Reviewed by Cinnamon & Dan
Be warned. This is not a romance. It is a gritty tale of real life issues in the 1990’s.
It contains graphic depictions of physical, mental and drug abuse as well as teenage male prostitution
Other trigger warnings would be major spoilers.
TITLE: The Ties That Bind
AUTHOR: S. Davidson
PUBLISHER: Encompass Ink Publishing
LENGTH: 427 pages
RELEASE DATE: June 1, 2017
Flashback 1990’s – Rollerblades, bungee jumping, the laptop, cellular phones the size of bricks, and AIDS – the gay men’s cancer
This is a story about love, friendship, and family. It is a story about growing up, about trying to change the past and the realization that no matter how fast, or how far we run, that The Ties That Bind us as children, many times come back to haunt us as adults.We become part of the life of a young counselor, Morgan, who specializes working with homeless, male hustlers. He seems like an angel from heaven to many. He cares deeply for every one of his boys and would literally die to save them from harm. He deprives himself of life’s basic needs in order to reach just one more, but why?Morgan has his own agenda to work out, his own demons to exorcise. While avoiding his own past, he meets a particular young man, Greg, who is able to see through this well-crafted, public image. Greg sees Morgan’s pain and denial. It is in this discovery, this role reversal that Greg, a life-long hustler begins to heal himself. He helps Morgan come to terms with his own violent past. Greg becomes his strength, the knife to cut the rope and release the guilt Morgan has denied for years. Just as they both begin to heal, Greg discovers the truth.The Ties That Bind can sometimes be very restricting but many times we find that The Ties That Bind can also provide our strength.
The Ties That Bind are necessary for the sustenance of life.
This is the most difficult review I have ever had to write. Not because I didn’t like the book. I loved it. I wasn’t enjoying a lot of scenes but it comes from the subject matter. But when it ended I was sitting there, tears running down my face and all I felt was total shock, sorrow and pure love. The last page made me fall in love with this story like I have rarely done… It’s hard to put those indescribable emotions into words but if you mingle the feels of Trainspotting, Philadelphia and Bangkok Love Story that’s probably the closest I am feeling. What makes it difficult for me is that I do not want to spoil anything. All I’m going to say that this is the most beautiful and devastating love story I have ever read.
I fell in love with Shelley Davidson’s writing a year ago when I was reading her debut novel and I could hardly wait to put my hands on her new release. You always have to be careful what you wish for. I got the writers raw, emotionally draining and brutally honest and rough writing style in spades. And it did a serious number on me.
This story should have a few trigger warnings of brutal violence, rape and all forms of abuse. Please take these very seriously because this book deals with so much that my gut is still twisted from some of the scenes. This story removes all your emotional layers and you end up being raw and full of unimaginable feels of vulnerability, disgust and disbelief.
I would not say that this is a classic MM romance. This falls into gay historical fiction (set in the 1990s) and please read accordingly. Don’t expect hearts and roses, though you find both in the story. This is a brutal, thought provoking, gut-wrenching love story. Our characters come from unthinkable backgrounds and live in extraordinarily circumstances. You will read about living on the streets, child abuse and all horrible things imaginable. The writing is brutally honest but it keeps an amazing balance and everything stays in the lines of readable and digestible. Your heart and soul will be wrenched and exhausted but you definitely won’t forget this book.
I loved and hated most of the characters. The story is told from almost everyone’s point of you, so you can’t really identify with anyone but this is absolutely intentional. The POV changes are clear and can be followed well. All the characters are unique and this story will haunt you for the rest of your life.
The most powerful element of the story is the fact that this was life in the 90s. This was reality at the time. My heart broke so many times I didn’t keep count but the last page simply killed me… the best and worst possible way.
If you are looking for something different, some quality writing and a gripping, unforgettable story, read this book and you will feel.
I told Cinnamon last night, when I finished reading this book, that there probably wasn’t any way that I could review it. For a gay man who lived through that era and lost every single man I slept with in my early twenties to that dread disease, this book brought back horrific memories in spots for me. The book is not for the faint at heart, and I have to give some warnings. It has shocking scenes of extreme child sexual abuse, it has AIDS, it has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, it has horrors… too many to count.
Was the book good? It was very well written. When I step back, and now that I’ve stopped crying, I realize what a powerful story Ms. Davidson wrote. It is by no means for everyone. I’d be willing to go on record and say that the majority of the Love Bytes readers won’t like it. But I’ve always been known for reading and reviewing the harder to read, and darker, stories. The Ties That Bind definitely fits into those categories and more. But… it even pushed me to the edge.
The story is about three distinct extremely broken characters. We have Greg, the son of a drug dealer, who we learn started using drugs at ‘parties’ at his father’s house when he wasn’t even into double digit ages yet. He was introduced to brutal sex somewhere along the way, by (I believe) his dad and his dad’s druggie friends. His dad beat him severely and when he would run away, he would go to his friend Tomi’s house nearby. Tomi is the second character. She is the daughter of a drug addict, and an alcoholic for the majority of the book. Greg is on the street for years, controlled by a brutal pimp, who does all sorts of horrible things to him and Tomi isn’t able to help him. The third major character is Morgan. Morgan runs the local shelters/homes for the unwanted street boys. He has been following Greg’s case for years, but Greg has always slipped through the cracks.
As the book goes on, the three characters come together and their tale, rather than getting more upbeat and cheerful, slips further and further into despair. It pulled me along, kicking and screaming at some points. I went from loving the characters, to hating the characters, to simply putting up with the characters as it went along. And it didn’t end there, I went through all those feelings and emotions over and over and over again. When Morgan’s past was revealed, the book became very emotional for me, particularly a scene about Morgan’s ex, David, because it hit too close to home for me with personal memories. From there to the end of the book I read with increasing trepidation, unable to put the book down.
The end shattered me. It left me devastated. I might have called Ms. Davidson some very bad words and even gone on our closed Love Bytes Reviewers page and told the other reviewers that it left me in tears and I wasn’t going to review it.
I won’t forget this one. Did I love it? Not really. Did I hate it? Not completely. Was it extremely well written? Definitely. No spoilers, but if you read it, be prepared for a rocky road. I’m going to be fair and rate it on the writing and the emotions it caused me. From that perspective it rates the 5.0 that I’m going to give it. I’m super glad I have to work today, so I can get my mind off the huge book hangover this one gave me.