Rating: 3.5 stars
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Craig is a web designer working from home. His boyfriend, Darren, is a personal trainer working in a gym, so Craig takes care of all the household chores along with his work. Darren likes things a certain way and if Craig isn’t up to snuff, Darren reacts with his fists. Unfortunately, Craig seems oblivious to this abuse, thinking that it’s a normal relationship, even though his family and friends are now gone from his life, and he’s constantly battling bruises and pain.
One day, Darren goes too far and Craig needs to go to the hospital to have his dislocated shoulder reset. There he meets Alex, a busy doctor who’s married to his work. When Alex sees Craig (and, sadly, Darren) in the ER, he feels a sort of pull. He instinctively knows Craig is being abused, but with Darren around, Craig denies it profusely.
Again, feeling a pull to help, Alex does something that could get him fired. He pulls up Craig’s address and pays a surprise house call, and when he does it again, Craig pays the consequences. Throughout the ensuing year, the men come in and out of each other’s lives. Is it possible for Craig and Alex to find their way to each other and have a proper relationship, or has too much damage been done?
Let me begin by saying I love romance stories that revolve around hospitals. My parents were nurses, and I practically grew up in the ER and on the medical/surgical floors, so I usually feel these books comforting. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel very connected to Deep Down, no matter how much I wanted to be. Both Craig and Alex are nice guys, but I felt like I didn’t get to really know them. I know Craig’s being brutally abused, and I know Alex works a little too hard, but that’s about it really. There is a brief mention of Alex having a previous relationship with a former patient, but it wasn’t explored very deeply. It does contribute to his character and his feelings for Craig. Even with that information, I still didn’t feel Alex. I had the same issue with Craig. What he was going through was unacceptable and wrong (and dangerous and terrifying), but I just didn’t connect.
I wouldn’t consider Deep Down a romance story in the traditional sense. The men are apart through most of the book. Craig spends a lot of time with his psychologist talking about Alex, Darren, his family, and his job. He also sees his family quite a bit, even returning to his childhood home (and bedroom) for a while. Alex works, occasionally sees friends, and even winds up seeing someone for a period of time. Eventually, the men wind up meeting up because they share some of the same friends. It’s only then they begin to realize maybe they’re ready to try to have a romantic relationship.
As far as the writing is concerned, it felt a little “off” to me. Some of it was inspired. Craig’s meetings with his psychologist are interesting and very revealing. Some of it was less well done, like the not very detailed relationship between Alex and another previous patient. This was supposed to have shaped Alex’s feelings about having a romantic partner…how he resisted being with anyone, let alone Craig. The dialogue was alright. It felt like “real” conversation, even though I didn’t feel like I had a stake in Craig and Alex’s couplehood.
The ending was as expected. It was a hard fought one, though. Craig and Alex went through a lot to be together, and I was happy for them. In fact, I wish them well, and I think it may even be interesting to see how things are going with them five or ten years afterward. Even though Deep Down wasn’t really for me, I’ll cautiously recommend it to readers who enjoy a very slow burn that’s a little on the angsty side.