Makai was the classic example of both being scorned and injured by a trusted lover and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Because his brother had known ties to a gang, when Makai just happened upon a dying gang member, the police decided he had done the crime. For ten long years, which were accompanied by some unspeakable acts of violence done to him, Makai survived prison only to be finally exonerated and given his freedom and a hefty monetary settlement for compensation. Never having a close relationship with his mother, Makai decided to go back to the small town where he had once happily lived as a child. Acker, Wisconsin boasted a tiny population, a beautiful but rundown lake house for sale, and a chance to fade into the background and live quietly—all the things that Makai craved. It was also home to a hard-nosed sheriff and his family, in particular, his son, Emil.
Emil is still recovering from a life-altering trauma he underwent as a teen. Now, unable to abide even the smallest of comforting touches and having his own issues with too many people in one place crowding him and making him anxious, he lives a half life, safe but unhappy in his parent’s home. Even though he sees a therapist, Emil can barely make it through a day without something sending his overwrought mind into a tailspin. Only the comfort of young Joie, a child of a friend who Emil babysits, helps him breathe more easily until he meets the new guy who lives across the lake. There is something about Makai that draws Emil; he is still terrified of losing control, but the gentle man feels so safe. Perhaps Makai will be the key to unlocking Emil’s nightmares and, in turn, maybe Emil can be just the balm Makai’s soul needs in order for him to embrace living again.
Tia Fielding’s latest release, Ten, is perhaps the best example of a hurt/comfort trope I have ever read. With a controlled slow burn romance coupled with both men recognizing they can actually move beyond a tortured past and consider the idea of falling in love, this story is remarkably beautiful in its simplicity. There is no great angst here, but neither is there an insta-love, which would have shattered the fragile recovery both men begin to experience. I loved how this author allowed her men to slowly heal and left room for the fact that the process was nowhere near finished by the end of the novel. Instead, we were taken on a journey with two men who, through no fault of their own, were damaged goods. They talked–really talked and made sure that their limits, and they both had them, were respected and known. We pick up with Emil’s life after a few years of therapy, which allowed for his character to understand the triggers that would be with him the rest of his life, but timewise also allowed him to have the tools with which to handle those episodes of frantic anxiety and fear. What he lived through will make your heart hurt for him and please be aware if abduction and torture are triggers for you, you may want to take care in reading this novel for he does describe what happened to him.
Makai was a bit less plausible for me given that he was just released from prison and while he thought perhaps a counselor could help, he had not yet made that commitment. Therefore, his grasp on what made him relive his nightmares and his way of handling both his and Emil’s triggers seemed extraordinary. However, he was still the gentlest of souls and really drew me in to his story. But it was the two of them together that was really quite magical. Even though nothing dramatic happened in this novel apart from two small incidents, I still found myself captivated and entrenched for the duration. Along with the side story of little Joie—which I loved, Ten was a solid hit for me and one I can recommend to anyone loving a slow burning romance.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.