Book Review: GIVE YOURSELF AWAY by Barbara Elsborg #MMromance

Give Yourself AwayGive Yourself Away by Barbara Elsborg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Give Yourself Away is a suspenseful MM romance that starts out telling two stories simultaneously. The first story is about how two childhood best friends Baxter and Tye were kidnapped, how Baxter escaped, and how Tye was kept by their abductor, Tye’s rapist, for twelve years. Fortunately, the rape and sexual abuse scenes are not shown in the novel, but alluded to. After the boys are separated, they grew up believing they had both died, for reasons which are explained in the book.

Taking place over fifteen years later in the present day, the second story is about how Caleb meets March, how their secrets are slowly revealed, and how Caleb and March fall in love. It’s a mystery at first who Baxter and Tye are in the present day. Caleb is out, while March has repressed his sexuality. But from the moment March, a lifeguard, rescues Caleb in a sea cave, they are instantly attracted to each other and have an elusive connection. The past is told to the reader at the same pace as the romance develops. So, when Caleb and March find out who they really are, the truth is not a surprise. Rather, it felt like all the pieces were finally fitting into place.

The romance was both lusty and sweet, meaningful and passionate, and tender. In a novel about not only surviving but healing from the past and being finally free to love, there was so much story and material that the stalker subplot felt unnecessarily melodramatic. It also made the novel longer than it needed to be, because learning the truth and finding out how Caleb and March would work out their relationship in the present were suspenseful enough plot points to keep me turning pages.

I know that people deal with trauma in their own ways, but the novel didn’t explain how Tye recovered from the repetitive sexual assault he experienced during twelve years of captivity and after only four years of freedom. He did see a therapist to treat his panic attacks stemming from fear of his safety and to learn coping skills, but he didn’t see a therapist for rape counseling. Though he didn’t take his shirt off and wanted the lights off during sex so his partner wouldn’t see the awful tattoos on his back, Tye was a real lusty lover.

I felt sympathy for the characters and cried a little at some of the hard stuff. I liked the humor in the story, because it balanced the overall dark tone of the novel. The sex scenes were strongly emotional and well-written.

*ARC received from NetGalley for an honest review.

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