** SPOILER ALERT **
I don’t give out 5-stars reviews often … but I also don’t feel good when I have to give out bad reviews. I prefer to stop reading altogether and don’t finish a book if I have a feeling that I will not like it. This is one of few occasions in which I did finish the book — because I was curious about how it would end. I couldn’t be more honest about my reading experience and how I thought about the book.
I. Don’t. Like. It.
First thing first, I am not sure whether the trigger warning is needed but I’m going to say it anyway. There is on-page violent scenes here. Aidan is in an abusive relationship and some of his ordeals are written quite vividley: beating, kicking, choking … there are bruises and bloods. I’m not exactly squeamish but I prefer to read violence in mystery/crime or even urban fantasy setting rather than contemporary romance. It was a bit difficult to swallow. It reminded me of a friend’s comment who said “Alex Beecroft always makes her characters suffered a LOT before the happy ending“. I’m worried if it will trigger reactions from some readers as well so I thought I’d better say something about it.
Now, onto the story itself…
I felt like there are two plots going on and when it came down to the romance, it was a mess. On one corner, there is Aidan who is in domestic abusive relationship with an older guy. He is able to run away from it with the help from James. Then Aidan tries to be independent by working at a cafe, making friends with some of girl employees, and finding out that he’s asexual. Yep, Aidan realizes that there is a name to his ‘situation’; the fact that he never enjoy sex with Piers, the reason why he doesn’t like sex altogether, and why he keeps thinking that sex is different than love, that love doesn’t equal to sex. So we have that.
On the other corner, we have James, the local archeologist who is in failing relationship with his rock-star boyfriend. Basically, James’ boyfriend, Dave, is a total dick-wad. Dave doesn’t appreciate James, he parties like crazy, he cheats on James. James wants to break up with him but Dave doesn’t seem to get the point… yeah, that is the other on-going plot.
So with both things going on, I didn’t buy the romance between Aidan and James. Not 100%. But what I disliked the most was the fact that there were a lot of important things happening but they were all pretty much ended up being glossed over, for example:
a) the abusive partner — who CLEARLY killed his previous lover, so where’s the investigation in that?!? How could he walked out from it easily to kidnap Aidan again later?!
b) the asexuality — I feel really sad that the asexuality issue here seems to be on the surface only: Aidan doesn’t like sex, oh he’s asexual! There’s so MUCH going on in Aidan’s life, including being abused for the past several years! It needs to dig deeper — I don’t buy that he’s easily think it’s fine for him. What about emotional trauma? What about physical trauma? Alongside the fact that he’s asexual!. And could James easily accepted that, knowing that he doesn’t even understand about asexuality in the first place!!
… and finally, the romance. It just didn’t work at all for me.
Sorry, but for me this is a major failure. I struggled to find anything positive to say. It just left bitter taste in my mouth. Having said that, I don’t give out ratings below than 2-stars unless I despise the story. So 2-stars it is.
The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.
Title: Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues #3)
Author: Alex Beecroft
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Length: 250 pages (~67,000 words)
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: July 27th, 2015