Title & Author: Rescue Me by Scarlet Blackwell
Release Date: November 20, 2010
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Pages: 414 pages
Book Blurb (from Goodreads):
After a near fatal car crash leaves him scarred both physically and emotionally, Matt Harmon finds the solitude of his huge, lonely house too much to bear. Hiring nurse James Hayden to look after him seems like the best idea for Matt, whose fierce independence has been compromised by his injuries. The two men clash from the start as James struggles to help Matt rebuild his shattered body and heal his crushed soul. The bond they form is forged in fire and ice, and the wounds they inflict on one another can only be erased by Matt’s admission that he can’t live without James’s loving touch. Will Matt realize too late that James is the only one who can rescue him from himself?
When I started writing this review, I had no idea how to rate this book.
When the story begins, Matt has been seriously injured in a car accident. He’s broken and scarred, wracked with pain, and mostly bed-bound. I’ve never been in a car accident that serious (knock on wood!), but I know how grumpy I get when I’m sick, so the man immediately had my sympathy. I completely understood why someone in his position would feel vulnerable, irritable, and defensive. I even understood why he might lash out at those taking care of him.
Unfortunately, it quickly becomes clear that it’s not only the accident and his resulting injuries that are causing Matt to act like an ass. No, he’s always been a short-tempered, ill-mannered, homophobic, emotionally-stunted asshole with anger management issues and quick fists. And the things that he says and does to James practically every time they are in the same room together? They’re vile (I still cannot get what happened at the dinner party out of my head or my heart).
To put it boldly: Matt had no redeeming qualities. Not one.
As a reader, I didn’t quite know what to do with this realization. I mean, I’m glad the author didn’t try to pass off Matt’s behavior as something that we were supposed to accept and love him in spite of. No, Blackwell called Matt out repeatedly – he was an unlovable dick. So that’s good… right?!
Well… not exactly.
Because at its core, Rescue Me is still supposed to be a romance novel. And what do most readers want from a romance novel? Two flawed but likeable people to meet and fall in love.
Instead, we got Matt and James.
And while I loathed Matt with the power of a thousand fiery suns until 85% of the way through the novel, James wasn’t always my favourite person either. Admittedly, James is patient. James is kind. James is sexy. James is way more than Matt deserves. But James is also a little shallow; he believes Matt’s good looks are a good enough “redeeming quality” to justify sleeping with him (even in the face of his atrocious behavior). He’s also indecisive and weak; I lost count of the number of times that James supposedly cut off all ties with Matt only to turn around and sleep with him again a few days – sometimes only a few hours – later. Where was his backbone? Where was his self-respect?!
* Face palm! Face palm! FACE PALM! *
When James eventually tells Matt that he loves him, I was both moved and furious. I was moved by James’ willingness to make himself vulnerable to Matt, and furious because Matt still hadn’t done one thing to deserve James’ love. He hadn’t said one kind thing to him. He hadn’t done one kind thing for him. Let’s face it, he hadn’t even asked James something as simple as how he takes his coffee or what he likes to do when he’s not nursing cranky, closeted homophobes back to health. Instead, Matt had physically and emotionally pulverized James at every opportunity, shaming him for his sexuality and the honesty of his emotions.
How can anyone fall in love with someone who treats them like that? It makes no sense to me.
And so I struggled with this book.
I even struggled with its ending. When Matt finally realizes that he could lose James forever, he turns into this sweet, vulnerable, attentive guy that wants to cherish James for the rest of his life. But as much my sappy, romantic heart wanted this to happen, and as much as I wanted Matt to be this guy, everything we know about him up to this point says that he’s just not wired this way. It was as if the author gave him a complete personality transplant at the last minute in order to give her readers a happily ever after. It just didn’t feel authentic.
So after reading the epilogue and watching the characters fuck their way into the sunset on the hood of a sexy black Ferrari, I was left a little stunned, having no idea how to rate a book I had nearly DNF’d several times.
Was it worth 1 smooch because I have never hated a main character more than I hated Matt (and seeing him get a HEA after what he put James through seemed not only undeserved but also cosmically unfair)? Was it worth 2 smooches because I liked James’s character and was happy to see him get a happily ever after (regardless of who it was with)? Should I give it 3 smooches because even though I loathed James, the writing was compelling enough to keep me reading for more than 400 pages? Or, does it deserve 4 smooches because I liked James, thought the writing was well done, and the last 15% of the novel gave me the sweet, vulnerable, attentive James I had been hoping to see way earlier in the novel?!
It was a tough decision, but I ultimately gave Rescue Me 3 smooches. While it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, and I don’t think I’ll be picking up another book by this author in the near future, I still think that objectively it was a good book.