Touch Me Gently by J.R. Loveless
Always hiding his tormented past along with his scarred body, Kaden James finds it difficult to keep a job. Luck finally turns his way when he finds a job as a cook on a Montana ranch, where he meets terrifyingly handsome Logan Michaels. Logan is different from any man Kaden’s ever met, and before long, he finds himself falling in love with the big cowboy.
But Kaden’s nightmares won’t let go of him so easily, and he’s not just jumping at shadows. He has nearly a lifetime of abuse, horrifying memories, and pain addiction to overcome. Can Logan’s gentle touch help Kaden heal inside?
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I picked this one up when I was in the mood for a pretty angsty, dramatic story. Unfortunately while Touch Me Gently tries hard to invoke emotion and a strong reaction due to the subject matter, I never connected to the story or the characters. I kept feeling as though the actions and emotions were artificial and manipulated by the author and story versus being authentic and real to the situations. The subject matter is a good choice for an intense romantic story but it never quite delivered on the execution for me. In a field littered with moving, dramatic romances there are unfortunately better options but the author has some good ideas so I’d probably give her another try.
The story revolves around nineteen year old Kaden’s traumatic past and his struggles to deal with his present. Kaden comes from a long, serious history of physical, mental, and sexual abuse. He’s littered with scars, both external and internal, and freaks out near constantly. With careful attention and patience, Kaden starts to heal on an isolated Montana ranch. He gets involved with the owner, a large man named Logan, and finally triumphs over his demons.
The plot is character driven and relies on Kaden’s traumatized past to add the emotional intensity. This isn’t bad but for me, I never could connect with the characters and felt Kaden’s actions and comments to be hollow. He says and does all the typical things – jumping at loud noises, fearing large men, crying when he’s overwhelmed – but I always knew I was reading the manipulations of a story. I never got sucked into the drama and tension with this story like I have with other, better options. Part of this is that Kaden is a little too extreme. He supposedly faked his way out of the mental institution but he never really displays that kind of strength. He’s constantly described as fragile and he acts that way as well. Kaden eventually does mature but I found it hard to believe the initial set up and the depth of Kaden’s issues.
Furthermore the writing didn’t do much for me. The point of view bounces frequently from character to character, paragraph to paragraph. Every person has an included point of view from the most minor side character to the main characters and the story jumps from the various heads within the same scene. This head hopping isn’t confusing but it’s tiresome since the goal is to reiterate the same information (such as Kaden is beautiful, ethereal, and damaged and everyone wants to protect him). Furthermore no matter how much Kaden ages, he’s always referred to as “the teenager.” He starts the story at nineteen and he’s at least two years older by the end but everyone’s internal thoughts still label him as “the teen” thus it keeps him in an immature, damaged box that he supposedly grows out of.
Although the subject matter is good and ending rather heart warming, the story just didn’t do much for me. The characters feel cardboard and rather predictable, always doing and saying the perfect things with the typical evil villain popping up at the end. I’m not sure why this later plot line is included since it adds a weird element that isn’t needed. Additionally I couldn’t ever really connect and sink into the story, though it’s fast and easy to read. There’s drama, angst, and intensity but they feel very manufactured in obvious ways with easy solutions. It’s not a bad story, inoffensive to read but I think there are better emotionally intense stories to read.
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