Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues #3)

Author: Alex Beecroft

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Rating: 4.5 stars

Buy Links: Riptide and Amazon

Type: Standalone Novel

Received from Publisher

 

Blurb:  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.

 

Review:  This is the third book in a series. Each book revolves around a different couple, and thus Blue Steel Chain and the others can be completely enjoyed as standalones. Having said this, I will add that I have loved all three books. Alex Beecroft is an immensely talented writer. With this book and this series, she has presented a gratifying and eye opening portrayal of human relationship dynamics and sexuality, combined with action packed adventure.

James is an archaeologist. He’s happily employed at a museum in Trowchester, while pursuing his passion of excavating the digs just outside of town. James had appeared briefly in the previous two Trowchester books, represented well enough for me to be intrigued by him. James is a truly nice guy, always willing to help others out. I was very happy he was getting his own story. Turns out I was less happy to learn what was going on in his personal life. James’s long term – and long distance – boyfriend, Dave, is a singer in a band who recently hit the big time. Dave is rarely home, although James seemed content enough with the arrangement, plus, he had his work to keep him company. The early relationship between these two never quite felt fully fleshed out. It came across as having evolved into a relationship of convenience, familiarity and yes, vanity on Dave’s part, and complacency on James’s. James was so intrigued by Aidan when he first met him, so quickly smitten. This helped to make it quickly evident to me that James’s relationship with Dave was not healthy. Indeed, Dave turned out to be a big time, narcissistic, scheming asshole. It took James a longer time, and a great deal of pain and humiliation, to realize this.

Aidan. Aidan is a bright young man who was picked up off the streets at the age of 16 by an older man, Piers. Aidan viewed Piers as his savior and as someone who deserved his utmost attention, obedience and affection. After all, he had been scum on the streets, nobody else wanted him or valued him, right? Therefore, his life was spent doing the bidding of Piers. Everything from keeping his body bulked up, cooking, abandoning his love of sculpting, not having a social life, and accepting his role as Piers’s sex partner. In recent times this control had escalated to physical abuse when Piers became angered.

Aidan and James bumped into each other a few times, once at the museum and once outside of Piers’s back garden. There was an immediate buzz of attraction, very palpable to me as I was reading. James could sense from the beginning that Aidan was frightened of Piers, due to his fear of being away from home for too long. Aidan had actually been scheming to explore beyond the house when Piers was out of town, so it was nothing new, not behavior directly related to James. Befriending James,

and exploring the wonders of the museum with him, gave Aidan a new sense of what he could be missing in his isolated and controlled life.When Piers realized Aidan had actually visited the museum, had actually been speaking to James, his abuse of Aidan intensified, and quickly turned full force. Meanwhile, James was stunned by discovering eye opening truths about his relationship with “rock star” Dave.

The scenes involving physical abuse were very difficult to read. As they should be! I confess, I nearly stopped reading at one point. I told myself, trust this author. Indeed, she showed the depth of the ugly, but she also showed Aidan’s inner thoughts. How it came to be that he had actually accepted blame for Piers’s actions , and ultimately how he worked his way to understanding how Piers had totally manipulated him. The abuse is not the whole story here, but rather part of a bigger story. It was not there to titillate, or for shock value, but rather to illustrate the journey of Aidan. As often is the case with abuse victims, Aidan held himself largely responsible, believing his “failures” had cultivated Piers’s anger, that he actually deserved the beatings he got. Dave’s humiliating emotional cruelty toward James, and James’s initial tacit acceptance of it, was no easier for me to read! I honestly wanted to throttle Piers and Dave equally. Such hateful, twisted men. It was very interesting how the author worked different forms of abuse into the story – emotional, psychological, and physical. Of course, those can’t necessarily be separated. It took time, including time apart and the help of true friends, for Aidan and James to heal from their abusive situations before they could pursue their relationship. The process moved at a very plausible pace and tone. Both men built on inner strength and resolve they may not have realized they possessed, and went on to become stronger individuals.

Be assured the story has many bright spots! Many of these were provided courtesy of James’s friends, Finn and Michael (the main couple from the first book), who were instrumental in helping Aidan get away from Piers. It was great to see them again and glimpse how they are getting on. The story also combined mystery and intrigue, as Piers held more secrets to his dark nature than being abusive toward Aidan. Another angle of mystery was Aidan himself. Once he and James were free to have a relationship, James was puzzled by Aidan’s lack of physicality. Oh sure, he could tell Aidan was attracted to him, desired his closeness, affection and companionship. Frustratingly to James, Aidan shut down anything sexual. James blamed this on Aidan’s history of abuse, until Aidan told him otherwise.

I found it fascinating to read about an asexual character. The author did a fantastic job writing Aidan and describing his emotions, his thought process. James really had no idea how to proceed in a relationship with Aidan once he dropped the asexual bomb, but he was patient and loving. Due to this nurturing relationship, Aidan was able to communicate with James what being asexual meant for him. James himself was no less intriguing. On one hand, he was such a knowledgeable person. He knew about ancient cultures, about their sociology, things like polyamorous relationships. On the other hand, he had zero idea how to process the idea of someone being asexual. He had twigged to Aidan’s situation with Piers pretty quickly, yet had been unable, or afraid, to open his eyes as to what was going on with Dave. Also James, like Aidan, had initially thought he had deserved some of Dave’s ill treatment. So, I saw a bit of a dichotomy with James’s reactions and rationalizations to people and events in his life. Actually, this all added to his uniqueness and vulnerability.

This story pushed me to open my mind. How I love when an author is able to accomplish that! I gained more insight into abuse victims. I learned more about exactly what the love/sex dynamic can mean to someone who is asexual, and how their relationships may tick. It delved into the characters psyches, made me think about the many different forms in which love and sexuality can manifest. Aidan regained his freedom to rediscover and be his authentic self. James discovered emotional intimacy with Aidan that had been completely lacking (understatement!) with Dave. Both men discovered the love and trust that exists in a symbiotic connection. While James desired Aidan sexually, the true closeness and equal support they shared was the sure winner. Witnessing James and Aidan navigate the nuances of their relationship once they were in love and together, proved as interesting as their journey to that point. I believe in their love. ♥

 

 

 

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