Saturday, February 25, 2017

Trust Trade by Ki Brightly

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.

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Book 1
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

3.5 stars

This is a dark, gritty story and I thoroughly connected with the main character’s fight to restart his life on his own terms. Jeb’s transition from prostitute/houseboy to disabled college student is difficult and I loved his determination.

While I loved Jeb’s character, I still can’t decide what I think about Freddy. It felt too convenient that Jeb’s first college connection is a guy whose parents are both deaf. And while Jeb feels older than his years at times, Freddy feels really young and frat-boyish for much of the story. I understood Jeb taking on parental responsibilities, but there are times Freddy isn’t mature enough to sort his own emotions out let alone take on the weight of Jeb’s brutal past. I liked these two together by the end, but some of the sex scenes are oddly written and I struggled to feel any heat in the relationship.

The strength of this story is in Jeb’s personal struggle to accept his hearing loss. His denial, his angst, his discomfort with the deaf community feel honest and truthful. His battles with university bureaucracy and his determination to succeed at college were very moving. These very human scenes make this story and this character memorable.

I enjoyed some of the suspense and action, but my reservation with this book is that there is just too much story here for one novel. Jeb moving from his dark past and adjusting to life as a college student would have been enough of a story on its own. Adding the corrupt politician, the corrupt cop, the revenge seeking pimp, the abused child, the witness protection program, the bigoted parents… my head was spinning by the midpoint and I struggled to keep everything and everyone straight in my head. There are enough plot threads here to support a series and the result is erratic pacing and storylines that aren’t fully developed.

Avid Reader☆☆☆☆
3.5 stars
M/M Romance
Triggers: Click HERE to see Avid Reader’s review on Goodreads for trigger warnings.

There is a lot going on in this story. It seems that there are three very distinct storylines and sometimes they overlap and sometimes they stand alone.

Jeb is a sex slave. He has found the one way that he can survive. After leaving his home – running away from his abusive father – he didn't have many skills. However, he found that sex paid. After finding himself in a very compromising situation, he's hurt, scared, and running for his life. Skip ahead, he's with Nolan, who is an abusive jerk-wad. You can see that Jeb is used to being treated poorly – it's something that he has grown accustomed to. The main issue he is having is that Nolan has agreed to pay for his education, despite Jeb saying he cannot "work" with Nolan anymore. You also have to factor in Max, Nolan's son, whom Jeb watches over and protects.

Freddy is the next person to really come into the story. I found him to be slightly confusing and frustrating. He wants to have a relationship with Jeb, but comes from a very different life. His parents know sign language and he has always known sign language. What he doesn't understand is how Jeb can survive without that skill or the other helpful tools that other deaf students use (i.e., recording devices, note takers, etc.). When Jeb and Freddy come across each other, Freddy is immediately friendly, which makes Jeb slightly suspicious. But then, Freddy has so many mood swings that it is hard to track where he is coming from and what exactly he wants.

Finally, you have Max. He runs to Jeb when his father goes too far. Max knows comfort from Jeb and despite knowing what Jeb was doing for his father, knows that Jeb will protect him too. This turns into more of the story than Jeb and Freddy's romance. I think that this is the part of the story that I liked the most. Nolan is after all people related to his lifestyle and that most definitely includes Jeb and Max. When they are all in danger, there is even a slight mystery to the story, which I liked a lot.

Overall, this love story was very up and down and I didn't think that Jeb and Freddy had a lot of chemistry. It was almost that they were together due to circumstance. It was just an okay story as a whole for me.

KI grew up in small-town nowhere pretending that meteor showers were aliens invading, turning wildflowers into magic potions, and reading more than was probably healthy. Ki had one amazing best friend, one endlessly out of grasp “true love,” and a personal vendetta against normalcy.

Now as an adult living in Erie, Pennsylvania, Ki enjoys the sandy beaches, frigid winters, and a wonderful fancy water addiction. Seriously, fancy waters… who knew there were so many different kinds? It’s just water… and yet…

Ki shares this life with a Muse, a Sugar Plum, and two wonderful children.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Trust Trade (Gem City Grit #1) by Ki Brightly to read and review.

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