5 out of 5 Stars
Austin Huntley and Cameron Nash survived five months of hell together after being kidnapped by a madman and held hostage along with eight other men. Returning to their lives before the kidnapping isn’t quite as easy as either of them expected.
Austin is a family man, married for fifteen years with a ten-year-old daughter. His wife isn’t very understanding of the challenges he now faces, and it quickly drives a wedge between them. Cam had trouble in social settings prior to the kidnapping due to Asperger’s syndrome, and all of his issues are amplified in the wake of his ordeal. But there’s one thing both men are sure of: they find comfort in each other after sharing a cell for five months.
As Austin’s marriage is falling apart, Cam and Austin grow closer, leaning on each other for support while physical attraction makes itself known. Both men need to face their challenges head-on in order to create a healthy relationship and make it in the aftermath of the kidnapping.
Like all of Cara Dee’s books, there are so many layers to Aftermath that it is much more than a M/M erotic romance. All seven of the surviving men have physical and mental challenges to overcome once they find freedom. After spending some time in the hospital, they face reporters wanting to rehash the details of their time in captivity and police trying to piece together what happened and why. All of the men attend group therapy, and then they spend time with the same counselor for individual sessions. With Austin’s wife not even trying to understand what he went through, it’s no surprise that Austin turns to Cam for understanding. He also feels protective of Cam and wants to help the other man through his troubles. Working together, the two men are able to defeat their demons better than on their own.
Cara Dee does a great job of capturing the male perspective. The dialogue feels natural, as does the progression of Austin’s feelings while he goes from trying to reconnect to his wife to falling in love with Cam. Despite the hope that the circumstances in the story never come true for anyone, there is a realism throughout the pages. Austin and Cam aren’t magically healed, even at the end of the story. Even though they are free, their internal and external scars may fade but they don’t ever fully go away.
I really enjoyed the style of this story. The kidnapping and being held hostage is told in flashback, with pieces revealed a little at a time. There is never too much at once, and although the violence is discussed, it is not in gruesome detail. I also like how the issue of Asperger’s syndrome is handled. We are given enough information to understand Cam’s personality without feeling like we’re getting a lesson on the condition.
I have yet to find a book by Cara Dee I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. This one is another 5-star homerun. You can find more of my reviews of Cara’s work under the Author Spotlight menu.