Forged in Trust (Bay Area Professionals #4), Mickie B. Ashling
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Age Gap, BDSM, Contemporary, Child Sexual Abuse – Off Page (Possible Triggers), Romance, Series, Some Violence
Purchase At: Dreamspinner Press, amazon.com
***Check out an exclusive excerpt and giveaway here.***
Dr. Ethan Marshall is the young medical student on call the night Tessa Duran murders her husband for abusing her twelve-year-old-son, Rino. Ethan stays in the cubicle while the rape kit is performed and is surprised when the boy resorts to prayers instead of tears.
Despite compelling evidence, Tessa is sent to jail for life. To avoid placing Rino in foster care, their parish priest agrees to raise him. Ethan is touched by Rino’s plight and visits whenever possible, but the connection is broken when the priest and young boy leave the area months later.
Raised by the Dominicans in California, Rino considers joining the order until a romance blossoms with a fellow student. After much soul-searching, he turns his back on everything familiar, and chooses his orientation over his perceived vocation. Upon graduating dental hygiene school, Rino takes a job at the office of Scott Gregory and Robin Kennedy.
Seventeen years have passed since that horrible night in the emergency room. Forty-three-year-old Ethan is now a Dominant in search of a full-time submissive. Twenty-nine-year-old Rino is adrift, longing for someone or something to help him find the serenity he’s lost along the way. As they rekindle their friendship, they realize they might be perfect for each other.
I think it’s common knowledge that I’m not a fan of reading books out of order in series. Strange, considering I’ve done that a couple of times recently. 🙂 One thing I’ll say is this – this is my second of this author’s books read out of order and I have to say that when she says one can be read as a standalone, she means it. While characters from the first three books of this series play a part in Forged in Trust, this is ultimately Rino and Ethan’s story. I wish the two men would’ve had more present-day time together, but I can see another book in their future.
With that being said –
Like the blurb states, Ethan is the doctor on call when twelve-year-old Rino is brought into the Emergency Room after being raped by his stepfather. Under the most horrific of circumstances, Rino turns to prayer instead of having a complete meltdown over what had been done to him. Don’t read that to mean that he wasn’t traumatized. He was, but he turned to prayer and his guardian angel to help him through the situation.
Ethan was a young medical student who just happened to be the doctor in attendance when Rino and his stepfather were brought in at the same time. Tessa, Rino’s mother, killed her husband when she caught him attacking her son. I commend her for that, and if that makes me a bad person, so be it. However, there are a lot of things about Tessa that had me shaking my head. She may have done what she felt was the right thing in how she removed herself and her son from a horrible situation in their homeland, but she knew going in that her son was in danger by coming to the United States with that man. The husband made it obvious from the time Rino was a very small child that he wanted him sexually. She knew he was a sick individual who would end up hurting the innocent boy at some point. Putting Rino in that situation makes her as guilty as the man who did what he did. That’s my opinion anyway. Others might not agree. I don’t agree that she should’ve gotten life in prison for the murder, though.
For some reason, young Rino feels peace with Ethan that night and he trusts him at his most difficult time. During Tessa’s trial Ethan is there as a guiding light (so to speak) to keep the young boy grounded and calm. When Tessa is convicted there’s no one to take Rino in. In steps a priest (who is very close to the family) who takes him in as his own. Ethan keeps in contact with Rino over the next few months, but real life gets in the way and their big brother/little brother type relationship disappears.
Fast forward seventeen years. Ethan, forty-three, is a prominent surgeon whose focus is gender reassignment surgery (among other things). He’s wealthy, successful, and lives a relatively good life. He’s also part owner of Heaven’s Gate, a private and exclusive BDSM club. Ethan is a popular Dom who has been unable to find a permanent sub. Apparently each guy is missing something, in Ethan’s opinion. Only when he meets Rino again does he realize what has been missing all those years.
Rino, now twenty-nine, hasn’t had the greatest life. The priest who had taken him in as a preteen was a good man, but he was old school. Rino did everything he could to show his appreciation for all that had been done for him. He worked hard in school and was on the fast track to become a priest himself. All of this was fine and good. The problem? Rino is gay and had finally come to terms with the fact that the priesthood wouldn’t be for him for that reason. Of course, the good priest believes homosexuality is an abomination, so what does Rino do? He leaves and tries to make it on his own for the first time in his life. Somehow he ends up going to school to be a dental hygienist and after a so-called friend hired him and screwed him over, he applies for a position in Scott and Robin’s practice (from the previous books in the series) and ends up getting the job. This is where things start coming together in the story. Without giving anything away, I’ll say that Ethan and Rino reunite (in a way) as a result of Rino’s new position.
I need to stress that at no time when Rino was a child did Ethan see him as anything other than that – a wounded child. Yes, they end up as adults coming together, but there was nothing inappropriate years earlier. I know that’s probably a given, but I wanted to stress it anyway.
Once the two men meet again, things move extremely fast. There’s insta-love and there’s these guys. Sure, they’ve known each other for almost two decades, but that doesn’t matter because that ‘almost two decades’ had separated them with zero contact. In other words, they didn’t know each other at all. But there is a connection that can’t be denied when they see each other again. While I believe the “L” word was spoken entirely too soon, I did like the two of them together. My only real niggle is that I wish they would’ve had more on-page time (in present day) together instead of just a long weekend where things came to a head (so to speak).
Then there are other characters. First, there are Scott and Robin. I’ve stated that I didn’t read their stories so I wasn’t familiar with them as a couple before I started reading this book. I liked Robin a lot, but I found Scott to be a pompous ass. I might feel differently if I read his book. The BDSM tag listed above is for Robin and Scott because they have a pretty intense scene. As far as Ethan and Rino, they are still finding their way in the BDSM thing, so there’s not a whole lot of it with them in this book. Then there is a character named Brad. There’s a lot I want to say about Brad but I can’t because it would be a huge spoiler. I will say that I wish his ‘issues’ would’ve been elaborated on more. I’m not interested in seeing him have his own story (if you read this book, you’ll see why), but I would’ve liked to have seen him and his back story come out a little more than it was in Forged in Trust. I mentioned Tessa, Rino’s mother. While I get why she did a lot of things she did (including killing her son’s rapist), she wins no gold stars from me. There are still some things that need to be cleared up as far as Tessa is concerned, though I doubt very seriously that my opinion of her will ever change. This is me speaking as a mother, not just a book reviewer.
Overall, this is a good book. I really enjoyed watching Ethan and Rino finally find their way to each other as adults. There were a few things left open, but nothing that takes away from the HEA. They (and other characters) still have a few minor things to resolve, but I didn’t feel as if the story was unfinished in any way. I liked Ethan well enough, though I don’t believe that so many pages should’ve been devoted to his views on a certain medical practice. I get that he was passionate, and I even know why it was mentioned, but I felt that page after page in regards to it was a bit much. As for Rino, he was adorable. The title is fitting because the one thing that I really liked about this book is the fact that the trust between Rino and Ethan carried over and was still there many years later. While it may not have been a love connection early on, it was a special connection. I’m curious to see where the author takes these guys.
This book was provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Thank you for this thorough review, Cindi. I’m happy you enjoyed the novel even though you haven’t read the first three in the series. You’re right to surmise there will be a sequel. My plan is to explore the new D/s relationship in-depth so there will be lots of on-page time for this new pairing. Like the other books in the series, new characters will be introduced, but the focus will be on Rino and Ethan.
You’re very welcome, Mickie. I never felt lost with me not reading the others in the series. I was able to get involved in the story without any confusion at all. That’s great news that there will be more of Rino and Ethan. I’m really eager to see their relationship progress. I now want to go back and start at book #1 to see how the others got together. 🙂
Great review, Cindi. This is a storyline that could have gone really pear-shaped in the hands of another author because of some sensitive issues covered. Whenever I read your Mickie B Ashling reviews I can’t help but think I’d like her writing. Love the GIFS 🙂
Thanks, Kazza. One thing this author does well is write sensitive story lines. She did it with Chyna Doll (with an intersex character) and again with Forged in Trust. This story could have gone a lot of different directions, but everything came together exactly as it should have in regards to what Rino went through as a child.
I have no doubt you’d enjoy her writing. I’m definitely a (relatively new) fan.