Author: Ki Brightly
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Life hasn’t been good to Jeb Birchman. When he attempted to escape his abusive, zealot father, he found himself on the streets, making a living the only way he knew how, the victim of more violent men—one of whom orchestrates a series of vicious attacks that leave Jeb deaf. Now that he’s aged beyond his latest client’s interest, Jeb knows he needs to escape his risky lifestyle before it’s too late. Seeing one last chance for himself, he earns a GED and enrolls in college.
Freddy Williams enjoys a life that couldn’t be more different from what Jeb has survived. He loves sports, being a personal trainer, and hanging out with friends. The son of deaf parents, Freddy is an outspoken advocate of the Deaf community and works as an interpreter at his college. When he meets Jeb at the bookstore, he’s struck by how attractive he is, and as they get to know each other, he finds Jeb’s good heart just as appealing. By the time he learns of Jeb’s past, it’s only a few steps behind them, and Freddy must make a choice between school and his familiar routine and protecting the man he’s falling in love with.
This one is heavy on the angst with lots of hurt going on, but the comforting, when it comes (Freddy taking care of Jeb), is oh so sweet and definitely helps to ease some of that pain.
I was drawn to this storyline because of the hurt/comfort trope, however, the fact that it involved a deaf character made it even more intriguing for the simple fact that my best friend is deaf. In terms of the deaf character portrayal, the author did an outstanding job. From the gestures used to gain Jeb’s attention, to the lengths that understanding people like Freddy went to in order to ensure Jeb could be part of and participate in a simple conversation, to the doofuses that didn’t get it and either acted weird or downright insulting, and last, but not least, to Jeb’s feelings, the author portrayed such a believable setting and interaction between Jeb and those around him that it sucked me right in.
As for the story of Jeb’s life (short as it was), life was definitely not an easy road and it’s not full of roses as soon as he meets prince charming (Freddy) either. In fact, Freddy too has to make some tough decisions when the tangled web of Jeb’s life catches him. In this book, we see the truth of how families can bring about so much pain, but we can also see the strong bonds and beauty in those unconventional families we sometimes choose and knit together vs. those we are related to by blood.
I’m not going to say this is an easy read, but it’s more than worth the investment. I’d have liked to see a little more closure on several threads that still had me thinking about them at the end of the story, but other than that, Jeb and Freddy will no doubt have the sun shining on them in the future. Definitely recommended!