Title: Give Yourself Away
Author: Barbara Elsborg
Genre: M/M Contemporary
Available: Feb 9th
One guy intent on caution. One an adrenaline junkie. Love could be one risk too many.
March is determined to lose the numbness that accompanies a history of loss and blame. Desperate to feel something—anything—the adrenaline junkie base jumps off cliffs, soars on hang gliders, and embarks on dangerous sea-borne rescue missions. But any release he feels is fleeting, and when you play Russian roulette with fate, eventually you come crashing down.
No matter how hard Caleb tries to forget his past, a dark shadow is always behind him. When a bizarre turn of events results in him being trapped in a sea cave, Caleb wonders how his mantra—safety at all costs—could have failed him. On the point of drowning, he’s stunned when March surfaces in the cave.
March’s disregard for the rules saves Caleb’s life but gets March into a heap of trouble. Not least of which is the guy shivering in the boat next to him. March tries to ignore Caleb but it’s already too late. Together, they take small, awkward steps toward love. But Caleb’s past is waiting to sink in its claws…and this time, it could drag him to his death.
Warning: This book contains difficult flashbacks of child abduction and sexual violence, but also the incredible perseverance of two men who never give up on love—or each other. Bring your tissues and a heart that believes in the resilience of the human spirit.
Source: ARC from Samhain Publishing via NetGalley
Before I get into this review – heed the warning. Although all the sex shown in the book is consensual and between adults, the flashbacks of child abduction and abuse continue right through the book. They are only short and mainly show the moments between any trauma, but they play a big role throughout the book.
With that said, this is a tricky book to talk about without spoilers. Most of the pieces are easy to put together from very early on, but still, things might get spoiled. So, I shall do my best to keep them at a minimum. This is a book of two halves. On one side is the abuse and on the other is an almost fairytale romance between Caleb and Marsh. The romance does stop the other stuff from becoming unbearable, but likewise the abuse meant I could never quite believe in the romance.
Marsh is a man who has denied his sexuality for his entire life, to the extent where he very nearly married a woman and he physically cannot say that he is gay without feeling sick. There are reasons for this, but he never actually talks about them, because one day he rescues Caleb from a cave and suddenly he’s cured! Well, kind of. He certainly stops hiding and suddenly becomes the king of gay sex. There is a lot of sex in this book, maybe a little too much considering all the characters involved and the history and the other story line. It’s great that it’s not a huge psychological sticking point, but the ease with which the two characters fall into their relationship is a touch too good to be true.
As for Caleb, he’s broke and quiet and running from various issues, and seems to be in need of a rescue. Actually, it’s more like he rescues Marsh, because for all his seeming weaknesses, Caleb is pretty strong. Yes, he likes to err on the side of caution, but he has his reasons. Somethings about him are pretty hard to believe – the thing with his eyes making him utterly unrecognisable, how he got to where he is, his past relationships – but he’s a sweet guy who puts up with quite a bit from Marsh, because he thinks he’s worth it.
While I did mostly enjoy this book, I think that the contrast between the abuse and the romance was just a bit too large for me. Everything awful that could happen happens on one side, while the cutesy coincidences and lustful loving lines up on the other. After how hard and difficult the past is, the present seems a touch too easy. Sure, there is a stalker plot and a hint of lurking danger, not to mention a strangely all-knowing Saudi prince, but the overall feeling I had from this book was that it was a nice reward for all the awful stuff, but I wasn’t convinced.
So overall if you can suspend your disbelief and you like reading a tale where love conquers all darkness – eventually – then you might enjoy this. The bad stuff is mostly bad because of what is implied, rather than shown, and it doesn’t shred your emotions so much as make you feel sick at what some people can do to other people. The good stuff does try to balance it all out, but there is the occasional brain reset needed as you go from dark stuff straight into happy sex. So approach with caution, but if the blurb doesn’t put you off and the prospect of happiness is all you need, then give this a go. I did enjoy it on the whole, though it’s not my favourite from this author.
Give Yourself Away is out February 9th!
Visit Barbara Elsborg for more details.