Drawn In by Barbara Elsborg is perhaps one of the darkest romances I have ever read. This story is raw, emotional, and definitely deals with themes some readers may find triggering and just too much. The story begins with a bang right out of the gate when we are thrust into the nightmare that has become Kell’s life. A cop who has been undercover for a few months, Kell has been tasked with finding key evidence that will take down a man who obviously skirts the edge of the law with his many business dealings, but also hides behind them in order to run a successful human and drug trafficking ring. The man in question, Warner, has surrounded himself with some definite scum, but the one that takes the prize is the very same man that has raped and sexually used Kell repeatedly.
Marek is a brutal man and also the key to taking Warner down. So Kell swallows his soul and his dignity and plays along as Marek’s whore in order to ingratiate himself and attempt to become part of Warner’s team. Across town there is another man, a former musician turned private investigator, with superlative hacking skills who will stumble upon the very information that Kell seeks. However, Gethin is not just a struggling PI, but also an emotionally damaged man whose past has anchored him to a former partner who is now a paraplegic and whose shoddy memory fails to recall how he cheated on Gethin causing them to break up months before the accident that landed him in the wheelchair that is now his prison.
Jonnie was once Gethin’s band mate and while their group was beginning to make a rise in the music scene, it was Gethin discovering Jonnie in bed with others that broke them apart and led Gethin to leave the band. Now in a fateful twist and freak accident, Jonnie has only Gethin to rely on and the guilt that eats at Gethin for being both whole and for secretly hating that Jonnie is so needy threatens to eat Gethin alive. To make matters worse, Jonnie has been begging Gethin to help him end his life and Gethin has no idea how he could possibly do that and survive emotionally.
When circumstances bring Kell and Gethin together, they strike a bargain of sorts—just casual sex—no strings attached. While it sounds too good to be true, these two men are hypnotically drawn together and quickly discover that in another time and a better world they could actually be more than an occasional hookup to one another. But the stakes are very high and as they move together they find the cases they are working on that they thought to be independent of each other are actually entwined and their lives are in real danger. Just how far Kell and Gethin will go to get to the truth remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain, dark times are ahead and neither man may survive to see another day.
Drawn In was an incredibly powerful study on just how far a man will go to se justice done. It is also a remarkable story of how one can turn off the horror around them in order to survive and fight again and again. Some of the things Kell is subject to at Marek’s hands and those of his own brother are devastating to read. This is no occasional abuse, but a steady diet of physical, mental, and sexual destruction and I was stunned by how Kell managed to drag himself through each day. There is no doubt about it, Kell is trapped in hell and the only thin light of hope is Gethin. But Gethin comes with a whole heap of baggage, not to mention a financial and emotional tie to a dying man who sucks the life and joy from his every waking moment. There have never been two more miserable men who are so deeply mired in despair and regret. But the beauty of this novel and author Barbara Elsborg’s amazing writing is that somehow you not only need for these guys to prevail and survive, you are willing to be part of their horror in order to see them make it out into the light at the end. And when they finally are able to do just that—to triumph over the insane hell they have been trapped in, the ending of this novel is the sweetest victory ever had by a couple of brave men.
Drawn In may not be every one’s cup of tea but if you can grit your teeth through the raw and horrific passages that make up the bulk of this novel, you will find an amazing love story of survival and hope. Incredibly well written, compelling, and gritty, Drawn In by Barbara Elsborg is a story neither to be taken lightly nor to be missed.