Thursday, February 20, 2020

E.M. Lindsey - Free Hand

Derek Osbourne’s life is mostly quiet. A routine that keeps him functioning, a job as a tattoo artist that keeps his rent paid and food in his belly, and if he’s alone through it well, there are worse things to be. With his complicated past, Derek is sure no one would ever want to deal with the struggle that comes along with loving someone who has severe PTSD. Especially since the man who spent years abusing him is now in hospice, and Derek has taken over his end-of-life care. Derek’s resigned himself to living and dying alone, and maybe that’s okay. Then one night, during a raging storm, Derek finds himself stuck in an ATM vestibule with a quiet stranger, and it’s in that moment his world begins to change.
Basil Shevach is new to Fairfield, taking over his dead aunt’s florist shop. He’s also Deaf in a small town, where he and his sister are the only ones not hearing. It’s not to say he hates it there, but he’s not sure Fairfield is the place for him. At least, not until one night, when a storm leaves him trapped inside the bank with a man quietly panicking against the glass door. He’s immediately intrigued by this unbelievably attractive stranger with bright tattoos covering his arms and haunted eyes, but he’s also bitter because he’s dated a hearing man before and it ended as badly as it could go for him. He had resolved years ago to never make that mistake again, but somehow, the frightened man trapped with him in that little room, crawls under his skin and no matter what he tries, he can’t seem to shake him.
Will the two of them be able to find their way together, or will their pasts prevent them from being able to find happiness and contentment when they need it most? 

Comment: I've decided to read this book because beyond my favorite tropes I also like plots where the characters have or suffered some kind of disability and I'm always eager to see how authors develop a possible romance when one of the elements is often considered "less than normal".
In this case, there was a lot to like in this novel but the romance was definitely not a favorite item.

In this book we meet Derek, he and his twin brother Sage have been severely abused by their father, he verbally attacked them, he beat them and they decided to run away one day. Now Derek is responsible for their father, a man dying but who still calls often to mistreat Derek and to let him feel even worse about it. This means Derek is very wary of trusting someone although the night he meets Basil, he unknowingly helps him through a panic attack and somehow their paths cross again.
Basil works in the florist quite close to the tattoo shop Derek works in. Basil is Deaf and he has had a terrible experience dating a man who hears. This has influenced the way he feels about all hearing guys but Derek has something about him that Basil can't ignore...

I'm going to start right away by saying the romance disappointed me because it seemed the main characters were extremely focused on their issues and the difficulties they are going through for the romance to feel natural or easy.
Of course people with disabilities as both Basil and Derek have, should be more than entitled to worry about how that affects them. Those close to them notice that and can be supportive or not. However, this is not a nonfiction on struggling with disability, nor literary fiction focused on this theme; this story is a romance and I expected more from that area.

There is a note by the author in the beginning of the book clarifying the fact this will address some situations readers might find as triggers and that is a good idea but, then again, it creates the vibe the story will have complicated scenes and this would be a more serious book than other things more on the "fluffy" zone as she said too.
I can understand why the focus of the story was, therefore, on the main characters' struggle and their discussing everything related to their problems and how that affected all their relationships, not only the one between them. 
Still, where was the romance, the romantic little things besides the convenient, the spontaneity and sexy scenes or the sexual tension that would let us have clues on how perfect for each other they were? I missed these things (sex scenes don't count as this for me).
I liked them together but they could have been anyone.

Thinking of the blurb and how the story starts, I thought we would also see a bit more healing on Derek's side regarding his bad relationship with an abusive father. I don't think he did manage to go past this and being in therapy later on is realistic but then why mention this as part of the novel? It was just one detail in the complicated way Derek saw himself.
As for Basil's issues, I can understand how he felt betrayed by how his ex treated him but Derek was trying and we cannot expect everyone to suit our needs right away, being a friend or a lover or a therapist. It did feel the story was about the characters' disabilities and not the romance.

All things considered, this was a good enough story, the main characters are good representatives of how one can live with the issues they have but the pace was rather slow, the attention wasn't on the elements I think should have been key (their romance and connection) and I really wish the author could have give us the feeling Derek and Basil just had to be together and not analyze everything all the time. It's good to be cautious but in romantic fiction too slow can be boring.
Grade: 6/10

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