Saturday, February 13, 2016

Something Shattered by Bailey Bradford

When something inside him is shattered by an act of violence, Caleb Tomas doesn’t think he can ever be whole again.

Police Officer Jesse Martin has lived in the small town of El Jardin, New Mexico, for a decade, but he’s never seen anything like the mysterious man who moves in in the middle of the night. The house across the street from Jesse’s trailer is no longer empty. There’s a puzzle waiting to be solved there in the form of one sexy, but decidedly different, man.

Bruised and battered inside and out, Caleb Tomas flees to the town of El Jardin in the hopes of escaping the terror that haunts him. Instead, he becomes more of a recluse, scared of everything, unable to get more than a dozen feet past his porch before he panics. His head’s a mess, and he knows he needs help, but that’s a step he doesn’t want to take. It’s easier, safer to stay hidden away with only his adorable puppy, Loopy, and the bird-murdering cat, Mix, for companionship.

But Caleb can’t help but notice the sexy man across the street, and when Loopy escapes from the back yard, it’s Jesse Martin who comes to the rescue.

And he might save more than one bouncy little poodle, if Caleb and Jesse are willing to take the risk.

Reader Advisory: This book contains references to physical assault.

Publisher's Note: This book was previously released elsewhere. It has been revised and re-edited for re-release with Pride Publishing.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

The blurb had me drawn to Something Shattered in a heartbeat. Spending 3 weeks a year in New Mexico, I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into a novel set in the same location. The cover was an instant hook for me too.

Our cop, Jesse, is a patient man. When a new guy moves in across the street, he's curious, especially when he goes to greet the newcomer but the door never opens in invitation. Like an inquisitive cop on a stakeout, he sits on his steps watching the guy's house.

Caleb is the newcomer, and it's obvious from Jesse's point of view that he was a victim of a violent crime. He's guarded and closed off, and clearly having a hard time of it.

The lead up to all of this was fun to read in Jesse's narration. So it was a bit jarring when the reader is switched to reside in Caleb's head. I felt the agoraphobia was written well – the fear and emotional agony, the defeat and triumph of trying to make your way to the sidewalk and the mailbox beyond.

The first few meetings between the pair, you can see how patient, coaxing, and caring Jesse truly is. Hero mentality, which is always a good trait to have in the main character.

In the beginning, it became frustrating when Caleb was narrating, because the reader knew nothing of his plight. They're Caleb's thoughts – he's thinking about it – but not thinking with a single detail. Leading the reader on, this was frustrating and drawn out, and completely removed any emotional response on my part. Because it just started to feel like a miserable book once I was inside Caleb's head with no explanation.

Caleb was terrified, to the point he wouldn't leave his home, nor did he want to be touched. But he quickly warmed to Jesse, no matter how terrified he was, which I felt was unrealistic in the extreme, but I understood with a book of this length.

As per usual in a small town setting, the homophobes come out of the woodwork in droves, causing problems between our couple, especially at work. This is a trope that rubs me a bit wrong, being from a smaller town than most (a few 100 residents), it gives rural America a bad name. We really are just like everyone else with a bad apple or two, but not a whole bushel. This always reads as OTT to me – perhaps more appropriate for a decade or two ago.

I don't want to be nitpicky, but it's a hazard of my profession as a writer. The story was not for me. I needed some details. More show, less tell. A smoother transition from one scene to the next with something denoting it, because I became confused a few times with one paragraph ending in one location and the next beginning somewhere else. Same with the point of view shifts making it a disjointed read. Jesse. *blink* Caleb.

Overall, I will say many MM readers will enjoy Something Shattered, especially if they connect with the characters and the story resonates with them. I am an overtly picky person, and I can't let something slide, and it usually destroys my enjoyment. So this is all on me. Bailey Bradford is a good storyteller. If you read like me, there ya go. If you're more of a relaxed reader, you'll probably truly enjoy Something Shattered.

Genre: MM Romance | Cop | Out/closet | Hurt/comfort | Victim of a violent crime | Traumatic events/flashbacks | Agoraphobia | Puppy cuddles | Meddlesome yet loving sister | Small town mentality in the workplace | Steam level: Moderate |

This is a sweet story which deals with some big issues for two wary individuals. It has a winning combination of leads – sexy cop and quiet, sensitive injured guy who moves in across the road. Their courtship is seriously extended because of Caleb's fears, but Jesse is a man on a mission. I do recommend that you take note of the comments regarding time passing – as sometimes things seem to happen far too quickly, but in fact a few weeks have passed. I would have found a new chapter would have helped cement that in my mind. Similarly, the point of view changes mid-chapter which I found confusing – especially as both these guys like to take the lead at times.

I enjoyed the story, and the mix of hot, fun, deep and meaningful made for a good read overall.

Having read books from three of Bradford’s series, I was kind of excited to read a standalone novel. While I would have liked for the ending to have been a bit more fleshed out than it was, I found the “meat” of the story to be quite enjoyable.

Having survived a physical attack, Caleb suffers from night terrors, severe anxiety attacks, and presents as agoraphobic. All of which make sense and would be expected based upon the nature of his attack, the details of which are revealed well into the book. Bradford does an excellent job of conveying Caleb’s fears and anxieties, showing how it is only under extreme circumstances that he finally lets Jesse into his life. While El Jardin isn’t New York City, Jesse has seen enough of the aftermath of violent crimes in his time as a police officer to recognize that something terrible happened to Caleb and understands that much of Caleb’s “odd” behaviors are likely his body and mind’s way of coping with whatever happened to him. Because of this, Jesse is slow in his approach of Caleb, actively restraining his attraction so as not to spook the man. Jesse’s slow and steady response is what enables Caleb to listen to his body’s instinct to trust Jesse as opposed to his trauma-ravaged mind’s instinct to avoid him (and everyone that’s not a part of Caleb’s family). When the men finally acknowledge their mutual attraction for one another and succumb to it, it’s quite hot. I’ll admit that Caleb’s responses to Jesse were a relief to me as we hadn’t yet learned the extent of his attack and that he didn’t freak out during the sexual act was very telling for me. As is always the case with a Bradford romance, their relationship is not smooth sailing and while Caleb’s issues are a hurdle for them to overcome, it is homophobic forces from outside that threaten not only the relationship, but the men as well.

Obviously I enjoyed watching Jesse and Caleb’s relationship develop. I liked how the author portrayed Caleb’s responses to Jesse’s entry into his life, including showing how success could be followed by a backslide. Jesse served as a motivator for Caleb to take his issues seriously and seek the help he needed – but Jesse was not presented as Caleb’s cure and I REALLY liked that. I enjoyed the relationship that Caleb had with his sister and her family and was glad to see how much his sister had his back. I found the threat from outside forces to be believable, even as it was detestable. I only wish that the author would have expounded upon the situation once Caleb revealed his secret. In the same way, I would have enjoyed seeing Caleb’s revelation play out so that we could have witnessed at least some of those events as they occurred, rather than getting updates on what happened in Epilogue. This jump from Caleb’s plans to reveal his secret straight to the “what happened” afterwards made the ending seem rushed. But I still enjoyed Something Shattered and look forward to reading more of Bradford’s work.

A native Texan, Bailey spends her days spinning stories around in her head, which has contributed to more than one incident of tripping over her own feet. Evenings are reserved for pounding away at the keyboard, as are early morning hours. Sleep? Doesn't happen much. Writing is too much fun, and there are too many characters bouncing about, tapping on Bailey's brain demanding to be let out.

Caffeine and chocolate are permanent fixtures in Bailey's office and are never far from hand at any given time. Removing either of those necessities from Bailey's presence can result in what is known as A Very, Very Scary Bailey and is not advised under any circumstances.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Something Shattered by Bailey Bradford to read and review.

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