Title ~ Spencer (Survivor Stories #3)
Author ~ JP Barnaby
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Genre ~ M/M Romance
Published ~ 21st March 2014
Rating ~ 5 Stars
A Survivor Story
It’s been nearly five years since Aaron woke up in the hospital so broken, he couldn’t stand the sight of his own face. The flashbacks no longer dominate his life, but he’s still unable to find intimacy with his lover, Spencer Thomas. With time, patience, and the support of his family, his therapist, and his loving partner, Aaron has figured out how to live again. The problem is, Spencer hasn’t. His life has been on hold as he waits for the day he and Aaron can have a normal relationship. Hoping to move things forward for them both, he takes a job as a programmer in downtown Chicago, leaving Aaron alone.
Reeling in the wake of Spencer’s absence, Aaron receives another shock when his attackers are caught.
Now, he must testify and verbalize his worst nightmare. Publicly reliving his trauma without Spencer at his side destroys his precarious control. But he finds someone who can understand and empathize in Jordan, who watched his brother cut down in a school shooting. With Spencer gone and the DA knocking at his door, Aaron seeks solace in Jordan, and Spencer will have to risk everything to hold on to Aaron’s love.
Even though Spencer is the third book in the Survivors stories, it’s not necessary to read Painting Fire On The Air first (however I do also recommend that book) but it is essential that you read Aaron first. For me Aaron is a classic in the M/M genre and a must read for any fan of gay romance… I have recommended this book to friends and readers countless times… quite simply it’s profound!
It is a rare talent when an author consumes your very soul with their writing, when they make you feel as though nothing in your world exists outside the pages of their book. Where the lives of the characters are all encompassing and you empathise with each and every emotion as though they were your own, incapable of seeing any further than the next page. For me JP Barnaby is such an author… and Aaron is that book. Although Spencer doesn’t have the same power and overwhelming emotional intensity of it’s predecessor… it’s impact never the less is just as outstanding, although totally different in nature. As a reader you can only have your heart wrung out so much before it needs putting back together. We started that healing process in Aaron, and Spencer is the long awaited continuation of that gut wrenching tale, still heart-breaking and emotional in it’s rendition, but this is the next step of the journey, their liberation as it were, finally breaking free of those psychological boundaries, the pain and torment of the past which had for so long dictated their lives. Purging the demons that controlled Aarons sad and empty existence, preventing them both from moving forward with their relationship.
When we first meet up again with Aaron and Spencer they are three years into their relationship, still a million miles from normal, yet the tiny steps they have achieved in that time seem like milestones. They have both grown as characters and men, no longer teenagers yet still both naive, Aaron obviously more so, with his innocence almost childlike, having sheltered and cocooned themselves in Aarons world due to his fears and anxieties.
When their joint creation of Spaaron see’s them head hunted, offering them an opportunity and money far beyond their wildest dreams. Of course, it’s a step too far for Aaron, but for Spencer it was a heady feeling… the recognition and job offer for his talent without the stigma of his disability being an issue, his chance to no longer be the freak, at twenty one, was more than he had hoped for. But it was a life he wanted to share with Aaron, he wanted it for both of them… without Aaron, despite the dream, it was empty.
Spencer is honest enough to question himself on all he had given up so far to be with Aaron, and admit that he missed having friends, going out and all the aspects of his life that were now no longer possible… the guy is near as damn perfect in my eyes, but he is also fallible and I loved that about him. But despite all of that, his love for Aaron far outweighs anything that has come before in his life. So when he takes the job offered… for him it was a leap of faith, that what he was doing would give them both the push they need, yet despite that he is still wracked with guilt at the feeling he is abandoning an already fragile Aaron.
Spencer moving caused a desolation and loneliness in Aaron that clung to him like the darkness after the attack. Aware he was behaving like a petulant child, his emotions were in conflict. Causing paranoia and guilt at his inability to be intimate with Spencer, or even be the boyfriend he perceived Spencer desired and needed. Anger and pain at the feeling of abandonment despite the fact he doesn’t want to hold Spencer back and resigned to losing Spencer to the bright lights, friends and opportunities he will have in the city. Frustration at the fears and anxieties that were confining him… desolate, lonely and drowning in the hopelessness of his future and even more so if that future did not contain Spencer.
The love these two have for each other, the sheer depth, emotion and selflessness of it is awe inspiring… it consumes them, as though one could not exist without the other. And there lay the problem. The insecurities and the vulnerability caused by their separation, despite their declarations of love and forever, instead of giving them the confidence to move forward, the distance between them was only causing more fissures on the already shaky ground they were walking. Only compounded, as events transpire to see Aarons world start to implode, losing the security, comfort and routine he had worked so hard to achieve. But, Aaron is stronger than he gives himself credit for, yes, he has moments where he feels he can’t push past those dark images from his past, and thoughts of escaping from the world he finds so hard to live in seem more prevalent in his mind. However it is his strength of will, determination and his love for Spencer that keep him pushing forward.
There is a cameo role in Spencer from Zach Tyler, one of the main MC’s in Finding Zach by Rowen Speedwell. Which I have to say is another heart wrenching excellent survivor story. Yes, another book to add to that never ending TBR! I liked how his tale of coping and surviving the aftermath of his own rape, torture and abuse was cathartic in enforcing Aarons courage and strength to look to the future and take control of his life, rather than let the pain of the past rule his very being.
I can’t recommend this book or JP Barnaby enough and as I explained earlier, reading Aaron first is a MUST but be assured you will not be disappointed and can storm ahead with Spencer straight after… because believe me, it has been a very long two years waiting for this book! And… I know, I’m now being greedy, as I have just consumed this recent fix of my boys, but they have reached another salient point in their lives, each one making my spirits soar and my heart sing, but I am not ready to let them go… I don’t want to say goodbye just yet!
Watching Porn by JP Barnaby
I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it, to see the act so brutally performed on me done to someone else before my eyes. I didn’t know if it would trip memories of Juliette beside me. The unknown scared me almost as much as the prospect of what I’d see. And, awkward as that conversation was, I told my mom about Dr. Thomas’s homework assignment. If I freaked out completely, I wanted her to know why so she could help. I’m not sure who was more embarrassed, but she agreed it was something that I should do. I’d been asexual for five years. The rest of the freakouts were, for the most part, under control. Reclaiming my sexual self seemed like the next logical step. I hated that it terrified me down to my bones.
When I went up to my room after dinner, I didn’t lock my door because I wanted my mom to be able to get to me if she needed to. She wouldn’t come in otherwise. Who wants to walk in on their kid watching porn? I’d talked to Trish (JP, the wonderful woman who wrote my book) because apparently, she has a lot of experience with gay porn. I’m not sure I want to know why that is. But, I didn’t want to get Spencer’s hopes up by asking him about it. I didn’t think Dr. Thomas would know anything about gay porn either, and I wanted someone who could recommend something that wouldn’t totally freak me out. She recommended a couple of sites and one was called Cockyboys. She said not to watch videos with a guy named Jake Bass because I guess he looks a lot like me and that might cause me problems. I’ll admit—I peeked, and damn she was right. It was weird.
The video she sent me isn’t one on any porn site, but one that a couple of her friends made her to promote a series of books. The idea that someone created gay porn for my female author friend kind of blew my mind. She also sent me a little story to read that they made the video from so I’d know what to expect.
So, I changed out of my jeans and into sweats just in case something happened and it actually turned me on. Then, I sat at my desk and put on my headphones. But it felt wrong, almost uncomfortable. I couldn’t really explain it. The cord reached when I picked up the laptop and crawled into bed. After leaning back against the headboard, I rested the laptop on my abdomen and hit play.
Two normal guys came into view, and I grinned at JP’s name on the screen. Who the hell had custom porn made for them? But the guys weren’t big scary muscle-bound jocks, they were guys that I could have been friends with, especially the blonde. He looked shy and quiet as he started the dialogue. When they started to kiss, I had to admit, I was interested. They looked like they were really into each other. Trish had told me they were playing boyfriends from one of her books, two guys deeply in love, and I believed it from their on-screen interactions.
When they started to undress each other, I didn’t get that panicky feeling I thought I would because kissing was nice. Their kissing was nice and the kissing I think about with Spencer makes me feel good. Neither guy seemed overly aggressive, I liked that. It wasn’t scary.
A harsh mixture of anticipation and terror started when they started taking off their clothes. We’d come to it, then. Not just affection and kissing, but sex. I made it until the blond boy slid to his knees and took the other guy’s dick into his mouth. The voices didn’t come, but the fear did. Maybe it came because I’d never actually seen the act performed before. Maybe it came because I’d wanted to do that with Spencer and never found the words to ask. Mostly, I think it came because I know that it’s like to be in that blond boy’s place under very difference circumstances.
The thing that resonated most with me, though, was that I’d watched at least part of it. I’d watched porn and didn’t end up as a sobbing mess on the floor. Next time, I would watch more. Not because it got me off, but because Dr. Thomas said the more I watched, the less sensitive I would be to sex in general. My views on sex came from violence and it wasn’t supposed to be like that. The intensity of the video and how it made me feel kind of scared me, but if it meant I’d be able to love Spencer the way I wanted, I’d try.
Now, I’m going to go online and buy something for my mom.
Because seriously? How many moms not only condone their son watching porn, but encourage it?
Series Reading Order
About JP Barnaby
Award winning romance novelist, J. P. Barnaby has penned over a dozen books including the Working Boys series, the Little Boy Lost series, In the Absence of Monsters, and Aaron. As a bisexual woman, J.P. is a proud member of the GLBT community both online and in her small town on the outskirts of Chicago. A member of Mensa, she is described as brilliant but troubled, sweet but introverted, and talented but deviant. She spends her days writing software and her nights writing erotica, which is, of course, far more interesting. The spare time that she carves out between her career and her novels is spent reading about the concept of love, which, like some of her characters, she has never quite figured out for herself.
Other Books by JP Barnaby
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