Since the death of his big brother, Bear, six months ago, Kit has gradually gone downhill. He has cut off contact with most of his friends. He quit his job. He skipped the spring semester of college and is planning on missing the fall semester as well. He doesn’t eat very much when he does remember to actually eat. And the relationship he once had with his parents is broken. Worst of all, the man who killed his brother just committed suicide so he won’t suffer for what he did to Bear.
After hearing the news of the suicide, Kit decides that he needs to tell Jason, Bear’s best friend. Kit has been in love with Jason since he was fourteen and never knew how to tell him or Bear. Since the funeral, Jason has stayed away from Kit and hasn’t contacted him. Kit is convinced that Jason has moved on with his life and has no need for him any longer. He is determined to give Jason the news, leave, and hopefully forget about him.
When Kit finds Jason, the painful conversation and a picture of a bear in Jason’s private tattoo room lead Kit to request a memorial tattoo for his brother. That tattoo and the open, honest conversation that flows between the two in a small amount of time is the beginning of the healing process for Kit – even if he doesn’t realize it at the beginning.
Jason gave Kit space after Bear’s funeral in hopes that he younger man would heal quickly. He knows now that was the wrong decision. Kit is a shadow of his former self. He is skin and bones, and his once playful personality is gone possibly for good. Jason has been attracted to Kit for years, and had no intention of telling him before Kit gained more experience and maturity. But now he is willing to do whatever it takes to help Kit, and maybe himself, heal the hurt.
I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I adore the relationship and the bond that Kit and Jason share. This story delves into the tough subject of grief and is a good story with potential. But on the other hand, I was left with a couple questions at the end that I would have liked answered.
Kit breaks my heart. His best friend and brother was killed by a drunk driver and Kit blames himself. His parents are no help and Jason seems to have abandoned him. Grief has overtaken his life. With no way to cope, Kit has crawled further and further into himself. He can’t seem to imagine life without Bear, so he’s quit living. Jason is a strong, willful character. He cares a lot for Kit, but was unsure how to help him in the beginning so he just gave him space and hoped for the best. It wasn’t the best decision but he’s determined to help Kit heal and to stick around. Jason turns out to be just the push Kit needed to return to the land of the living.
There are aspects of their relationship that I like. I am always for a friends-to-lovers story. There’s something about unrequited love that attracts me. And these two have held a torch for one another for years. The fact that the relationship would be a D/s relationship isn’t a problem for me as I enjoy BDSM books when done well. This one was well written but for one aspect and it’s kind of a big deal to me. Kit is very inexperienced and somewhat innocent. From what I gathered in the reading, he knows nothing of BDSM so I feel that I can safely assume that he knows nothing of dominants and submissives. My problem lies with the lack of explanation of what Kit should expect as a submissive from his dominant, and what it actually means to be submissive. Jason just made the jump from completely innocent to using the phrase “my sub” and pulling toys out to show Kit without much preamble. Now, mind you I do not claim to know everything about BDSM, but I would think that a Dom would actually take the time to explain those things, especially to a new potential sub.
There were also a couple subjects brought up that left me without answers. First, Kit quit his job as a lifeguard after his brother’s death because he is afraid of water, but there was no explanation. Why was Kit afraid of water? Bear’s death had nothing to do with water or a body of water, so I was confused by Kit being afraid of water. Second, Jason mentions that he had a hard family life and then that he has had nightmares due to his family life. His thoughts also make it sound like he has locks on his bedroom door and windows because of the past with his family. But his family life is never described in full. After reading the story, I have no idea how his family life was so difficult. Since it was brought up, I would have liked to know what happened to him as a child to make it worthy of bringing it up so often in this story.
In the end, Marked by Grief is a decent, somewhat heart-breaking book with likable characters, but holes and lack of detail keep it from being what could have been a really good story.