Give Yourself Away, by Barbara Elsborg
Publisher: Samhain Publishing (February 9, 2016)
Genre: Gay, M/M, Romance, Contemporary
Warning: Child abduction, sexual violence.
Rating: 4 out of 5
March is determined to lose the numbness that accompanies a history of loss and blame. Desperate to feel something—anything—the adrenaline junkie base jumps off cliffs, soars on hang gliders, and embarks on dangerous sea-borne rescue missions. But any release he feels is fleeting, and when you play Russian roulette with fate, eventually you come crashing down.
No matter how hard Caleb tries to forget his past, a dark shadow is always behind him. When a bizarre turn of events results in him being trapped in a sea cave, Caleb wonders how his mantra—safety at all costs—could have failed him. On the point of drowning, he’s stunned when March surfaces in the cave.
March’s disregard for the rules saves Caleb’s life but gets March into a heap of trouble. Not least of which is the guy shivering in the boat next to him. March tries to ignore Caleb but it’s already too late. Together, they take small, awkward steps toward love. But Caleb’s past is waiting to sink in its claws…and this time, it could drag him to his death.
Barbara Elsborg is an author who never fails to leave me speechless and craving more, so I dove into Give Yourself Away without a second thought, even though the warnings attached would normally send me running in the opposite direction.
So I’ll start with those warnings… this novel covers some pretty dark themes. Kidnapping, rape, murder, and more. The dark scenes are told through brief flashbacks, and Elsborg does a fantastic job of balancing the line between “dark” and “horrific”.
The rest of the novel, however, is really fantastic. Caleb is a man with a shaded past, but he’s forced himself to live in the now and look to the future. March is a man hiding from his own wants and needs, afraid of what the future will hold. When they meet, the attraction is instant, but Caleb’s secrets and March’s fears are just one of the obstacles in their way.
I adored Caleb. I think he was portrayed very well, and I loved his optimism and his desire to be happy. He’s not a perfect character, but he accepts his flaws and works to be the man he wants to be, and I really respect that. His relationship with March was written really well, and the flashbacks paralleled the text in such a way that I was holding my breath.
I am knocking one star off, though, because I felt jolted by how quickly March and Caleb got together. After Caleb went through some pretty crazy stuff, he almost immediately falls in lust with a new man, and March is able to let go of years of repression with barely a pause? I wish this had been drawn out a bit, to show the hesitance and budding romance more organically.
Barbara Elsborg is definitely on my instant-buy list. She proves with this book that she can write even the darkest of topics with respect, and can turn heartbreak into romance. As she said in her Acknowledgements at the end that what she wanted to do was show hope, and I think she was successful there!
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.