The first twelve years of Tommy Marsh's life were hell on earth as he suffered unimaginable abuse at the hands of his mother and her boyfriends. Throughout the last nine years, after being taken in at Scarcity Sanctuary and adopted by Soldier and Dillon, Tommy has found healing for his battered soul. After having such wonderful role models in his two dads, he now wants to give back by helping kids like himself. He's training to become a social worker and has been working with Daniel Anderson, the man who helped him all those years ago. Tommy has loved Daniel from afar for two years, but he doesn't want to ruin their friendship and working relationship if Daniel doesn't return his feelings. When the unthinkable happens to Tommy's brother, Gom, the traumatic event brings Tommy and Daniel closer together. The two men finally open up about their feelings for one another, but can Tommy bring himself to enjoy intimacies with Daniel after everything he's been through?
Tommy's Story is a sweet and tender M/M romance novella that is the second story in AKM Miles's Scarcity Sanctuary series. It really tugs at the heartstrings with the story of two social workers who have known each other since the younger one was just a boy under the older one's care. They've both loved each other from afar for a while, and both are sweet, gentle beta heroes who I loved reading about. A traumatic event brings the pair closer together, giving them the courage to finally express their feelings for one another. Overall, this was another story in this series that I found to be very enjoyable.
Tommy appeared in Soldier, the first book of the series, as a broken and traumatized twelve-year-old child, who social worker Daniel placed with Dillon at what would later become known as Scarcity Sanctuary. Tommy had been through hell, abused in every way imaginable, at the hands of his mother and her boyfriends. In the nine years that have passed since, Tommy has managed to make an almost full recovery in the loving care of Soldier and Dillon. He's grown up to be a very caring, compassionate young man who wants to help other kids like himself find peace and love. To that end, he's training to be a social worker and has been working on various cases with Daniel. Over the last couple of years, Tommy has started to develop feelings for Daniel, but it takes a traumatic event that shakes both of them to the core for them to fess up about their feelings. Having read Soldier, I was privy to the things Tommy had been through, but I still would have liked to see the author delve a little more deeply into his background in this story to help build his character a little more fully.
The entire novella is told from Tommy's POV, so what little we learn about Daniel is only through Tommy's eyes. It seems Daniel has a somewhat sordid past of his own as a foster child, and like Tommy, it was his past experiences that also drew him into the field of social work. He's fourteen years older than Tommy, but if I recall correctly, there was a bit of an age difference between Soldier and Dillon too. The thing I loved about Daniel is his patience and tenderness. After everything he'd been through, Tommy wasn't sure he would ever be ready for a relationship with anyone. Daniel never pushes Tommy to do anything he's not comfortable with, and he's prepared to wait as long as it takes. Of course, some intimacies occur a bit faster than I would have liked, but having these two men know each other for so long made their quick relationship progression more believable. However, there never was a full consummation, which was a little disappointing.
While I did enjoy Tommy's Story, I felt like it could have been more fully developed in both characterization and plot. The villains are pretty one-dimensional and their comeuppance occurs very quickly. I'm a little disappointed to see that so far, only the female characters in these stories have been cast as absolutely horrible people and hope that this trend doesn't continue. It almost seems a little misogynistic, which is strange considering that the author herself is a woman. As I mentioned earlier, Ms. Miles could have gone even deeper with Tommy and Daniel's characters too. Like with the first book of the series, the writing itself is kind of on the simplistic side and would have benefited from a little more complexity and/or better editing. Sometimes there were a few too many words that could have been pared down for clarity and other times, the narrative could have used a little more description (eg. we don't even get a physical description of Daniel until the final chapter and there are no descriptions of Tommy). Overall though, like with Soldier, I can't deny that Ms. Miles made me feel very deeply while reading this story. She definitely has a talent for expressing emotions that are very effectively conveyed to the reader. I absolutely love sweet stories like this, and I loved visiting with Soldier, Dillon, and Gom again. I just hated what Gom went through, but I'll be looking forward to reading more about him and the work he'll be doing in his book, For Gom's Sake, which is the next in the series.
Note: This novella contains semi-explicit scenes of sensuality between two men, which may offend some readers.
Please note that this review is for the original version of Tommy's Story, which was published by Torquere Press. I see now that the story was re-edited and expanded by an additional 12K words before being reprinted by MLR Press. It's certainly conceivable that some of the issues I had with the story might have been addressed, which could have led to a higher rating. However, I didn't feel like shelling out an additional $5.99 (which IMHO is overpriced for a 32K word novella anyway) to get the extra 12K words in the new version. If Ms. Miles were to offer a deal like R.J. Scott has, where she is giving a free copy of the updated version of her stories to readers who purchased a previous edition, I'd be totally on board, but thus far I don't see anything on Ms. Miles's website to indicate she is doing anything like this. If at some point in the future, I'm able to get a copy of the new version, I will definitely update my review.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook