After years of physical and mental abuse, Tommy Chadwick escapes from his abuser with the help of his best friend and a police officer. Leaving was just the first step. Now Tommy must begin rebuilding his self-confidence and self-worth. After several false starts, one of which left him beaten outside a gay bar, his best friend convinces Tommy to attend a martial arts club where he meets Marcus. As the two develop a bond with one another, one based on trust, Marcus asks Tommy out on a date. Is Tommy ready to put his past behind him and give Marcus a chance? Can Marcus teach Tommy what love really is?
This was a new-to-me author and the first chapter pulled me in with the detailed writing on Tommy leaving his abusive boyfriend. The fear Tommy had was pouring off the pages. Throughout the book, we really get to know Tommy and how he thinks and feels. Told from Tommy’s POV, readers learn that he really just wants to be in love. Unfortunately, he’s so focused on being in love, he’s forgotten that he actually has to love himself first.
Marcus knows where Tommy is coming from and tries to be the friend he thinks Tommy needs. Disclosing his own past, he earns Tommy’s trust and Tommy finds himself falling for the older man. Yet his insecurities about himself keep him from believing Marcus really loves him. At times it was heartbreaking to read Tommy’s thoughts as he struggled to think himself worthy of having someone like Marcus in his life, yet at the same time his entire being was consumed by the desire for Marcus to be the one.
The romantic times between Tommy and Marcus were intimate and loving. Giving that Tommy was had a lot of sex in the time between leaving his ex-boyfriend and meeting Marcus – to the point where it seemed as if he was equating sex with love – I really liked how Marcus would tell Tommy that he didn’t have to do anything he didn’t want to.
The downside for me was that it is a drawn out process from Tommy leaving his abuser, to meeting Marcus, to him and Marcus having a HEA. Along the way, Tommy has to learn to trust – really trust – someone and what that person says and does. So at times it seems repetitive, but it rang true for victims of emotional and physical abuse. Without spoiling it for readers, let’s just say that Tommy manages to move on beyond the scars by the end of the book.
Overall, I really liked this book. I look forward to reading more from this author!