Title: Safe and Sound
Author: Caitlin Ricci
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: October 18, 2017
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 99 pages
Reviewed by: NeRdyWYRM
Heat Level: 1 flames out of 5
Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Twenty-one-year-old Mason has to get out of his mother’s house, where her boyfriend subjects him to unwanted advances—and won’t take no for an answer. Since she didn’t believe Mason when he told her about his uncle’s sexual abuse, Mason knows he’s on his own, and it’s up to him to raise the money he needs. He thinks he’s in luck when he takes a modeling job.
Oliver is a photographer, and getting guys and sex has always been easy for him. His current open relationship is no exception: more friendship and fun than anything. But when Oliver meets Mason, he can see the younger man is fragile and desperately in need of help. Before anything can develop between them, Mason needs to free himself of his terrible living situation and start on the road to healing. Oliver wants to stand beside him as he does. What surprises him is the discovery that he might need Mason as much as Mason needs him.
So this is going to come out sounding all kinds of wrong, but … seriously? I’m not really sure what the plot for this book was supposed to be. It’s like it started out one way, got halfway there, fizzled, changed direction and went absolutely nowhere.
I don’t want it to sound like I’m trying to invalidate what victims of abuse feel. I know better than that, and I know the degree and level of abuse don’t make any difference to how a person is ‘supposed’ to react. There is no ‘supposed’ to. But let’s face it, whatshisname was sexually abused as a child by his uncle and his mother responded like an idiot. This is not a unique circumstance. The fact that there was abuse was horrifying in and of itself, but the severity of the abuse was not as bad as it could have been. Frankly, the lack of belief and support seemed to be the most damaging thing about that whole scenario for Mason because it kept him from responding appropriately as an adult.
I want to make this clear: I am not trying to say the victim in this story over- or underreacted to anything. What I am trying to say is that when he was faced with a similar scenario with his mother’s boyfriend as an adult, his character’s response was not believable. We were told nothing that made it credible for him to be cowed and passive about a similar situation as an adult.
I mean WTF? Throw a punch? Get a social life? Hide out at the mall or something? Stop ‘hanging out’ and watching TV with the pervy boyfriend? So what if said boyfriend whines to your mama that you’re not spending time with him? I mean seriously, you’re an adult now and no longer helpless, WTF? Unless you count the painfully slow escape plan, we didn’t see Mason taking any action at all beyond peacekeeping with the abuser.
And let’s face it, yes, the advances were unwanted. That’s sexual harassment, and GROSS when it’s your mom’s boyfriend, but they were both ADULTS! It’s like the author was trying to make the boyfriend out to be some pedophile when that just wasn’t the case. Wrong? Yes. Skeevy? Sure. Fucked in the head disgusting? Absolutely. But not criminal.
Let’s just assume for argument’s sake that Mason was naturally submissive, I still had a hard time buying the whole scenario. Being submissive doesn’t translate to being a doormat and that’s kind of what we got here since the boyfriend himself was pretty pathetic and hardly intimidating. Manipulative yes, but scary? Not so much. Even Mason wasn’t bothered by much about the boyfriend except for the pervy part. For certain he didn’t appear to be physically intimidated, sooo … help me out here!
It pissed me the fuck off because those kinds of assumptions being perpetuated for the masses can be dangerous. Whether you look at it from a misinformation standpoint or a beliefs and values standpoint, stereotypes like that (submissive = doormat) are tangentially dangerous in real life. And don’t get me started on the dirty photographer with the inappropriate hard-ons. I mean, maybe that’s how the industry is, I don’t know, and I’m not saying a sexual response to near-jailbait in a half-naked scenario isn’t worth responding to when you’re performing in a professional capacity … OH WAIT! YES I AM!
Doctors look at naked bodies constantly, and granted some of those circumstances are likely pretty gross, but what I’m getting at is that there is a level of professionalism that’s expected and people who see half-naked (or completely naked) bodies in their lines of work every day somehow manage, almost universally, to separate their libidos from their jobs, unless they’re creepily inappropriate pervs! I mean, I’ve never had a nurse or doctor or anyone of any gender working in any professional capacity that required them seeing me naked behave or react inappropriately in any way ever. And just to be clear, I’m not exactly chopped liver. So, see my point?
And theeeen, the boyfriend situation is resolved, there’s closure on the childhood abuse with the uncle, and we’re told Mason and the icky photographer, Oliver, are getting closer but … nothing. I don’t know what I wanted or expected from this title, but I ended up getting stuck on pissed off and couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I even waited to put this review together thinking some distance would lend perspective, but no. The so-called plot wasn’t successful for me. There was so much unresolved that I am actually afraid the author means to continue this farce with another book. A-fraid!
There was a lot of potential for successful hurt/comfort and showing Mason how healthy sexual relationships should be, maybe even an HFN. But I didn’t get any of that. I didn’t feel the relationship-building, the characters were two-dimensional and pretty awful regardless, I didn’t see much personal growth from Mason (though there was some on Oliver’s side) and the story went nowhere. I hate to be Debbie Downer, but this one just … yeah. I’ve run out of words.
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