Ryan is an artist who is preparing for his first gallery exhibition. While sketching people one day in the park, he meets a strangely inquisitive man. This man then appears at Ryan’s opening night, where Ryan discovers his name is Merrick Hampton. Shortly after, Merrick visits the restaurant where Ryan works.
Though Ryan thinks these are coincidences, Merrick has a plan: to make Ryan his and his alone. The next step is to invite Ryan to his home to undertake a phony artist’s commission, where after getting to know the younger man a little better, Merrick offers him the use of the spare room in his house as a studio. After Merrick financially influences the art gallery to host another exhibition of Ryan’s work, Ryan has no choice but to accept Merrick’s offer and soon their relationship progresses past the point of patron/protege and Ryan moves into Merrick’s home and his bed. However, it is not long before Ryan realizes that there is a dark side to Merrick as the older man enforces his ‘rules’ and the mental abuse becomes physical. Left naked and without his clothes and I.D., will Ryan be able to escape, and can he trust the police officer, Shaun, who comes to his rescue?
In the Name of Love is a book of two halves as Edward Kendrick reveals both the dark and light side of human behavior. Ryan is the one constant throughout the novel and at no point did I feel that I had to condemn him for the choices he makes. As someone who has recently ended a relationship with a narcissist, I found myself recognizing Ryan’s confusion and isolation. Although In the Name of Love may be triggering for some readers, I thought Kendrick handled the difficult issue of domestic abuse with sensitivity. I also think that in an increasingly diverse society, it is really important that Kendrick addresses the fact that anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, whether they are male or female, gay or straight.
From the first paragraph of the novel, the reader is aware that Merrick’s intentions are not innocent and as In the Name of Love develops, Kendrick allows the reader to see deeper into Merrick’s manipulation with the dual narrative. This creates moments of suspense and tension during which I wanted someone to intervene and save Ryan. However, one of my frustrations with the story was the fact that for someone who Shaun calls a “psychopath,” the way things end with Merrick felt too easy and convenient. Though I did not want Ryan to suffer anymore, I had expected the suspense to build to a crescendo and when that failed to come in the final chapters, I was a little disappointed.
Whereas Merrick brings the dark to In the Name of Love, Shaun is definitely the light. Unusually for an important character, we do not meet him until halfway through the story. He is a police officer and inherently good person, going beyond the call of duty to help Ryan when he is the most in need. Shaun recognizes that Ryan is both physically and emotionally damaged and does everything he can to help Ryan heal, including finding Ryan somewhere to live and most importantly, being his friend. I think the outcome of Ryan and Shaun’s relationship is inevitable, but Kendrick does not rush Ryan’s healing process and I welcomed Ryan’s happiness.
In the Name of Love is a story that covers just over a year, but it never feels slow. Kendrick guides his reader through each stage of this time period in Ryan’s life, revealing love in its best and worst of forms. In the Name of Love is worth a read and in witnessing Ryan’s found strength, I healed a little more myself.