The Lightening Gulch Casino isn’t any one’s idea of a vacation hot spot. It’s old, falling apart, and tends to attract more than its fair share of suicides. Jack Beckham doesn’t care about any of that. He’s come to hide, to gamble, and maybe to make enough money to give back to his partner’s family. The partner Jack believes he let die in the line of fire. So he isn’t exactly in the best headspace when he meets casino manager, Taylor Brandt.
Brandt isn’t a fan of cops, even those who come to the Lightening Gulch to waste their hard-earned money. Two exes battered and abused Taylor and the fact that both of them were cops has left him a sour taste for the profession. But in Jack, Taylor quickly finds a man as broken as him and it’s that connection that draws them together. They aren’t dating and the sex isn’t exactly healthy, but in one another Jack and Taylor may have found a way to heal.
I’ve been a fan of Tricia Owens for some time so I was happy to grab Damaged when it came up for review. I would say this one is heavy on the BDSM themes and while it isn’t always graphic, there’s quite a bit of discussion about non-consensual play.
Jack and Taylor are both haunted men, and while each has their own reasons, it’s clear the casino represents their last chance to salvage something of themselves. Jack is raw and hurting from the recent death of his partner and self destruction, via one method or another, seems his only goal. Taylor has cut himself off from the world and is on the verge of being incapable of recovering when he meets Jack. They’re a messy and at times brutal pairing and it’s about as far from a traditional love match as you could imagine. But the support they offer one another is believable and their pain adds a strong level of realism to their relationship. There isn’t a ton of character development here, but given the length of Damaged, there’s just enough to give readers a connection to both men.
Personally, I think my biggest issue with Damaged is the lack of safe play. Jack and Taylor never dip into non-con, but it gets pretty close at times. And while I realize this is fiction, I still prefer the idea of consent to be crystal clear. Other readers might not feel the same way so this wouldn’t be an issue for them. Additionally, we’re told multiple times that the casino is essentially haunted, the site of many suicides, and there’s this frequent suggestion that something sinister is happening. But it never goes anywhere. Yes, the casino is a sad depressing place and Jack even makes mention that it isn’t a good place for anyone, but I felt there was far more buildup than was actually needed around this.
Damaged was an intriguing read and both Jack and Taylor are engaging characters. Their pain is palpable and the author has done a good job of communicating their sense of loss and hurt and desperation. I felt like things were a little too fast and loose in the bedroom and there are times the sex skirts the edges of non-consent. That said, I still think Damaged has a lot to offer and quite a few readers will find something to appreciate here.