Arctic Absolution, Lynn Kelling
Publisher: Forbidden Fiction
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Psychological – Domestic Violence, Rape, Dark/Edgy Romance, BDSM, Role Play, State Trooper and Ex-Con, Contemporary, Romance
Length: 83,000 Words
Reviewer: Kazza K
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha.
Dixon Rowe is an Alaskan State Trooper in the isolated town of Zus. On night duty, he’s called out to a local family store about a robbery. When he turns up he sees a man heading off through the doors. Dixon orders him to ‘stop and drop’ but when he doesn’t comply, Dixon tackles and cuffs him. It’s when he’s first stunned by something he didn’t expect –
But when he turned around, Dixon saw it wasn’t a man at all.
It was just a kid.
A kid stealing food. Dixon instantly felt like a jackass.
This ‘kid’ has a teardrop tattoo near his eye and another tattoo on his neck to make him look harder, older than he is. But he’s thin, cold, and hungry. He’s also the prettiest guy Dixon has ever laid eyes on – beautiful eyes, lips, slim and innocent looking.
A tickle of unease formed in Dixon’s belly. He started to get nervous. This boy was exquisite. It made him simultaneously hard to look at and hard to stop looking at.
There is also an attitude about him. After talking to Jaye he feels sorry for the guy, he’s obviously hungry and doesn’t know anything about local services that are available. Jaye Larson is now in his jurisdiction and, well, State Troopers do a lot, including looking out for people in their area, so he’ll help him. It’s only right, isn’t it?
Jaye Larson may look young, like he’s fifteen/sixteen, but he’s twenty one and not long released from a two year stint in jail. His grandfather died and being the only surviving relative, he now owns a little cabin in remote Zus. He doesn’t have much but Jaye knows people, he knows behavioural tells. And lust. He works out pretty quickly that the Trooper who tackled him, and ends up buying the food he stole from the shop, is gay. It’s simple, Jaye needs food, electricity, warmth and some help and protection to survive in Zus; and he’ll work it so Trooper Dixon Rowe provides these things. But Dixon is initially a contradiction, Jaye knows he wants him but he ends up helping out with nothing asked in return, at first. Dixon gives off a sexy Dudley Do-Right vibe, Jaye knows he wants more. So Jaye flirts and pushes, then pushes and flirts some more. People don’t do things for nothing, there’s always a catch and sex is something he knows gets you things. Buys you protection, and Trooper Rowe has given him a lot of tells. It’s something he learnt well in jail.
Jaye’s right, Dixon can’t resist him. But he’s not the only one who knows Dixon has seen something he likes. Sesi, his friend and fellow Trooper, advises against anything, but she knows Dixon’s track record with guys. His sister as well. However, Dixon is beyond attracted to the blatantly wanton ex-con. He soon agrees to look after Jaye, supply what he needs…in return for sex. It’s an agreement that suits them both. Neither bargains on something/anything more.
Thirty two year old Dixon may seem like he can be Jaye’s protector, but he has demons that come in the shape of his ex, Marcus. He’s finally left him and moved in with his sister, Brekken, and her husband, Grant. But the only reason he’s roped together the courage to leave is because Marcus has headed off for crabbing season. State Trooper or not, Dixon is terrified of Marcus, and not without justification. He’s lived in a domestic violence relationship with Marcus for years – with extreme physical and emotional abuse the ‘norm.’ The dynamic is typical, the things Dixon desires are twisted and manipulated and used against him until it’s torn him down and maladaptive behaviours become standard. He hates himself but time and again he’s ended back up with Marcus, convinced himself it’s for the best. That he gets off sexually in the relationship adds to his confusion and denials of physically-apparent abuse. He shoulders the blame for Marcus’ violent and emotionally scarring behaviour and being treated like a chattel. He gives into the fears he can’t ever escape because he’s tired and scared people he loves will be harmed in retaliation for his perceived betrayal.
The most plausible of his waking nightmares were the ones in which Marcus threatened Dixon’s family. He would tell Dixon that if he didn’t come home, Dixon’s sister would pay the price. It would look like an accident, maybe, but Dixon would know the truth, because Marcus would make sure he did.
Jaye has ghosts of his own. Much to Dixon’s initial shock, Jaye was in jail for manslaughter. The whole story is horrifying as it comes out. Jaye gives pieces of information to Dixon along the way. He was brutally raped, taunted, attacked and left for dead, but he fought back. Even with horrific injuries he killed two of his rapist/attackers. Because he chased one down and stabbed him, all while holding his insides together, he was sent to jail. A two year sentence as a pretty young ‘kid’ was a nightmare that started with the attack. The things that happened to Jaye before and during jail are shown with real-feel PTSD flashbacks. The author uses them to chilling effect, flipping from current to past and back again all seemingly in current time and the blink of an eye –
If they find out what you did, they’ll send you back. You’ll never get out. You’ll be someone’s piggy forever.
It’s worth it if he’s safe. He’ll be safe. Dixon will be safe.
You gonna sacrifice yourself just like him? Lie down on the altar of the monsters; let them use their cocks, knives, and guns to take you apart?
Jaye took a deep breath, blew it out. He did it again, feeling the frigid air filling his lungs, blowing it out as fog. He opened his eyes and got to his feet.
Then he started running again, putting the ghosts behind him, trying to outpace them.
Jaye can’t stand being in the dark, sleeps with a knife under his bed and has to tell himself that the ghosts he hears and sometimes sees, are not real. He works constantly to ground himself. His protector in jail, Cash, while using him, taught him a few things about being a scrapper and being hard. I loved Jaye’s chutzpah in the face of everything he’s suffered. His desire to protect Dixon who is bigger and a trained law enforcement officer. However, Jaye can’t always keep it together either.
There are constant shifts in the relationship dynamic of Dixon and Jaye throughout Arctic Absolution. It keeps the reader on their toes. Marcus may be away in the beginning but you know he is coming back to town. You also know it won’t be pretty when he does. When Marcus does re-appear in Zus, Dixon’s demeanour alters. The times that are spent at Jaye’s cabin stop. There is also an issue of a critical missing hour in Dixon’s life soon after Marcus is back in Zus.
Jaye felt the torment in his stare, and would have given anything for the truth of what happened in that missing hour. But Dixon wasn’t ready yet. He needed time. Luckily time was something Jaye could give.
Dixon’s usual behaviour during sex, the intimacy they were building, also becomes altered – the sex kinky and off-kilter. Jay uses certain sexual behaviours/kinks, and his complete open-book attitude, to draw Dixon out. That Dixon cares for Jaye and is a kind, gentle man with a big heart helps Jaye see the good in people. Jaye helps Dixon to start to believe in himself. Think of himself as someone important and more than Marcus has made him feel. And to also stop pleasing people to the point of his own self-destructive behaviours. In short, what started out as a mutual use for both men ends up as so much more.
I must say the following, this book is not going to be for everybody. If you’re purely a fan of straight up and down romance, where one MC finds the other and no sex with anyone else takes place, you should possibly think twice about reading Arctic Absolution, it is not fluffy. It is a romance but it’s a romance frosted in a twisted and gritty icing. The sex is often incendiary, sometimes it’s gut-wrenching, often edged in kink with some dark and rather… interesting role play. If rape is a no-go for you, think hard about reading it because it’s relived on page. With those things said, this is an outstanding piece of writing. I found the psychological dynamic well handled. The PTSD, domestic violence, maladaptive behaviours, the sense of hopelessness, the outlook that Dixon had verses the outlook Jaye had, the seesawing of protection, emotion, and care, were all well written. The starkly beautiful Alaskan backdrop was used in a minimalist but tense fashion. I was totally and utterly invested in these characters and this story – I sat up until just after 4am before I grudgingly put it down to get some sleep. The primary characters are deeply flawed but suit one another – the relationship between Dixon and Jaye was believable and I loved every minute of it. The secondary characters are all three-dimensional. The antagonist? I was wishing evil upon him throughout; I like it when a writer can elicit that kind of visceral and psychological reaction from me. I was emotionally wrung-out by book’s end. I needed that HEA happening for Jaye and Dixon. 5 Stars!
“Tell me you love it,” Dixon dared…
The author supplied an ARC in return for an honest review.