Author ~ J.K. Hogan
Publisher ~ Wilde City Press
Published ~ 18th May 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/m Romance
Two men who meet in a psychiatric institution couldn’t possibly find happiness together—could they?
The world seemed to be telling disgraced former child star and singer Cameron Fox that he would never be happy again. A drunken car accident gets him sentenced to a work release program at Riverbend Behavioral Health Facility.
Reclusive, traumatized writer Jonah Radley has an entire graveyard of skeletons in his closet. Jonah regularly hospitalizes himself for psychotic episodes caused by a horrific childhood trauma, his biggest secret—one he refuses to speak about in therapy.
Jonah and Cameron form a bond inside the hospital, forged in mutual pain and hope for a better life. Once they leave the hospital, they must decide if they are brave enough to explore the intricacies of living with mental illness—and find a new normal together.
Not having read a book by Ms Hogan before it was definitely the synopsis (well, and the cover, because that’s just fabulous) that drew me in. I’m so glad I picked this book up because it’s one of those where you get really excited about discovering a new author. I love her writing style, it’s intelligent with beautiful phrases and a wealth of vocabulary. I got lost in J.K. Hogans words and just enjoyed traversing the highs and lows of a touching, tender and very emotional journey of two men, Jonah and Cam, finding a new ‘normal’ together.
I have to admit, I didn’t initially have much sympathy for Cameron, he came across as egotistical and too full of his own self-importance, not for one minute thinking his actions would be punished. Pouting like the child star he was, rather than taking responsibility like the twenty seven year old man he is.
However as the story unfolds it becomes apparent that his work placement at Riverbend is the catalyst that helps him discover himself and sees him finally take ownership of his life. One which so far has been as much a pretence as the persona he presents to the public on TV and stage, where despite being in the limelight and surrounded by people, his life is lonely, especially as he’s unable to share who he really is.
I loved watching him realise his potential as a person of unselfish compassionate generosity and embrace it. Especially where Jonah is concerned. It’s then we start to see the thoughtful and kind hearted person that has been stifled for so long.
Jonah, bless him, just broke my heart. He immediately pulled me in and had my emotions in complete turmoil. His back story was tragic, but it was his inner strength that gave me hope. I don’t think I could have managed to sustain his struggles with such aplomb.
Dealing with his illness and trying to maintain some semblance and quality of life whilst haunted by the demons of his past, was distressing and sad to watch. I felt that for a twenty three year old poor Jonah had already lived a thousand lives, resigned to his illness with no friends and a tentative hold on his sanity, needing a self-imposed solitude just to survive. Disconnected from a world he feels at odds with, trying to balance the finite line between his sanity and reality and maintaining equilibrium. Fear of falling means both emotion and love have no place in the darkness of his heart, so he lives his life through his stories, the written word his only outlet and means of expression.
Both men are detached from their lives for different reasons but it’s that mutual attraction and spark that just might see them living, rather than existing. As a young boy Jonah was dazzled by the gorgeous blond on the TV and it’s that feeling of comfort he remembers that starts to reignite something within, warming the cold he’s felt for so long. Whilst Cam is drawn to the lost boy he sees beneath the mania that’s trying to smother the sanity. But they are drawn to each other. Inexplicably so. And neither can resist that pull.
The development of their relationship was beautifully written, definitely a slow burn romance which was right for the environment of the behavioural health facility and fitting for their circumstances.
As a side character I loved Rohan, he was larger than life, radiating warmth and rational and plays a huge part in subtly opening Jonah's eyes to a life he thought inconceivable for someone like him. However, to realise that future he needs to confront his past, only by doing so he may be lost forever in the madness of his own mind… but could Cam be the one to help him find the way out?
Strong Medicine is actually quite a dark read in parts and I had a few heart in the mouth moments whilst reading this book, and at times I felt the natural progression was a spine tingling thriller. I have to admit as a fan of that genre I was a little disappointed that the author didn’t grab that thread and run with it as it had all the potential for an edge of your seat ride, with so much doubt and suspicion cast on many of the side characters. But, and here is where I take my hat off and applaud J.K. Hogan, because Jonah has hallucinations and delusional paranoia, she convincingly managed to make me believe… I felt the presence of the monsters in the closet and I was as scared as Jonah.
As it’s Mental Health Awareness week here in the UK, with this years theme being ‘Relationships’, this is an excellent book for highlighting how essential good relationships are in maintaining good mental health. J.K. Hogan whether through work, research or experience has imparted a wealth of knowledge on the subject, which she has delivered with careful thought and compassion.
J.K Hogan shaped my heart around these two troubled souls, it’s not your stereotypical romance but it’s definitely a page turner you do not want to miss. I loved it!