Bruised But Not Broken; Spark of Hope #1
(A standalone within a series)
Publication Date: May 31, 2022
Genre/Tropes: MM/Trauma-Healing/Age-Gap Romance
Author: Nicole Dykes
Review Rating: 5 Gold Stars
A beautiful, hope filled journey that I didn’t want to end.
This is a story about trauma, healing, and budding relationships – both friendship and sensual. It takes a very personal path of not only two men who have gone through some very horrible trials in their lives, but also those close to them who have also experienced trauma in one form or another. There are very raw moments, but offset with extremely tender ones. It’s very well done.
Ben and his brother, Roman, along with their long time friend, Andrew who is a therapist, begin a trauma group therapy meeting at Ben’s gym and while Andrew is the therapist in charge, Ben and Roman lead self defense classes afterwards. This is the initial premise of the Spark of Hope group. A safe space for someone who has been involved in some form of trauma; whether it’s by accident, abuse, attack, bullying, etc…their group is a safe space to meet. Plus Ben’s gym is the perfect spot to not only hold the meetings, but also to have a self defense class where people won’t have to travel or have the chance to change their minds if they have been in a situation where they need that opportunity to feel empowered again.
I have to say I love the premise and what these three men do. While these three men have had a long time bond, so there is lots of ribbing and such, at the heart there is a wonderful respect for one another that makes the story have this warm cozy feel.
Ben Price has only been with one woman in his life, but when his wife files for divorce, he’s left feeling hollow and completely unsure of where life will take him. He’s often accused of having a hero syndrome with everyone in his life, so when a beat up young man steps into his gym looking for a job, of course he offers to help. Never once did Ben look at Colby as anything other than a man who needed a job, a place to stay and someone who really just needed a little help getting back on his feet, but when they begin spending time together as friends and that friendship blossoms into more, Ben no longer has a hollow feeling inside and he sees hope for the first time in a long time, but is it his hero complex kicking in or could he really have true feelings for Colby?
Colby is a young man who will break your heart. The guilt and shame he carries with him is so heavy it’s amazing he can walk around everyday, He’s been emotionally and physically abused for years and like all domestically abused victims he doesn’t know how to break the cycle. Learning how to trust, to stop hearing all the hateful words cycling through his head…well, I like to think it’s fate that had him walking into Ben’s gym one rainy day. However, he isn’t sure Ben could like him for him. Ben has never been with a man before and then there are those awful voices that constantly filter through his mind. Yeah…I know how powerful those can be. I wanted to hug Colby all the time.
Their story touches on a lot of hard topics, but it’s also like a phoenix rising from the ashes in its beauty. I loved reading how both of them blossomed in each other’s presence, because that is what love truly does for the other person, it doesn’t diminish or take away, but it makes the person you love really shine.
Bruised But Not Broken is a beautiful book and I loved reading it.
Spark of Hope: A bi-weekly trauma support group.
This is my nightmare. When I think of a support group, I think of sad people sitting around talking about their feelings and nothing changing.
And yet, when my brother and his best friend, who happens to be a therapist, presented the idea of holding the meetings at my gym, I caved.
Because I, Benjamin Price, have always tried to rescue the people in my life. But I can’t. I’ve usually failed them.
Now, I’m hosting a trauma support group and desperately trying not to fall into my old habits—of attempting to save everyone.
And then, he walks in.
Bruised. But not broken. No matter how exhausted he may feel, a strength in him calls to me.
And there’s no way I can ignore the need deep inside me to at least try.
I’m tired. I’m afraid. And I don’t want to go back.
Not to the abusive relationship I told myself I was okay with for years.
But what am I supposed to do?
I have no real life skills. All my life, I’ve been told I’m pretty and that’s it.
Then I walk into a gym, looking for a job, but I find so much more.
I don’t want to trust Ben. I don’t believe his help doesn’t come with a price.
But what choice do I really have?
One thing’s for sure . . . Neither of us are getting out of this intact.
What we lose though, that’s anyone’s guess.
***Bruised But Not Broken is set around a trauma support group and will, therefore, touch on extremely sensitive subjects. I’ll always do my best to handle these topics with care and healing, and with no intention of hurting anyone. But please, heed this warning if you have any triggers.
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