I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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There were some really good themes in this book, and there were some things that weren't so good.
Let's talk about the good stuff first.
The author does a fine job exploring the impact and effects of PTSD that Cameron experiences, and how it shapes his interactions with the world around him, even when (and perhaps especially when) the traumatic events leading to the PTSD have passed. The darkness to which Cameron escapes is a place of safety to which he retreats when he's under extreme pressure or fear. An international aid worker for many years, Cameron has seen more than his fair share of human suffering, violence, and death, and there's not much left of the idealistic, out and proud gay man he was 10 years or so ago, the one who wanted to help others and jumped into aid work with both feet. Being gay is a crime in many African countries still, and Cameron knows only too well what might happen to someone who's found out to be gay. He has hidden that part of himself behind a cynical and gruff exterior because it's safer that way.
Tyler is very much an opposite to Cameron. Somewhat self-centered and career oriented, he struggles with his ethnicity (born in America of Chinese heritage) and having clawed his way to success out of growing up in foster care. He's extremely sensitive to perceived slights, and he's unhappy at his job because he feels that he's being marginalized for his race and heritage, and not given any real assignments other than covering the happenings in Chinatown. At first, I didn't like Tyler very much. He was angry, perhaps understandably so, but also standoffish. He grew on me, especially as the author peeled back the layers of his personality, and Tyler became Cam's main support system.
While sex happens early, intimacy and romance does not, and the slow burn inside needed to be, since Cameron's PTSD makes for a difficult companion, and Tyler doesn't initially know how to help the other man, helplessly watching Cam sink deeper and deeper into the darkness.
Love, as it happens between them, happens slowly, almost as a side product of their struggles to overcome the obstacles in their respective lives.
It is only when they are separated again, by choice to some extent, that both men realize how much they need the other, just when it's nearly too late. The darkness threatens to swallow Cameron whole, and there's no Tyler to pull him back when he needs it the most. The climax of this book did have me at the edge of my seat, even if the ending felt a bit rushed.
Now for the not so good. This was my first book by this author, and the writing style didn't really work for me. It was oftentimes more tell than show, which is a shame, really, because the story itself was well done. But show me what makes your characters tick - don't tell me.
There was also some slut-shaming inside, which I thought a bit odd, and while I don't know much about UN Aid workers and how things are run there, I was left to wonder if someone diagnosed with severe PTSD, under the supervision of a therapist, would then be sent back to another hellhole with the expectation of performing the job as if the PTSD didn't exist.
This is a heavy, angsty read, and not the kind of book you take with you for a sunny day on the beach. There's a lot of darkness inside, and both Cameron and Tyler have to fight their way into the light.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. If you like romances that are slow to develop, with a lot of angst, this might be a book for you.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **