Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Lies are the chains that keep you weighed down at rock bottom.
Noel Carlson is now living as a police officer in the town of Stratton, Pennsylvania. The scars he carries, on body and in mind, are not the only reminders of the gay bashing in college. It also left his first love and best friend Tristan institutionalized with brain damage. And Noel his only visitor. Weekly visits to Tristan and some of the comments Noel has overheard at work have kept him firmly in the closet, even to his partner. Then an official call to an apartment building on a nuisance violation changes all that.
The loud noises from an out of control female bachelor party brings Off. Noel Carlson and his partner face to face with a tied up, dazed male stripper. Since the stripper had violated no laws, Noel lets him go. Later Noel finds that he can’t forget the gorgeous man in the thong with the butterfly tattoo.
Shane Joseph has had a terrible life and it has left him with overwhelming debts to repay, especially to the brother who sacrificed nearly everything for him. His two jobs, in a deli and as a stripper, leave him no time for a social life. But when his last job brings a gorgeous cop to his rescue, Shane thinks his might be missing out on something. Another encounter at the deli reinforces that impression, especially when it seems that Noel wants more than sex and a quick hookup. Soon a shaky bond is formed and Shane and Noel start to hope that they might even have a future together.
But Shane has huge secrets that he is hiding from everyone, including his brother. And past history has taught him that lying brings less pain than telling the truth. But now those lies are piling up and threatening to drown Shane. Shane wants to come clean to those he loves, including Noel. But when the revelations are done, will Shane still have anyone to come home to?
Whew! What an emotionally wrenching read. A. M. Arthur certainly knows how to build a story complete with strong, vulnerable characters you grow to care about. A carryover from Arthur’s Cost of Repairs (book and series), the reverberations of the events and gay bashing continue to spread through the storyline here. The Truth As He Knows It is the first in Arthur’s new Perspectives series that will feature characters from the Cost of Repairs books and new characters such as Shane. But honestly, as well written as this story is, I’m not sure I’m going to continue on.
As I stated before this author creates believable, viable human beings for her stories. The settings, locations, and events that occur translate as authentic and real. For example, the beaten-up old trailer and disreputable, grungy trailer park where Shane and his brother Jason, reside, is so vividly described that the reader will have no problem visualizing such a desperately poor and hard scrabble sort of existence both brothers have been living. That aura of desperation and near poverty coats Jason and Shane, leaving them both with a grayness that can’t be washed off. That’s marvelous writing. And it continues with Noel and Tristan’s relationship, and carries over into all the interchanges and dialog between every main character here. So why wouldn’t I want to continue? Why? Because of the unrelenting angst and pain these characters go through.
These characters have been abused, raped, imprisoned, beaten, left brain damaged, scarred, impoverished, victimized in almost every way and it’s not just in the past. Its past, present, (and if I read the clues right), it continues well into their future…books that is. The pain and abuse rains down on these people like a 40 year flood that’s just getting started. Just when you think there’s a possibility of something positive happening or a hopeful turn of events, the author beats the crap out of that bead of light with a steel baseball bat. It’s not just the characters that are left reeling, but the reader as well.
I can take angst if it is balanced out with scenes that leave the characters and the reader feeling happy or hopeful or even satisfied that all the time spent reading that story was worthwhile. And for me, that just didn’t happen. I felt as beaten up as the characters when it was all over. And the hints and clues laid down by A.M. Arthur for Tristan’s story made me feel worse.
There are other elements that some readers will have issues with like the constant lying and the out of relationship sex, neither of which bothered me. A. M. Arthur lays out a rational and logical reason for both of those things happening, including an abusive background for Shane that makes his bad decisions seem realistic if sad. No, it’s that I want more in a romance, more love, more hope, less constant sorrow. So, I am leaving this story and series right here. Not all readers will feel the same. Others will have a higher tolerance for hurt/comfort or near constant angst then I do, and they will adore this story and most like the series too. Plus its just that well written that you shouldn’t be surprised to find the tears flowing as certain scenes unfold. So…what’s left to say.
I’m not giving any recommendations one way or the other. Instead, you know what type of reader you are so I will leave the decision up to you. I have read and loved A.M. Arthur’s stories in the past, including some in the Cost of Repairs series like Foundation of Trust. Arthur is a terrific writer. I will continue to pick up and read Arthur’s new books as they arrive (mostly). I will let you all into what I discover!
Cover artist: ? I loved that cover, intimate and sexy. Too bad I have no idea who created it.
Kindle Edition, 289 pages
Expected publication: February 10th 2015 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.