the ending. It absolutely did not work for me in any way, shape, or form.

After Jess returned home after his first suicide attempt he makes it clear that it had not occurred to him before he slashed his wrists that it would affect his family or friends the way that it does.

Mom was crying. She apologized repeatedly and told me how she should have paid more attention to me. She felt it was her fault. That was the first time I felt guilty over what I did. I didn’t think of my family or anyone else. Clara took a short leave of absence from school to come see me. She hugged me close and told me she loved me. Like Mom, she said sorry for not being there for me. I told her the same thing I told our mother: it’s not their fault. I’m just an incredibly sad person.

So it made it twice as upsetting when he tries to commit suicide again at the end of the book. I mean, I loved how real Ellis made it seem when it’s literally triggered by a single moment that creates a snowball effect in Jess’s mind where everything comes crashing down (brilliantly written scene btw)…

Don’t look back. Don’t look back. This is for the best. I know it is. I can’t let him be with me. All he is going to do is get hurt. Or he’ll hurt me. I don’t see the point in this relationship anymore. He says he loves me, but is it real? Or is it just an illusion that we all create for ourselves. Maybe love is nothing more than a magic trick our minds perform.

…but when Jess’s saved yet again he only spends two months in the hospital…

I feel that my story is nothing but a tragedy only existing to repeat itself.

Then it’s just rainbows and puppies and it all made me so livid I honestly wanted to rage cry. I understand Jess is a selfish nineteen year old kid, but his actions and the lack of consequences absolutely extinguished any good feelings I had about the story.

Because even though we get a HFN, I don’t believe it. I don’t trust it. I don’t trust Jess. It makes me sad knowing what Adam will deal with as long as they’re together, however short a time that may be. So, yes, this was an emotional read for me. It left me angry, which is obviously not the intention of the HFN.

Most will probably not focus on these negatives. I encourage all to check it out for themselves.

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Galley copy of The Red Thread provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange of an honest review.


I am an unapologetic book addict/lover. I'm happiest when reading and I spend most of my time with my Kindle, which is never far from my hand. I love to be told a good story! I mostly read fiction: Romance, Erotica, Young Adult, New Adult, Paranormal (shifters? Yes, please!), a little BDSM when I'm in the mood, and I love a good ménage story. I DEFINITELY PREFER A HFN/HEA! My biggest no-no's are cheating, miscommunication / misunderstanding plots, unnecessary angst, and cliffhangers.

A sampling of my "Favorite M/M" stories:

Carry the Ocean The Half of Us Red Dirt Heart Adulting 101 Tied Up In Knots
Shelter the Sea Manties in a Twist David, Renewed Ethan who Loved Carter Perfect Imperfections
Wolfsong Fight the Tide How to Walk Like A Man The Lightning-Struck Heart Forging the Future