Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance
A new author recently made her debut on the M/M romance genre and offered up a touching and sweet romance with an unlikely hero. That’s Who I Am by Jayden Brooks unapologetically introduces us to the quirky and heartbreakingly innocent character, one Jared Winters. Abused by his father, ignored by his mother, and mercilessly taunted by his only sibling and twin, Conner, Jared ambles through life, speaking his mind without pause or filter and pays the price for it over and over.
When this story opens, we are made aware of just how “different” Jared is in the way he perceives himself as mentally slow and pretty much a loser by the world’s standard. Although it is merely hinted at, Jared seems to not only to be trapped inside his own ADHD existence, but also has difficulty relating to people and interpreting their responses to his frequent bouts of verbal diarrhea. As a result, his is a painfully lonely existence made worse by the fact that his father continually blames him for any and all woes that befall Jared’s less than savory sibling, Conner. In this case it appears Conner has been cheating on his very pregnant girlfriend, Sophie, and manages to make Jared affirm that fact with an early morning call where Jared blurts out that Conner is in the shower with another girl.
Upon finding out, Jared must endure his father’s wrath over his phone confession and is beaten to the point of hospitalization. This sets off a series of events that will see Jared’s father dead, Jared thrown out of his house by an unforgiving mother, and his being taken in by Sophie and her brother, Donovan. As time moves on, Jared finds himself attracted to Donovan but fears that once again his mouth will land him in trouble and keep him alone and unloved.
Author Jayden Brooks skillfully creates a character that uniquely embodies the nerd within us all. By giving voice to this unusual young man, Brooks reminds us that each of us has flaws within us that can either keep us locked into a self-condemning cycle of loneliness and fear or become a real strength that allows us to take wing and pursue our dreams head on. While the beginning of this story is very painful and disturbing, the cycle of abuse that Jared has been forced to live with has done much damage but has also forged inside him a resilient core of strength and determination. Both of these characteristics will serve him well as he attempts for the first time to embrace a future that is happy and fulfilling. By creating Donovan, an immensely likeable foil to Jared’s quirkiness, the author give us hope that there is indeed someone out there who will look past our flaws to love us exactly as we are. The only flaw in this sweet story was the feel that it was unfinished at story’s end. It left us hanging as to Sophie’s future and whether or not her decision to pursue schooling would tear apart this delightful family. Partially because of that, the story had what I felt was an abrupt ending that left some important plot points unfinished. However, this was a minor issue when set against the backdrop of this powerful novella.
That’s Who I Am was an inspiring story of hope and love. While Jayden Brooks may be a new author, it is apparent she is a gifted writer and I look forward to reading more of her work!
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.