The Dreams You Made in the Dirt by Lisa Henry
LGBTQ+ Contemporary Romance
Aiden’s life has never been easy but it only got worse when his mother left town and Aiden had no one to protect him from his father’s drunken rages. Treated horribly, physically and mentally, Aiden has no one to support him and no way to leave on his own. He has no money, no education, and no idea of what’s out there in the world. But everything changes when his father finds out Aiden is gay and beats him so badly he’s left for dead. Aiden has been beaten down by life but he’s still getting back up. He’s realistically dealing with his issues and he’s not immediately cured of his fear and his timid nature. This romance is all about healing Aiden’s poor image of himself and helping him to trust in other people.
Cole thought leaving the military would be the end of his nightmares but PTSD stalks his sleeping and waking moments. Pushing everything down after his uncle dies, Cole goes to clear out his uncle’s house and put it on the market. He never expects to find a badly beaten young man in the woods but he brings him home and helps him heal. He wants to protect Aiden but his sudden attraction makes him feel like he’s taking advantage. Cole was protective and gentle with Aiden in helping him heal but he also treated him like a grown adult when it was clear Aiden knew what he wanted. I only wish that Aiden had been a bit older (or Cole closer in age) because Aiden felt unbearably young and innocent.
This was an enjoyable read if a bit predictable in the mystery. I enjoyed both Aiden and Cole and appreciated their HFN as it was fairly realistic if a bit fast. Lisa Henry handles Aiden’s history of abuse really well and I felt like she let him heal but also kept things true to the timeline — he still has a long way to go. I was immediately taken in by the plot and jumped right in with the story. As sad and tragic as Aiden’s history is, I enjoyed this plot line because I love romances where a character is overcoming trauma of some kind. I felt that it was handled well and was an important element of the story without coming across as gratuitous. The writing style wasn’t the greatest for me. Some of it was Australian slang I didn’t understand (not the author’s fault as it’s authentic) but it was also the pacing and flow of the words in the sentences. Sometimes it felt a touch off for me.
4 out of 5 stars
Hero is routinely abused by his father and brothers (referenced, on page)
MC1 (maybe eighteen to twenty years?) grew up hard in a dysfunctional family in a small remote community. His mother is gone and no one will say what happened to her. His father has always been abusive physically and emotionally. No one has ever stood up for him. He is smaller than average, making him a target for torment, but has had to learn how to fight for himself. He has the soul of a healer— naturally gentle and empathetic— but has learned not to trust as any time he has given himself emotionally he has been smacked down. Despite the way he is treated, he has never been allowed to leave and has nowhere to go as he has no education, money or friends/family to fall back on. When his father finds out MC1 is gay (not that he has had a chance to act on it), MC1 is bashed and left for dead miles from home.
MC2 (maybe twenty-eight to thirty-two years?) is a loner who has his own demons in his past (maybe ex-military/ex-con?). He is a natural alpha— protective and dominant. He finds MC1 and cares for him as he heals. Contrary to his promise to himself to stay detached, he feels a pull to MC1 and hates the sadness and despair in the eyes of his charge. He fights himself and MC1 as he finds he badly wants to earn MC1’s trust. Who knows what can happen after that?
They are both capable of so much if they can find the right balance. I see the opportunity to have some emotional, hot scenes as they each give in to their natural instincts.
I’d love a HEA for these two battered souls.
This story was written as a part of the M/M Romance Group’s “Love’s Landscapes” event.
Published by M/M Romance Group on June 16, 2014