Reviewed by Tori
Derek Sawyer has it all with a fiance, a good job, a romantic getaway cabin on the lake, and his dog, Gracie. When his best friend and coworker, Victor, sexually assaults him on a business trip then turns around and files harassment charges against him at work, Derek loses everything. Alone and scared, Derek is stuck in a web of fear and shame that is tightening around him every day.
Officer Russ Thomas owns the cabin next door to Derek. Though immediately attracted to Derek upon first meeting him, Russ isn’t about to come between a committed couple. A comfortable neighborly friendship develops between Derek and Russ. When Russ runs into Derek after not seeing him for a few weeks, he notices something is wrong. Gone is the happy go lucky man he has come to know and in its place is a scared and angry man. Having worked with victims of sexual assault before, it doesn’t take Russ long to figure out what has happened to Derek. With Russ’s help, Derek files a police report and restraining order against Victor in hopes of gaining back his life. But Victor doesn’t see what he did was wrong and Derek’s actions only serve to anger him more.
As Russ stands by Derek, being the rock at his back as he slowly tries to recover, Victor refuses to give up and soon Derek finds himself fighting for more than just getting his life back…now he’s fighting to stay alive.
Violated is a thought-provoking and sobering tale that addresses sensitive subject matter. Male on male sexual assault happens far more often than it’s reported and the aftermath for the victim and everyone around them can be devastating. Fessenden effectively identifies and reveals the physical and psychological effects that rape has on the person assaulted and the continued emotional and mental assault they face as they struggle to find justice. The plot line sets up well, introducing us to the players involved and the roles they play in the protagonist’s life. The timeline is revealed in a concise and clear manner with no confusion or questionable scenes. That in itself was part of the problem. Fessenden does a good job of telling you of Derek’s pain, sorrow, and confusion – but the emotional connection I was expecting didn’t happen. I was never able to make the jump from reading to feeling the story through Derek’s eyes and emotions.
A varied character base helps to keep the story moving at a steady place though Fessenden’s focus remains almost solely with Derek. When he does break away to other characters, the story loses itself and becomes even more disconnected. I found Tim and Victor to be weak links and they really shouldn’t have been. They were purported to have strong ties to Derek and I would have liked a more time to have been spent developing them and the reasons why they acted as they did. Instead, Tim and Victor serve as merely plot devices to give the story the villains it needed to push Derek towards his supposed HEA.
Russ had stronger characterization and I liked seeing him and Derek connect first as friends. He tries to give Derek the space and support he needs though his job as a police officer and his attraction foreshadows his need to protect Derek at all costs. He doesn’t push (too much) which I thought was appropriate considering. Again though, I felt as if I was being told of their feelings without seeing it actually happen. This gave the relationship a forced feeling as if the author wasn’t sure of his characters intentions . There were also some scenes that were supposed help us better understand Russ but they don’t really add anything to the story or procure the desired effect. Russ’s adventurous sexual hook ups wants us to see he’s looking for a solid monogamous relationship and his sister’s news hints that he understands Derek better than Derek or we think. Yet, It’s all very awkwardly presented and out of sync with the rest of the storyline.
Regardless of my issues, Fessenden does do justice to this main topic and those involved. He wraps it up in a realistic manner; Derek isn’t magically cured. He struggles until the end but with help is trying to get on with his life and making strides in his recovery. While this wasn’t quite the story I thought it would be as it didn’t solicit the reactions I expected, it is a story that I appreciated for the honesty and compassion Fessenden used in writing it.