Physical Therapy by Z. A. Maxfield
When Jordan Jensen moves to St. Nacho’s he has one goal in mind: starting over. He wants to reconnect with best friends Cooper and Shawn yet is uncertain of his welcome. He has the skills to get a job, but isn’t sure any prospective employer can get past the time he spent in jail for alcohol-related vehicular homicide. He’s past the worst part of his life but knows it will haunt him forever. So Jordan plans a life of quiet service. One thing he knows for sure: finding love is entirely too much to ask.
On the first day of his new job, Jordan meets Ken Ashton. Ken has every reason to hate Jordan for his past and only one to seek him out: Ken’s baseball career was shattered in a drunk-driving accident. But for some reason he can’t explain, Ken needs Jordan’s touch and finds healing within Jordan’s warmth and strength. Jordan wants to give Ken everything his new partner needs.
Without entirely understanding it, Ken and Jordan develop a powerful emotional and erotic connection, but Ken must help Jordan find the faith to trust it. Unexpected help comes from the people of Santo Ignacio–and the town itself–a place where Physical Therapy can be a path toward spiritual healing and powerful, passionate love.
[More naked chests. I may have to start gathering statistics on it. Is it the same chest each time? Inquiring minds want to know.]
This is a sequel to the fabulous St. Nacho’s but the story can easily be read as a stand-alone story and perhaps should be. I had such high expectations after the first that while Physical Therapy is a solid story, it’s not as good as St. Nacho’s. It’s certainly unfair to compare even while the comparison is inherent so beyond that statement, I’ll try hard not to invoke the expectations from the first book. The main character of Jordan is from the first book but really his personality and journey shines here. The typically strong writing and emotion evoked within the prose is exhibited within the well-crafted story creating a beautiful coming of age tale for Ken and redemption for Jordan. It is certainly angst filled and drama ridden—to a fault sometimes—but this is a wonderful story that should delight fans and new readers alike.
The plot is very much as the blurb suggests but while the blurb focuses on Jordan, the story is much more about the maturity and growth of Ken with only Jordan’s acceptance. The wonderful backdrop of the town of St. Nacho’s was well drawn and a striking difference to the first depiction. Whereas the town was sunny, bright, and filled with laughter now there is a distinctly cool tone to the surroundings, keeping the town in fog and overcast skies with hints of disgruntled malice. This cooler backdrop fit well with the drama and angst surrounding the men and worked to create an entirely separate book from the first. It was almost as if the entire story line took place in a different town as there were very few noticeable similarities. Often I forgot they were even in the same town as Cooper and Shawn, which helps keep this as a stand-alone read and differentiate the book.
So now that clearly this is a different book with it’s own great atmosphere the relationship between Ken and Jordan does shine, even through its problems. Ken is a character that is coming of age as he struggles with the accident killing his best friend and shattering his athletic career. He is drawn to Jordan but experiences numerous back and forth moments where he aggressively pursues Jordan, then running off when the emotional toll is too much for him to process. Ken does show his strength in always returning to pursue Jordan, regardless of Jordan’s thoughts and desires, which was a much-needed contrast to his confusion and emotional growth. Interestingly Ken admits that if his life had gone differently, he likely wouldn’t have ended up with Jordan at all but is willing to accept his life as it is, not as it should have been. This acceptance was the height of Ken’s emotional maturity and growth within the story.
For his part, Jordan doesn’t grow very much either on his own or within his relationship to Ken. His journey is one of accepting the person he is and has become through his own experiences. He continues to question his own worth and his progress from the man he was when he knew Cooper. Jordan allows himself to be manipulated and pushed by not only Ken, but various secondary characters from Ken’s family to Jordan’s employer, Izzie, and Izzie’s cop boyfriend. Without the strength of those surrounding Jordan, even including his abused mother, Jordan would still be floundering waiting for someone to take charge. This need for someone strong is not only demonstrated in his sexual preferences but clear within almost every aspect of his life. Ken’s determination to be that person drives the relationship more than any action on Jordan’s part. This left Jordan as a bit unimportant within his own story and allowed the focus and interest to shift to the more dynamic characters in the book. Jordan wasn’t unlikable or weak by any means, simply more of a character dictated by others’ thoughts and actions.
Even as the relationship between Jordan and Ken was enjoyable and ultimately satisfying to read, there unfortunately were several problems with this story that may or may not bother readers. First was that there were simply too many coincidences where Jordan would be questioning his relationship with Ken to a secondary character only to have Ken overhear and run off in a fit. While these instances helped further the relationship, the sheer repetition and number of them grew old rather quickly. Additionally there was a lot packed into this story from not only Ken and Jordan’s individual pasts but family pressure, accidents, and even a story line involving Jordan’s mother. The numerous tangents pulled the attention and focus repeatedly away from the relationship and onto extraneous and unnecessary additions that left Ken and Jordan’s resolution as less than satisfying. There easily could have been a third book with all of these elements and would have worked better in my opinion. Furthermore, there is some suspension of disbelief needed due to absence of any tension relating to Ken’s accident by a drunk driver and Jordan having been a drunk driver. This story line excited me initially due to the inherent tension and angst but was almost literally dropped immediately at the beginning of the story with a single, short-lived argument between the men. This was an aspect with potential and interest that never developed unfortunately.
Overall, this was a solid and interesting story offering redemption to both men and growth for Ken. While these men would never be together without the twists and turns their life has offered, the journey was wonderful to read. The secondary cast was well rounded and fleshed out as always with this author and the writing was clean, evocative and emotional. The problems I had may be reader preference and thus, I highly encourage all readers to check out this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the story even if it doesn’t slide my beloved St. Nacho’s out of its prized spot. If you want to read both for more context please do so but this story is easily read on it’s own without needing the additional plot.
Get it HERE!