Better by Jaime Samms
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: Full Length (240 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 2.5 stars
Reviewed by Cactus
After filing charges that put his abusive ex-Dom behind bars, Jesse Turbul relocates halfway across the country, hoping to escape his past—but, of course, it's never that easy. When Jesse meets third-year law student Aadon at the library where he works, their mutual attraction is instant and obvious.
Despite the sparks, they just can't seem to make it work. Aadon is mired in guilt over his inability to help his older brother, damaged by events far too similar to Jesse’s past. Jesse is stuck in his own desperate wish to forget the painful shadow that continues to threaten him and any hope of a happy future.
The only way to move forward is for Jesse to acknowledge he’s broken and for Aadon to accept he can’t make him better.
Jesse is running from his past and his own desires but Aadon may be the one man who can love and protect him. Jesse ran across country to get away from his ex-Dom and abuser but he’s never really recovered from those events. When he meets Aadon, Jesse is caught between wanting to submit to the dominant and kind man, and flashbacks to his past. Even Aadon’s careful seduction and loving care can’t quite break through Jesse’s pain. Aadon is dealing with his own painful issues as well, which eerily mirror Jesse’s trauma. The two men must find a way past their pain to find a hopeful future together.
Better is an attempt to show how two damaged men can get beyond their painful pasts and issues and be happy together. It’s a nice idea and a good concept. It’s always nice to see authors stretch and try to give happy endings to people who have been scarred and broken in the past. Unfortunately Better doesn’t quite heal the two men enough to make their happy ending believable. In a way, this is a credit to the strong writing and the complexity of the characters that I truly believe they are scarred and troubled young men. I also believe they’re trying to move past their issues, I just wasn’t entirely sold on the belief that they should do that together.
However, that’s my opinion and the story shows how very much they love each other and want to be together. Aadon’s brother Ricky is a real highlight and his struggle with his own rape and abuse – eerily mirroring in some ways what Jesse went through – gives a nice contrast to Jesse’s response. And while Ricky is an emotional character, he’s also one of the true bright points. However, Ricky’s therapist is too mothering and interfering to be realistic and there are numerous coincidences that occur to give easy solutions to the pretty complicated and difficult problems presented.
Due to these issues the story didn’t really resonate with me as much as I’d hoped. The author has a good, solid writing style and the concept is one that really leaps out. The intensity of the issues are always offset in good ways with humor or support from other characters, which makes for a more rounded and easy to read story. The characters are well developed and genuine, coming across as almost painfully honest. It’s a good story and worth reading as I think fans of the genre who can look past the few problems may enjoy it.