This book is the eight title in the Arbor Heights series. Having read none of the previous books I can safely say this book can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone. I have however no doubt that those who have read the previous titles would enjoy this opportunity to reconnect with characters they’ve met before.
‘Not Quite Broken’ is an emotional read. It is impossible to read this story and not have your heart break for young Dex. The twenty-one year old had only just found the courage to go dancing in a gay club when he’s brutally attacked and raped. While the physical wounds heal, the mental scars are much harder to deal with and Dex is constantly scared and insecure.
When his nightmares and fears get too much one night, Dex reaches out to Brian, the slightly older man who has stood with and beside him since the night of the attack. With Brain’s help Dex slowly ventures out into the world again. Helping Brain teach self-defence to women who have been the victim of violence not only shows Brian that he’s not alone but also teaches him techniques to keep himself safe. They’re small steps and it’s a slow process but the old Dex slowly begins to re-emerge in the safety of Brian’s company.
I adored Brain as a character. In fact, on one or two occasions he bordered on the edge of too good to be true. His endless patience, his willingness to ignore his own feelings and needs and the ease with which he transformed his own life so that Dex fitted into it seemed somewhat unrealistic at times. Especially taking into account the feelings Brian was developing for Dex and his uncertainty about the younger man’s feelings and even the appropriateness of any feelings he might be developing.
Dex was a far more realistic character for me. His road to discovery isn’t a straight line. He faces his ups and downs and only slowly finds his way back to himself. And I’m glad about that. A miracle cure as a result of love would have taken this storyline from a bit too good to be true into too unrealistic to be enjoyable for me.
The slowly developing bond and relationship between these two men was a joy to read about and at times incredibly hot even though sex played a relatively minor part in the story. It was the slow build-up of Dex’s confidence and trust that took my breath away and made the story for me.
I enjoyed this book. It was a beautiful and touching story told in a sensitive yet realistic manner. If I have one reservation it is that it all ended a bit too perfectly. While I wanted a happy ever after for these characters I did have a problem with how everything just fell into place for Dex by the time the story ended. Leaving that aside, this was a fascinating read that had me hooked from the first page and didn’t let go until the very end.