Aftermath by Angel Martinez
Victor and Cody have the American dream —a house, two cars, upwardly mobile income, and each other — but all is not well in paradise.
Cody’s naive belief in other people’s goodwill led to one recent assault from which he struggles to recover. Returning to his art, he seems to have found his balance only to be betrayed by a friend and brutally assaulted again.
Victor, wracked by guilt and shackled to a grueling, time-devouring career, must find a way to help Cody back from the darkness and to keep him safe from his self-destructive behavior.
With the help of a common-sense therapist, some loyal friends and Cody’s own impetuous nature, their recovery and their relationship have a chance. If the criminals who attacked Cody would leave him alone, that is.
* This is the newly edited, Red Rose edition. *
Aftermath deals with the emotional, physical, and mental problems that come after being attacked. This is not an easy book to read although the story keeps the material somewhat light and the emotional impact muted so it shouldn’t be too disturbing. Instead the book focuses on the strength of love and coming through an ordeal changed and potentially stronger. The cover art refers to the opening scene in a clever way but also to the emotional chains that both men inherit due to the attack. Unfortunately the book tackles too many issues in a very short amount of space and turns what could have been a truly piece of work into a decent story worth telling.
Victor and Cody are an established couple living together. Victor works long hours in a very hectic desk job while Cody is an artist. The two love each other very much but clash due to Victor’s long hours and Cody’s restlessness. This leads to trouble when Cody is attacked and raped. The two men must deal with the harrowing ramifications of that while discovering new facets of their relationship. Each man must decide if they are happy and want to stay together or what changes must happen.
The book begins with a light BDSM scene between main characters Victor and Cody. This establishes a casual D/s relationship between the two men but shows underlying issues. There are references to an earlier rape Cody has suffered from trusting the wrong friends and Victor has responded by being more controlling in an attempt to keep Cody safe. This causes conflict between the two men as Cody wants to feel like he can go out without disappointing the ever busy, workaholic Victor. So right away in the first scene, there are a lot of factors that come into play that are never fully explored. The D/s element of their relationship is very casual and relates mostly to sex yet Victor often carries this responsibility and dynamic further. This is a confusing and ill described aspect since Cody doesn’t seem to respond to that control unless sexually, thus making Victor’s use of such outside of sex confusing and contradictory. Furthermore this element is questionable and doesn’t actually work well in the story, making me wonder why it was included.
There are several aspects of the story – such as the D/s component – that feel thrown in and confuse the already emotionally heavy plot. From that opening scene there is another attack that Cody must suffer, though all the action is off page. This helps keep the impact muted and distant but ultimately the story itself lacks a deep emotional connection that makes the subject matter and their journey memorable. The second attack on Cody is avoidable and the warning signs are clear to all but Cody’s naïve nature allows this to happen. The fact that the man seems little affected by his first assault and allows himself to get into the same position twice is surprising and confusing. His emotional response after the second attack is so intense that it’s hard to understand how he got into that position again.
Yet if all of these issues can be forgiven, the strength of Victor and Cody’s relationship does shine. Their journey is not easy as the men individually and together must go to therapy and explore their reactions to the assault. Both men must refocus on the future and what’s important to them and Victor especially must prioritize his life. The addition of therapy is a wonderful move and showed how helpful this can be to the process. The story strays away from stereotypes in that simply love and support can heal a wounded person and the various ways the two men recover is a great addition. The ending is satisfying but felt too pat and unbelievable, especially with the dramatic action bit. This is another example of more plot points thrown in – almost randomly – without given the time and space to fully explore them. The ending is too pat and predictable, showing some surprising ignorant mistakes. For example I doubt Victor would have left Cody alone on the street after everything that happened, yet it makes for a tidy finish.
Overall this is a good story about a difficult subject. The shorter length keeps the telling somewhat light and emotionally distant from the intense emotion the characters are feeling. The contradictory elements further disconnect the reader from developing a solid connection to the characters and action, leaving the story without the impact it could have had. The writing is decent with a good outline of a plot but could have used some tight editing and a real focus on the two men, their relationship, and how it changes due to the attack. The various side elements are unimportant and distracting from the strength of the relationship and the story itself. As a fan of the author’s, this one is not one I’d read again but I still recommend it for the engaging characters and their relationship. You just might feel cheated by the length, like I am.
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