Review – Better by Jaime Samms

Publisher: Dreamspinner
Publish Date: Out Now!
How I got this book: NetGalley

After filing charges that put his abusive ex-Dom behind bars, Jesse Turbul relocates halfway across the country, hoping to escape his past—but, of course, it’s never that easy. When Jesse meets third-year law student Aadon at the library where he works, their mutual attraction is instant and obvious.

Despite the sparks, they just can’t seem to make it work. Aadon is mired in guilt over his inability to help his older brother, damaged by events far too similar to Jesse’s past. Jesse is stuck in his own desperate wish to forget the painful shadow that continues to threaten him and any hope of a happy future.

The only way to move forward is for Jesse to acknowledge he’s broken and for Aadon to accept he can’t make him better.
*Blurb from Goodreads*

This was such an emotional book, I don’t even know where to start. As much as I loved it, it was difficult to read as well.

Jesse moved across the country to get away from the memories of his ex-Dom and abuser. He is scared to let anyone close, let alone think about getting into a new relationship. But one man frequents the library where Jesse works, and he finds himself attracted to someone for the first time in awhile.

Aadon is attracted to Jesse, but with his own guilt and stress of dealing with and taking care of his older brother, he is worried that he won’t be able to give Jesse the kind of care he deserves. But the two are emotionally attached to each other to the point where they just can’t seem to stay away. But will they both be able to move on from the past and focus on the future?

I can’t even to tell you how much the blurb doesn’t come close to hitting on the emotional impact of this story. The angst and heartache that both Jesse and Aadon go through from start to finish is a never-ending roller coaster.

Jesse is an emotional wreck throughout the entire book. He has been dealing with the trauma of an abusive ex-Dom, whom he turned in and had sent to jail. The weight of that pain and guilt is so much that Jesse suffers from cutting and other destructive tendencies. Those scenes are hard to read. Samms does a wonderful job of showing us the pain and anguish that Jesse suffers, but it is not easy to read. For me, it was heartbreaking and cringe-worthy as I suffered right along side Jesse. I wanted to help him get better as much as Aadon did, but it was so hard to Jesse to let go of the past and move forward. Even towards the end of the book as Jesse began working on his issues, it was clear that he still wasn’t one hundred percent better.

While Aadon didn’t have any physical trauma to deal with, his internal emotional scars were almost as drastic as Jesse’s. After his parents abandoned his older brother, Aadon got stuck with the responsibility of helping his brother get past an event very similar to Jesse’s past. The stress of keeping his brother in the assisted home, and trying to love Jesse enough to help with his problems, it was too much for him to deal with. Aadon really tried to do everything the right way, in the best way he knew possible, but it seemed as if he couldn’t get out of his own head enough to help those around him. While he made a lot more of an emotional progress than Jesse seemed to make, it was clear to me that he wasn’t completely “fixed” either by the end of the book.

As each man struggled with their own landmines, they also did their best to navigate through each others, and for me, that is where the book really dealt the most blows. They hurt each other and caused more pain in the beginning of their relationship. While it was evident by the words on the page that they loved each other, I had a little bit of a harder time believing it. I had a difficult time believing that after everything they went through alone and together that they would still be so in-love. I wanted to believe in their relationship, but struggled to understand why they kept coming back to each other.

All in all this book was draining to read. It was well written and pulled at my heart strings enough that I found tears streaming down my face a few times. But at the same time I wanted them to have their happily ever after, and I struggled with it. This is not a light-hearted book, so readers need to make sure they have a box of tissues and a cheerful book to follow up with after.
I give Better a C+

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