Sunday, May 1, 2016
Final Admission by Sue Brown
When Ethan Williams lands a job at Bingwell, Brock and Bacon, he realizes his coworkers aren't exaggerating about James Trenchard. He really is a dick. But after Ethan is forced to work closely with James, he realizes there's more to the lawyer than meets the eye.
Vibrant Ethan is a desperate reason to live again as James endures silent guilt and abuse from his husband after an accident. He calls Ethan for help after a beating, and stolen moments soon become the norm, but they can't hide forever.
Ethan's coworkers think he got his promotion because James is sweet on him, James is still being beaten despite his family's concern, and the situation is swiftly becoming intolerable. Ethan and James need to find a way out of the cycle that's hurting them both before their brand new loves suffers a well.
I'll be the first to admit, that when I first started reading m/m romance novels a few years ago, I wasn't expecting much from them. I had hoped I would be entertained by the stories, and at the least, be able to get lost in the romance unfolding on the page. I wasn't even all that concerned about the hotness of the sex scenes, as most of the time, I tend to just skim through them. I just wanted a few hours of mindless entertainment, and in a few cases, that's what I've gotten. More often than not though, I have discovered some of the best written fiction out there, and it's not mindless. So much of it explores themes I wasn't expecting in romance; abuse, drug addiction, mental illness, and a myriad of other subjects. My eyes were first opened to what this genre can be when I first read The Tin Box by Kim Fielding. As I've discovered additional authors, I've run across books that keeps opening my eyes, ones of those is Final Admission by Sue Brown
This isn't my first go around with this book, I've actually read it twice before, but because of some of the themes it explores, I was never ready to review it. Truthfully, I'm still not sure my brain is fully on board, so I'm not totally sure if this is really going to be a review, as much as a rambling narrative of what this book made me think about, and how I reacted to it. So I apologize if this post goes off on too many tangents, or ends up being incoherent.
Many of you guys know that I grew up in a rather abusive home. I've hinted at it in different reviews and in explanations for different Favorite Fictional Character posts. I've even let you guys in on the ongoing, internal conversation I have with myself as I try to figure out a way to let go of the pain of not only what my father did, but in the way I lost him. Physically abusive relationships have always been a trigger for me in my reading, and viewing for that matter. What I've never let you guys in on, is that for a brief moment in time, I found myself in an abusive relationship as well.
Much like James in Final Admission, I'm not a small guy, nor am I a pushover. I'm pretty determined in what I want, and normally have no issue standing up for myself, at least that's the adult version of who I am. Between 2000 and 2002, I was dating and living with a guy, that while I was never truly in love with him, I was never truly unhappy either. He was actually a lot of fun when we first started dating, but once we moved in together it changed. He would disappear for hours at time, sometimes until 5 or 6 in the morning. It was always, he was with a cousin, or in the prayer chapel at church, and I was dumb for not believing him. Needless to say, after almost a year of that, I went out with friends, and met a hot guy in the Air Force. Stupidly, I went home with him. In my mind, I was ending the relationship I was in, and I was ready for it.
When I got home that morning, I was met with a fist. Growing up in the home I was in, I always told myself I would never let that happen to me, but when you are confronted with it yourself, it's a different story altogether. This was not the first time I had a guy hit, or try and choke me, but that first time, I didn't feel as if I deserved it, so I got rid of him quick, and never looked back. But this time I froze, and while I won't drag you through all the details, it continued in this fashion for six months. A part of me felt as if I deserved it, as if I brought it on myself, and in that regard, I can understand some of what James was going through. Where James was feeling guilty for coming through the accident unscathed, when his husband not only had physical trauma, but brain damage as well, I blamed my actions for the way I was being treated. I brought it on myself for going home with someone else, even though my relationship had been dead for a while. What I didn't realize is that the emotional neglect, and I can say the emotional abuse, I had been living with for the prior year, conditioned me for the physical abuse that came later.
I never had to deal with the level of abuse James, or even my mom went through, so I know it could have been worse. And I did eventually start fighting back, something James never felt he could do, as the guilt was too thick. Where I'm a bit jealous of James, is in his relationship with Ethan. When he meets Ethan, a small part of him grabs the hope he represents. In Ethan, James, who has given up on being happy, and living to a degree, realizes that there is something else out there, another path to chose. It's not smooth sailing for them by any stretch of the imagination, and I can't imagine what Ethan was mentally going through, but the hope they instill in each other is beautiful to see unfold on the page.
It's actually something I have yet to allow myself to have. I have been completely single since 2002. I always want to blame my lack of time, my work schedule, or lack of interest, but it's really more about fear. It's not just a fear of putting myself out there again, it's a fear of what's behind the veneer, once it's wiped away. Everyone James works with, except for his cousin and his boss, thinks he has the perfect relationship with his husband. Yes he's a flirt, who enjoys the attention he gets from others, though he normally keeps it's to the girls, but everyone thinks he's truly happy in his marriage. I don't know if his husband was a controlling dick before the relationship, and the brain damage took it to a whole other, horrible level, or if the accident completely changed his personality. When your husband is trying to kill you, does it even matter. I'm not sure, given my family and personal history, when I'm going to be ready to take that risk again. I'm not sure you can ever truly know what another person is capable of, or of who they truly are. It's that uncertainty I have to let go of, and I have James as a role model to follow. And yes I know this is fiction, that James and Ethan aren't real people, but seeing a path forward, even a fictional one, is enough to give me hope that I'll be ready someday.
On the short review side of things, please don't think this is a dark or depressing book, because it's not. Yes, it does have some darker moments, but remember, this is a romance novel. In Ethan and James, you have two men who are drawn together, who truly do end up loving each other. I won't get into all the details, because I want you guys to read the story for yourselves, but it's a gorgeously written love story. There are a few hiccups along the way, other than those dealing with James' husband, and while I don't think I would have handled the separation in the way Ethan did, I get the reasons behind it. The nature of an office romance is well fleshed out, and the ending scene is brilliantly staged. This is a love story with hope at it's core, and it's one I know I'll end up reading a few more times.