Nick and his cousin, Roly, both former Navy SEALS, run Wrecked, a gym for combat vets, many of whom are having a difficult time reintegrating into society. Wrecked, so named because many vets come home feeling wrecked mentally and physically, serves as a sanctuary for those living with PTSD, the loss of limbs, and life altering injuries, or who want to be among others with a shared combat experience.
Elijah is a down-on-his-luck vet looking for a job — any job — and applies at Wrecked. He badly needs the job to escape the circumstances he finds himself in following his departure from the military: no family (disowned for being gay); no money, car, or friends; and the death of his beloved aunt.
Nick is immediately against hiring Elijah, making all kinds of excuses to Roly, when really he’s trying to avoid the attraction he’s feeling toward Elijah. Nick has a self-imposed rule strictly forbidding fraternization with an employee. He actually snarls at Elijah during the interview. But Elijah does get the job, proves himself to be the ideal employee, and is well-liked by both staff and clientele. And, of course, Nick and Elijah become involved in a relationship.
Sometimes I like a light, easy read, but other times I appreciate a book like Sanctuary that has some heavier elements. In this case, the logistics of poverty are highlighted and show how for individuals like Elijah, it’s particularly hard to get a job and thus get out of one’s difficult circumstances. However, Sanctuary contains a couple of issues that point to sloppiness regarding research and sensitivity that I must point out. First, several times the author uses “peg leg” in reference to lower limb amputees; this slang is usually considered offensive and insulting and it bothered me. Also, there are several references to Nick being a sergeant in the Navy, where there is no such rank. To me it feels disrespectful to our country’s service members to get that detail incorrect. Errors such as these make me concerned about the veracity of other information in the book.
Aside from that, Kelly Fox’s debut MM novel is enjoyable. The plot is appealing and contains a twist near the end. The end itself is satisfying. The pace drops off, though, in the middle of the book where it becomes somewhat monotonous with parts that don’t propel the plot. There’s a decent amount of humor; you can look forward to Nick and Roly’s Nat Geo-like wildlife experts’ whispered commentary about two characters in a “mating dance.” These two men are set up to be the couple in book two of the Wrecked series. These characters are among many who comprise a likable crew. There is nice chemistry between Nick and Elijah, as well. And enjoy the really nice cover.
Despite being what I would classify as a good book, I do have to subtract from my rating for the problems I mentioned above.