A LITTLE TOO BROKEN
Genre: M/M contemporary gay romance
When Jamie walks through the door of the Humane Society, it’s not just an animal who needs rescuing that day. Tom is there to adopt another service dog into the Canine Comrade Corps, but it’s Jamie his heart goes out to. But each man turns away, walks away, from the potential pain, the rejection, the knowledge that it’ll all end in tears…
Jamie knows damn well that the HIV he contracted from an unfaithful lover has put him out of the dating game forever in the small town of Santa Vera. Tom lost his legs in Afghanistan, and got new ones, yeah, but with a side order of PTSD to go, he thought grimly. The real problem is that only now does he realize he’s gay, now that the revelation would be just one too many things to put his family through, after everything else they’ve had to deal with.
So both men grin and bear the loneliness, put their feelings on a shelf, even as Jamie’s volunteer stint at CCC turns into friendship and, despite their resolve, something more…
A Little Too Broken chronicles the journeys of two men stutter-starting on the path of social and emotional isolation. Tom is a veteran who lost his legs in Afghanistan. He suffers from PTSD, a condition he combats by giving back to similar sufferers through involvement with the Canine Comrade Corps. Jamie is HIV positive, contracted via poor life choices that involved unsafe sex, drugs and an inability to recognize abusive behavior until it was almost too late.
When they meet, there is interest that cannot be sustained because each man only sees rejection and heartbreak, casting themselves as victims that borders on a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The story is told in two parts: each man’s misfortunes, their history, their journey into hell and back, the help they receive along the way, the recovery and the consequences of not committing fully to it.
There is a lot of interesting detail about the CCC, the good it does, how the dogs are chosen, what to look for. Similar detail is presented about being HIV positive, including both social and medical consequences. Unfortunately, this level of detail does little to forward the plot or character development. Rather than helping to integrate our understanding and engage our sympathies, this acts as an info dump pulling us out of the story. We lose focus on who these men are in favor of a political/social statement about how society has failed its most vulnerable. I’m not suggesting this isn’t the case, for clearly it is, but in terms of story-as-romance it does not fulfill that mandate.
There are also problems with shifting point of view, sometimes swapping out within paragraphs. It made the writing choppy, and discerning who was saying/thinking what, when, became frustrating for this reader.
When Jamie and Tom finally do take those tentative first steps, the novel becomes what it should have been all along: a sigh-worthy romance where you cheer them on, want to slap them upside the head at times for being dolts, where you marvel at the level of understanding each has for the other’s disability—turning that mindset into “able”, not “disable.”
The scenes of affection are realistic and include glimpses into the emotional state of each man.
Despite the lack of integration of individual storylines, despite the shifting POV and extended info dumps, despite a slightly unrealistic (too pat, too neat) denouement vis a vis Tom’s family’s acceptance when he comes out to them… Despite all that, I enjoyed the book. When I finished, I wished there’d been more of Jamie and Tom as a couple, working toward that future that looks a lot brighter with them together instead of apart.
A Little Too Broken has enough “aw” moments to satisfy a romance junkie. The characters are sympathetic, especially Tom. It will leave you feeling optimistic, wanting more. This could have been a wonderful book but it fails in execution. This is where a good editor could have made all the difference.
For that reason it’s a 3.5* read, rounding to 4* because I’m still harboring that “aw” feeling of satisfaction.