Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review of Touch Me Gently by J.R. Loveless

J.R. Loveless
Touch Me Gently
Dreamspinner Press, 2010

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 work 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?

Genre & Keywords:
M/M, Contemporary, Abuse, Scarred, Gay For You, Cowboy, Horses, Violence

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 2 out of 3 flames

Why I read it:
I received a review copy from the publisher

Here we have a gentle, sexy cowboy in his late twenties (Logan) and a 19 year old, damaged boy (Kaden) who’s afraid of big men due to severe childhood abuse. They meet when the teenager is hired as a cook at the cowboy’s ranch. After initial skittishness the boy starts to feel more and more at ease in the company of the big, but kind cowboy. This storyline about abuse, learning to trust again to eventually find love, is heart wrenching and captivating.

It won’t be a surprise that Touch Me Gently is a very heavy and emotional read. I’m never averse to that, in fact I rather enjoy being touched or moved deeply by a book. And main character Kaden certainly had all the characteristics and experiences to accomplish an emotional rush… yet… somehow he never affects me that way. I don’t know exactly why I didn’t feel the connection with him (nor Logan), it’s just that I knew I was supposed to feel compassion all the time, instead of just feeling the compassion. Maybe the narrator reminded me too often how bad I should feel for Kaden, through the perspectives of various insignificant supporting characters and by showing the vehemence of Kaden’s traumas with detailed and frequent panic attacks and flashbacks. These parts were not easy to read because of the realization that they border very closely to reality and that reality can be even much more cruel. But somehow I felt being pulled out of the story too frequently to be able to feel the intensity of all this.
Also, there were some dramatic elements in this story that were a bit too much in my opinion. I want to avoid spoilers but these elements are the ones that are inserted when everything seemed to end happily because Kaden was well on his way to healing. I wondered how much suffering and drama a story need or can handle before it collapses under its weight. Additionally, I thought the purpose of the friendship with the little girl in the end was laid on too thickly.

Apart from the fact that the suffering and pain in this story was a bit overwhelming I admired how the author took the time to let the friendship and attraction between the main characters develop gradually. I’m glad that the relationship didn’t take the course of ‘let’s have sex and you’ll be healed in a jiffy’. It was nice to see the trust and affection build slowly and realistically. And even when the heroes start to get more intimate, it’s not rushed. Little steps are made and these scenes perfectly show Logan’s gentleness and kindness. Due to that, the scenes inevitably surrender part of the passion and sexiness. The focus is on tenderness. This does fit the story perfectly and makes the love scenes so much more enjoyable.

Adding to my enjoyment of this book was the presence of Logan’s sister Shea. She plays an important part in Kaden’s healing process as well, by offering him her friendship and helping him to talk about his past. She is just as loveable a character as Logan and Kaden are. In fact, all of them are close to perfect protags. But as it goes with perfectness, I start to crave for a few flaws. Or at least for some conflict. And there wasn’t much of a conflict present in this relationship. All the angst and emotional pressure seemed to come from outside. Kaden nor Logan have to deal with serious doubt or concern regarding the building feelings of care, admiration and love between them. The threats that occur are external.

The story is told in third person by what seems to be an omniscient narrator. This went far from smoothly in my opinion. There didn’t seem to be a balanced distribution of focus on characters. We mainly got presented Kaden’s point of view, but in the middle of a paragraph the focus could suddenly shift to another character and back. This even extended to supporting characters like the doctor. Sometimes this head hopping was rather confusing, to the point that I didn’t know if Kaden or Logan was meant with the ‘he’ that was used.
And even with the omniscient narrator and alternating POV, I felt I needed more insight in the heroes’ thoughts. I was watching them, and surely enjoyed what I saw developing between these two likeable characters, but couldn’t get a grip on their feelings and thoughts. I mainly remained on the outside. I especially missed Logan’s point of view many times. He’s going through an emotional change himself, falling for a man for the first time in his life. But this Gay For You theme doesn’t get much attention at all. It’s only mentioned once or twice and never addressed more than just superficially. I’m left wondering why the author added this element to the story to begin with. Why not just present him as a gay cowboy from the start?

Even though Touch Me Gently left me with a few questions after I finished it, I spent some enjoyable hours with this intense yet sweet couple. If you like your love stories emotional and captivating, and you don’t mind a lot of psychological drama, this might be just the novel you’re looking for. If you get upset reading about abused and traumatized characters, you better leave this story be.

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Buy Touch Me Gently here


  1. I did think Logan kind of took to the buttsecks like a pro with little concern for the fact he was GFY. I also though towards the end, "Good lord, how much more can this kid take?" It seemed to be tipping over into too much, but I'm a sucker for that theme of the damaged kid/gentle man so even major plot holes don't bother me so much.

    I'm also one of those people who seems oblivious to head hopping. LOL I hear people often complain of it in some books and I'm like "really? It was like that?" :-)

  2. Great thorough review, Janna! I'm very curious about this one. It's received a lot of glowing reviews (many of them superficial), so it's good to read one that analyzes more deeply.

  3. Nice review Janna, I do like cowboys *giggles* ;)

  4. Maybe the author tried to hard with the angst...but I still might check it out!


  5. Hmm. I wonder if I'd get angsted out...

  6. I always wonder about the characters in books that have been sexually abused and then fall into sex like it's nothin. IDK it sounds a little too emotional for me - but good review. :)

  7. I've been waiting on your thoughts about this one. I read that some other peeps thought the angst was a bit over the top, but sometimes in m/m I don't mind that.

  8. This sounds like something I'd like. Another one for the TBB. Great review! :)

  9. Great review Janna - thank you!

    It won’t be a surprise that Touch Me Gently is a very heavy and emotional read.

    I love emotional reads (was re-reading parts of Keeping Promise Rock yesterday and sighing madly :) It does sound though like this book doesn't quite deliver on execution. Is this the first book for the author? Still like to read it (and there are cowboys!), so on the TBR it goes :)

  10. Your review is spot on. I really liked this book, but the ending made not sense. It was like LotR in that it wouldn't end. Just when the dram a was done there was more drama.

  11. @Tam: What's that saying, ignorance is bliss? I wish I could ignore head hopping or plot holes a bit easier sometimes. ;) Nevertheless I enjoyed Logan and Kaden. :)

    @Val: Thank you, Val. I hope you'll still give this book a try and share your view with us. :)

    @Blodeuedd: Me too, I can't resist cowboys! =)

    @Mandi: That's just my opinion. If you do, I'll look forward to your thoughts!

    @Chris: You probably would, especially in the end...

    @Tracy: Don't get me wrong, Logan and Kaden don't fall into lust/sex like it's nothing. They take their time and Logan is very considerate. But yeah, it's very emotional. Thanks! :)

    @KC: Sometimes I don't mind it either. But sometimes it gets unbelievable and unbearable. It's different for each reader when that point is reached of course. :)

    @Lily: I hope you'll enjoy it, Lily!

    @orannia: It didn't completely deliver on execution for me, but for you or somebody else it might be different. Yes, I think it's the first book of this author, but I'm not 100% sure. Enjoy it, hon! :D

    @Lis: *g* LotR! But yes, Touch Me Gently could've done without the extra drama! =D

  12. I think Tam summed up alot of how I feel about this book..however the redeeming factor for me was the time she gave them to sort of connect...

    Hopefully there will be a follow up to address some of those issues we had...


  13. @EH: Yes that was a redeeming factor for me too! That was really a strong feature in this novel! :)

  14. Like many here the GFY development/the drama and the kid/young one elements were the ones I struggled with too but yet there was also times where the emotions really got to me and I just really connected to Jaden but like you said, sometimes you just miss the POV of Logan. This is one of those stories that really had strong pros and cons for me.


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