Graham Church is a police officer on the island of Friday Harbor. He is popular, friendly, and dedicated to his job. However, Graham is still haunted by the memories of the aftermath of horrendous crimes, the worst of which is known as Friday Harbor’s “dirty secret.” When Graham finds an advert for a boarder on a ranch, little does he know that he is applying to share a house with one of the three survivors of the crime in which dozens of children died.
Jason Wullcott runs an isolated ranch and veterinary service for horses. He has been persuaded by his therapist to advertise for a housemate to encourage social interaction. Jason and Graham’s friendship is initially uneasy, mainly due to Jason’s lack of understanding of social norms and Graham’s reticence. The pair soon bond over horses, movies, and food, and when Graham is suspended from his job after a false allegation, the time the two men spend together increases and it becomes harder to fight the mutual attraction between them.
An Arresting Ride is the second story in Lissa Kasey’s Survivors Find Love series. Though this could be read as a stand-alone, I would recommend reading Painting With Fire first because of the crossover of characters, themes, and the setting of Friday Harbor.
I am impressed by Kasey’s ability to write a second novel in a series that on paper has strong similarities to the first, but still make it fresh and compelling. In Painting With Fire, Bastian was a recluse and a survivor of sexual abuse who found love with Charlie, a firefighter. An Arresting Ride obviously brings together Graham, a police officer, and Jason, who survived atrocious physical and sexual abuse.
Kasey’s writing reveals a genuine sensitivity to the issues she raises and never once does she compromise her characters for the sake of a sex scene. In An Arresting Ride, Kasey has had to be particularly careful because of Jason’s lack of understanding about boundaries and consent. Wanting or not wanting tea is an idea that runs throughout the novel and its poignancy really touched me, as well as striking me that it is a brilliant practical exercise to use with my teenage autistic son.
An Arresting Ride is a slow-paced novel, but perfectly timed to suit the development of the characters and their relationship. Graham is clearly attracted to Jason but is cautious, perhaps to the extreme. There is a certain routine to the time that Jason and Graham spend together, but there was not a minute of this story that I wanted to skip. I felt that even in the small moments when the pair eat dinner or watch a movie, Kasey was still revealing more to us about each character and I loved the little quirks, like Jason’s love of socks and Disney.
I think that Kasey works really hard to remind her reader that Jason is a survivor. It is true that he might not behave in an expected way in some situations, but he is emotionally tough, even being Graham’s rock during the investigation. Kasey shows us that Graham’s idea of Jason being breakable is a false one and to me, this brings a strong sense of hope to the novel, particularly for readers who can relate to the themes within.
An Arresting Ride is a very human story and Kasey connects us to the events by creating two accessible and vulnerable protagonists. Jason and Graham are inherently good people who have been affected by the actions of others. We believe in the authenticity of their romance because of the way in they each evolve in the other’s company. I particularly like Graham’s increased involvement with the horses and how the animals become a source of therapy for him.
An Arresting Ride is not only about romantic love, but the love of friends, with reference to Bastian and Charlie; family, in terms of Jason’s adopted family; and the love within a community, which is particularly seen in the later stages of the novel.
This is a beautifully written story with moments of heart-wrenching pain and redeeming optimism. I cannot wait for the third instalment of the Survivors Find Love series.