Book Review ~ Too Close by R. Phoenix ~ (Review + Guest Post)
Title: Too Close
Author: R. Phoenix
Release Date: December 26, 2016
Skylar Orion's life has been complicated ever since his mother abandoned him and his sister Evie. Making ends meet seemed impossible until Tate Chandler took them in -- his knight in shining armor who promised to make life about more than just surviving. But Tate is not the man he seemed to be, and even his whispered I love yous and generous gifts do little to soothe the pain he causes. Knowing he can't give his sister all that she deserves without Tate, Skylar stays with him, relying on bad puns and a worse sense of humor to keep up the charade.
He will do anything for his sister, even if that means acting the responsible adult and going back to his old high school to meet Dexter Weston, the hot math teacher who can make even algebra interesting. Sparks fly between the two of them, but with his dependence on Tate, Skylar isn't free to follow his heart. He wants what is best for Evie, but can he pass up the chance to find love that heals instead of harms?
Warning: This book contains scenes of domestic abuse and violence that some may find triggering to read.
One question I’m being asked a lot is, “Why did you decide to write a book with domestic abuse and violence themes?” Luckily, a) it’s a seemingly simple question that has an extremely complicated answer and b) I can ramble like no one’s business. So I’m going to try to keep this from being too repetitive but still answer the question as well as I can.
Too Close is a love story that happens despite abuse. It’s about the relationship between Skylar and his sister, and the way hope can stir other emotions and inspire action where there might otherwise be only complacency. It’s about how humor can protect and deflect, include and isolate.
When I set out to write this book, I planned on writing a story about a guy who had a choice between a wealthy partner who didn’t treat him well and an average partner who did. I wanted to explore the idea that it was okay to be ordinary -- and that people can be intelligent without a formal education. Oh, and that money doesn’t solve everything. It might make some things easier, but it isn’t a magical answer.
The abuse snuck in when I wasn’t paying attention and proceeded to turn the book into something far beyond what I’d intended. Once the first bruises were mentioned, that was that. I knew that was a part of the story, but it wasn’t just a plot angle. Abuse isn’t something that can be isolated like that; its impact can be felt in every facet of life, and it’s not something that comes and goes.
Abuse is one of those things that happens far too commonly, and when it does, it’s often misunderstood and brushed aside. Survivors (not victims) are in a difficult position, and society doesn’t make it much easier. Until I wrote Too Close, very few people knew I was in an abusive relationship, let alone any details. It’s just one of those things you don’t talk about. People don’t realize how much their words can hurt someone in a delicate situation, and I can’t count how many times I flinched away from people saying that they would never let themselves be abused. That people who did were weak. That if it was really that bad, they’d leave.
It’s not that simple, not by a long shot.
I always try to write with passion and purpose. But I knew that was even more important in this book, and I called on the parts of myself where old insecurities and memories still dwell. This isn’t something you ever “get over,” but I hadn’t realized just how deep or pervasive it really was. It was, to put it lightly, a triggering experience. And yet I wouldn’t change it for the world, because it was also cathartic.
I may not have set out to send a message about domestic violence, but if I had, it would be this: it’s complex, it’s difficult, it’s misunderstood, and it’s absolutely critical that we increase our level of awareness. It may not be possible to completely understand “what it’s like,” but it’s definitely possible to be supportive and educate ourselves to situations not our own. All in all, I truly hope that I managed to convey a measure of the gravity and complexity of abuse as well as just how strong the human spirit truly is.
Thank you for reading.
So, first things first. This is not a book for everyone, it has a domestic violence warning and if that can be a trigger for you, please, don't read any further. If you decide to continue, though, just proceed with caution.
Skylar has been taking care of his sister since their mother left them two years ago. He dropped out of school and worked hard trying to make ends meet to no avail, finally striking a deal with Tate Chandler, who he thought was his knight in shining armor and took both him and his sister in, making sure they wanted for nothing material. The shining armor isn't that shiny after all, and Sky's love isn't enough for Tate, who turns into a different man when he's angry. Sky tries to keep it all from his sister, knowing he needs to endure this for at least two more years so she would have all the chances he missed. He finds solace in the knowledge that his sister is taken care of, in his quirky sense of humor and in his garden, which is his pride and glory.
Derek is Sky's sister's Math's teacher and contacts Skylar when Evie starts failing his class. There's a spark between them from the start, despite the age difference and the fact that Sky already belongs to someone else. Derek is unable to stop thinking about Sky and does his best to help in any way he can, but is Sky strong enough to break the dependence he feels for Tate for the chance of finding something better with Derek?
I loved Sky in all his pun-tastic glory. My heart broke for all he had to go through for his sister and what he suffered while living with Tate. He was so young, barely 18, but he seemed older, wearier, just trying to make the best of the situation he found himself in, unable to break the cycle for fear of what could happen with his sister if he did. I loved Derek, too, he was amazing and I adored that even if it killed him, he didn't push Sky that much, or try to pressure him into leaving Tate when Skylar wasn't sure he could do it. He gave him the space Sky needed and for me, that was a sign of the strength of his feelings and how different Derek was from Tate.
While the last 25% of the book felt a bit rushed and we didn't really get to see much of Sky's healing process, the story was still awesome. Fantastically written, heartfelt and angsty and I cried for Sky so much, but I also laughed at his puns and was happy with how hopeful the ending was. The way R. Phoenix managed to show the reader what was going on inside Sky's head throughout the book was nothing short of masterful, and while I haven't been in such an extreme situation myself, it felt both believable and relatable.
Rating: 4.5 Stars!!!
*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie by the author for my reading pleasure, a review was not required.***
R. Phoenix has an unhealthy fascination with contrasts: light and dark, heroes and villains, order and chaos. She believes that love can corrupt and power can redeem. Her muse is a sadomasochistic slave driver who thinks it's terribly amusing to give her the best ideas when she just got comfortable and warm in bed, and she passes on that torture to her readers. She also tries entirely too hard to be funny, and she mercilessly inflicts her terrible sense of humor upon anyone who speaks to her. She'd love it if you'd say hello!
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