Blue Steel Chain, by Alex Beecroft
Series: Trowchester Blues, Book 3 (Stand-alone)
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: July 2015
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
At sixteen, Aidan Swift was swept off his feet by a rich older man who promised to take care of him for the rest of his life. But eight years later, his sugar daddy has turned from a prince into a beast. Trapped and terrified, Aidan snatches an hour’s respite at the Trowchester Museum.
Local archaeologist James Huntley is in a failing long distance relationship with a rock star, and Aidan—nervous, bruised, and clearly in need of a champion—brings out all his white knight tendencies. When everything falls apart for Aidan, James saves him from certain death . . . and discovers a skeleton of another boy who wasn’t so lucky.
As Aidan recovers, James falls desperately in love. But though Aidan acts like an adoring boyfriend, he doesn’t seem to feel any sexual attraction at all. Meanwhile there are two angry exes on the horizon, one coming after them with the press and the other with a butcher’s knife. To be together, Aidan and James must conquer death, sex, and everyone’s preconceptions about the right way to love—even their own.
I am very conflicted about this novel. While I devoured it in a couple of hours, I spent a lot of the novel wondering why I was reading it, because I just didn’t like either of the main characters all that much.
On the one hand, I enjoy reading about two characters struggling to escape their abusive pasts, and trying to find safety and love together. But these characters were so damaged that it was a struggle to read them, and neither of them was particularly likable. That sounds like a terrible thing to say about two abuse victims, but as a reader I need something about the characters to enjoy.
Aidan has been beaten down so often in his life– both emotionally and physically– that there’s really only a shell left of a human being. Of course he doesn’t see it that way; Piers is the kind of manipulative sonofabitch that has you wishing you could reach into the book to castrate him with a rusty spoon.
That really hadn’t been so bad. Not as bad as it could have been. Perhaps not as bad as he deserved. Because really, Piers was right. He had given Aidan everything, taken him in when no one wanted him. Loved him, lusted after him. He deserved better than Aidan’s cold, reluctant responses. Aidan was always letting him down– going where he wasn’t supposed to go, lying about it, being ungrateful.
But there’s still a spark in Aidan, a tiny flare of fire and life, and that made the book worth reading!
And there’s James, who alternates between an absentminded scholar and a total pushover. I kept hoping for more depth with him, something to latch onto, but he didn’t seem to have the same fight that Aidan did.
I did tag this as containing an asexual character. However, I personally would not consider this an asexual romance, and there is sexual content, so please be aware!
My biggest issue with this novel, however, was that James kept trying to push an abuse victim, a man who had literally just barely escaped from years of slavery and brainwashing, into having sex. It makes James no better than Piers in my mind!
His selfish heart flared up in a last gasp of flame. Would it be so terrible to let Aidan imprint on him, though? Would that really be so wrong? James would be ever so grateful for whatever Aidan could give him. He would be ever so kind. He would try to forget that what held them together was a kind of prostitution and not love at all. It wouldn’t really be abuse.
Right. And that was probably what the other guy thought too, at first.
Thankfully, James eventually realizes that he’s being a manipulative little shit, and (mostly) gets his act together.
In the end, it was a captivating read, but not necessarily an enjoyable one, if that makes any sense?
Alex Beecroft is the author of the Trowchester Blues universe novels (Contemporary, M/M, from Riptide Publishing), as well as several Fantasy and Historical M/M romances.
She is best known for her historical Age of Sail series, about men in the British Navy in the 18th century.
You can find her on her website at http://alexbeecroft.com/.