Reviewed by Vicki (Tori)
SERIES: Survivor Stories #5
AUTHOR: JP Barnaby
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 108 pages
RELEASE DATE: March 15th, 2017
It’s amazing how a single word from a tiny girl can change your life.
Spencer Thomas’s world turns upside down when his beloved Nell dies and leaves custody of her three-year-old daughter to him. Her “Spenna” comes when Sophie needs him most, but his boyfriend, Aaron, can’t be a parent. He just can’t. Neither of them expected a baby to fall into the lives they’d finally just settled.
When Nell’s ex comes to claim Sophie, Aaron needs to make a decision: man up or walk away as Spencer faces the fight of his life.
Color me surprised! I thought this series had ended with Anthony, the fourth book. I had no idea JP had one more in her!
I have been a fan of this series since I read Aaron in October 2012. It was one of the most difficult, painful books I have read, and I fell in love with Aaron and Spencer by the end of that first book. My love was reaffirmed in Spencer. Then we met Ben and Jude, and my heart broke again. The follow-up was Anthony, giving us the story of Aaron’s younger brother. I have to admit to not loving that story, I think I was so caught up in Aaron and Spencer and their lives, that I didn’t fully bond with Anthony as a character. I had assumed Aaron and Spencer would spend the rest of their lives dealing with Aaron’s issues, and would ride off into the sunset…
But we have one more visit with them! Aaron was very badly damaged as a teenager, and when we first met him, was pretty much housebound and medicated. His parents forced him to take a college class, where he met Spencer, a deaf student. The two begin a very slow friendship which eventually evolves in to love. With the help of Spencer’s father, who is a psychologist, the two are able to have a relationship, and build a life together. Barely. We follow them through this all, anxiously watching as they have ups and downs, drama, trauma, a legal fight, job issues, physical issues, pain, distrust, and love. It was so wonderfully hard to watch. Aaron is always the center of the story, and really, the center of all of the lives of these characters. His issues affect everyone around him, all of the time. All energy is focused on him. Which he needs, but it also kind of creates a monster. Aaron sucks energy from everyone around him, he is so needy. Spencer is most affected by this, needing to be careful of everything he does and says, and living with a very volatile man. Not in a violent way at all, but Aaron is constantly on the edge of a breakdown, and constantly ready to panic and run.
Which he does within pages of the start of this book. The two have a misunderstanding, and Aaron runs to his friend’s house. Unfortunately it’s very bad timing, as Spencer and his father rush off to California after receiving a phone call. Spencer’s aunt Nell (his dead mother’s sister) has been in a car accident and is hospitalized. Leaving her three-year old daughter with no one to care for her, since Nell had broken up with her girlfriend shortly before Sophie was born. So Spencer and his father head to California without Aaron’s knowledge. Aaron doesn’t find out until he gets to his parent’s house, hoping for some attention from his mother. What he gets instead is annoyed by the existence of his nephew, and stressed when he hears about Spencer. Proving once again, that all lives should revolve around Aaron, and all thought should be given to his feelings. Yes, I dearly love Aaron, but sometimes he drives me batshit crazy! He just doesn’t seem to get that other people have stuff to deal with as well.
Anyway, Aaron’s life is shaken up beyond his imagining by the inclusion of a little girl. Spencer shows he’s done with Aaron’s shit, and his sympathy and understanding drop drastically. At the beginning of the story, Aaron is not understanding OR sympathetic about Spencer’s changing life, and wants no part of it. Blatantly and stubbornly ignoring Sophie for quite some time. He eventually grows the fuck up, mans up, and becomes a contributing member of his partnership. Hallelujah! This story comes with a really big payoff, after all of the stress we have seen, this book makes it worth it.
I went through several emotions as I read this story. I was very frustrated with Aaron’s continuing self-centredness, yes, I get he has issues, but at some point he needs to move on. I thought he had, but his behavior at the beginning of this story show that in some ways, he really hasn’t. Then I was happy as he did start to show some growth. I was concerned when I saw there was a child in this book, I’m not always fond of little kids in my romance stories, but Sophie slid in nicely. I loved that Spencer basically tells Aaron to grow the fuck up, or move on. I liked that we got to see the other brothers, and what they have been doing. And I totally LOVED how this ended.
But. This book felt rushed to me. Aaron goes from being uncommitted to this situation, to accepting really fast. I guess I saw the beginning and the end, but not the process he goes through to get to the end. I don’t want to say too much and give details away, but there are some really big things that happen, time seems to pass quickly, decisions are made, and bam! It’s over. I wanted to see what transpired. How did Aaron become so accepting so fast. What conversations occurred? What did he go through in his head? What help did he get to make this happen? I still wanted it all to happen, I just wanted to see more of it, like we did in the other books. However, this was a bonus story, and not one I thought to see, so, really I shouldn’t complain! And I’m not, I did love it, and it left me feeling warm and fuzzy. But the few times I’ve read through these books, I was more emotionally involved than I was with this one and fairly emotionally traumatized. I know, that’s weird, I loved the angsty books better than the happy book! Not sure what that says about me….
This is the final book from this author, and I will miss JP. I met her a few times at various GRL’s, and fondly remember her taking my hand to lead me up to tip a dancer in Chicago, when I was too shy to go on my own. Somewhere I have a picture of us in matching Outbreak Money shirts, and I have a nice collection of signed books. I’ve enjoyed watching her progress as an author, and I’ve enjoyed watching her life change via Facebook. I’ll miss this aspect of her life, but I’m very happy to see her getting all of the happiness she deserves as her non-writing persona.
This is not a standalone book, you need to have read the others to get who these people all. If you have read them, you’ll be happy to see this book and what happens to these men. If you haven’t read them, and are curious, go get Aaron and give it a try. Just get out the box of tissues first, and probably some alcohol. You’ll need it! Painful, but worth it.
Thanks for the awesome characters JP, see you around!