Wyatt Edgeworth just wants someone to love him, to care for him and to help him heal from years of abuse at the hands of a violent and homophobic father and endless summers spent at camps that were meant to pray his gay away. With years of mental, physical, and sexual abuse riding Wyatt hard, he seeks relief from the endless spiral of self-doubt and self-hate by cutting his own flesh, drinking, using drugs, and generally trying to kill himself with wild, irresponsible behavior. His latest escapade has earned him six months of home incarceration with an ankle bracelet designed to keep him there. All Wyatt knows is that his father, the Senator of conservative family values, wishes he had died rather than his brother and that fact alone guts the young man more than anything else.
Enter Lincoln Hudson, a former Marine suffering from his own form of PTSD, who has landed the job of watching over Wyatt and keeping him in line. Linc only knows the paycheck at the end of the six-month stint will enable he and his sister to place his father in a care facility, which will allow his sister to resume her career and life. He just has to make it that long without answering the call inside his heart to be the daddy Wyatt so desperately needs and wants. But the heart often has other plans and ignores the reasonable arguments Linc so often has with himself. Wyatt is his boy and somehow the two of them must keep that hidden while trying to understand just how deep their attraction runs.
If the only marker of successful story telling for Intoxicating by Onley James was the heat factor, then it would get five scorching stars and I could call it a day. There is a lot of intense, kinky, daddy/boy scenes—all of which I found to be both sensual and fairly emotional. This was an experienced man, Linc, taking an abused and wounded younger man, Wyatt, under his wing and giving him the attention and care he needs. This aspect of the novel I found to be both beautiful and well written. Each encounter Linc and Wyatt had, and there were many, felt like another step toward giving Wyatt the freedom to be himself—something he very much deserved. It also allowed Linc to begin his own healing process, of a sort, and, in doing so, allow him to experience love for the first time. I loved how this part of the story felt fresh and dynamic—keeping me on the edge of my seat as there was always the fear of exposure that would mean the end for both men and their fledgling love.
Where the appeal of Intoxicating began to wane for me was the frequency of the sex scenes and how they became the focus of the book, rather than the emotional crisis Wyatt was having. Any retribution for his past abuser or his father, for that matter, was pushed to the back in favor of yet another kinky bedroom scene. Yes, there was some closure for Wyatt in regards to past abuse, but that was rushed and pared down to make it fit into the romance rather than the other way. With so many potential triggers happening in this story, from physical abuse, to Wyatt self-harming, to Linc’s explosive nightmares from his PTSD, I really wanted to see this book take on these issues and develop them a bit more fully.
While this is a debut novel for Onley James, this author, under another pen name, is actually a successful Young Adult novelist. Given that, I do think this first foray into the adult m/m world was quite entertaining despite it relying heavily on sex rather than meatier substance. I do look forward to reading more by this author and if the title of Intoxicating is any indication, this is the beginning of a series that I hope will get better and better with each new installment.