MICHELE MICHEAL RAKES
Genre: Contemporary gay romance, romantic suspense
A twenty-something paramedic suffering from PTSD and a failing relationship with his high school sweetheart becomes embroiled in the tragic life of a young, gay man brutally beaten, raped, and left for dead.
Kane Abel can’t help falling for his caregiver, the handsome paramedic who saves his life, but he’s resistant. The one time Kane threw caution to the wind, he was left with a wired jaw and a tracheostomy. He can’t take much more hurt. But with his attacker’s promise to return, Kane lives in a constant state of fear, and with the ever-present paramedic, arousal.
Garrett Young struggles with the question of his sexuality, unable to get Kane out of his mind even as he fights against the demise of his long-time engagement with his girlfriend Amanda. Every day is complicated by his ongoing battle with PTSD and alcoholism, compounded by his fear for Kane’s life.
This is one of those books that is very difficult to review, primarily because the suspense embedded in this story operates at several different levels, and to explain one thing invariably gives away details best left for the ritual of discovery and the joy and despair of living life vicariously through two damaged men who did nothing to deserve their fates.
And damaged, abused, destroyed … none of these terms can even come close to the physical and psychological wounds each man carries with him.
For Garrett Young, the wounds fester from experiences suffered as a child, then much later from when his job as firefighter puts him in harm’s way. As with all heroes who run into the danger zone, there are times when the ending isn’t so rosy, the outcomes not so bright. The trauma from being caught in the burning building leaves lasting issues with PTSD and alcoholism, along with a slow, downhill slide in his relationship with his high school sweetheart.
Kane Abel is a dancer—an attractive man content with his sexuality, a man who makes a poor choice in accepting an invitation that results in a horrific beating that nearly kills him, breaking his body and nearly breaking his spirit. But there is more at work than a simple episode of homophobic baiting and rage. Unlike other situations similar to Kane’s experience, his is different. He survived and survival of the victim is not the perpetrator’s MO.
Garret is the EMT who tends to Kane as first responder, then later he gives the younger man shelter in order to tend to his injuries, and thus begins an attraction that changes everything.
What is so extraordinary about this story and the characters is the level of authenticity, the honesty and no-holds-barred treatment of what it means to be so damaged that redefining normal for either man requires us to empathize completely with them, to crawl inside their skulls, to see, hear, feel, imagine everything they do. And even then, it barely scratches the surface.
How Garret and Kane handle their wounded hearts and spirits, especially Garret who has the added dysfunction of not fully grasping his sexuality, makes up a multilayered exploration of how each man comes to terms with his fears and disabilities. They are not necessarily stronger together, not at first, but that journey, that subtle dance of emotional bonding, is key to each man’s survival.
The overarching plot is also suspense laden, with Kane’s attacker on the loose, tormenting him, then others he cares for. The minor characters—an FBI agent whose husband suffered the same fate as Kane but didn’t live to tell about it, a transgender friend who provides muscle and mothering in equal measure, Garret’s sister—all round out the story, ground the main characters and give them a much-needed anchor and reason to continue to face each day.
I had some quibbles with the plot toward the end, in particular how the FBI agent handled certain elements of his investigation that were unorthodox to the point of unprofessional. In addition, Garret embraces his newfound sexuality with an ease that didn’t ring true, especially when compared with the other, brutal, deep-core examinations of his motivation and past history. To elevate the plot and to really up the level of conflict, the antagonist really needed more than the shallow treatment accorded him. And as fleshed out as the main characters were, the denouement felt rushed and incomplete.
Saving Kane is a thrill ride, a character-driven story of coming to terms with oneself when you’ve been to hell and back. The author writes with a sure hand despite the deeply disturbing, dark and brutal subject matter. It is definitely a page turner and worth having a spot on your permanent shelf.
Saving Kane is a solid 4.0 Star read.