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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