The Official Description: Agoraphobe Jaden has barely left the house in years. Being dragged to a gay bar by his big brother to bid on a blind date is not his idea of a good time. But then the unthinkable happens: he wins. Sure, he was just about ready to push his boundaries–but on his own time. Not with a probably-gorgeous stranger watching his every move.
Henry hasn’t been on a date in the last year–ever since he finished with lower surgery. He works as a nature guide now in the great outdoors, and his new life suits him just fine. Just one thing’s missing: a man to share it with. Jaden is sweet, accepting, yet terrified by everything about the date that isn’t Henry. But he sees something in Jaden–in his courage for showing up, and his hope and vulnerability along the way.
Back home, when he’s in Denver in between guiding trips, Henry quickly becomes a staple in Jaden’s home. With Jaden’s understanding, Henry grows confident in his own skin. And with Henry’s support, the walls of Jaden’s sheltered life open up. But every step forward seems like it comes with two steps back. Can they take a deep breath and step into the wide open future–together?
This novel is based on “Denver” — a short story from the Heart2Heart 2 anthology. It has been revised and significantly expanded. It is now a standalone gay romance novel with a happily ever after ending and no cliffhanger.
Just the facts: Trans character, M/M romance, supportive
A fast paced romance about two men on their own path to the next phase of their lives. – Kinzie Things
My thoughts bit: This story begins with Jaden being dragged out by his brother, Spence. There’s a charity event that involves potential dates. Spence is on a mission to get Jaden a date and move his life forward. But Jaden has issues that he’s struggling with. There was a hate crime in his past that has contributed to him being agoraphobic. Most times when he tries to leave the house, he’s overcome by panic and anxiety.
That date that Jaden “wins” is an overnight trip to the Grand Canyon with a young man named Henry. Henry is Jaden’s date. He’s an outdoor guide so there’s no problem for him being out tramping towards the Grand Canyon.
The two men have chemistry right away. Henry is sweet and patient with Jaden and the two of them have a great time. Henry even feels comfortable enough to tell Jaden that he is trans which is something that he hasn’t even told his best friend at work.
The relationship moves quickly, maybe a little too quickly for me, but that’s just subjective. The author was great about revealing the major issues that the two main characters were dealing with at the beginning of the novel…and I suppose I struggled a bit with either of them being so keen to jump into a relationship after only a couple of days spent together.
There are some really great themes running through this book. The author writes a couple of perspectives about dating when you are dealing with something like agoraphobia. Jaden knows his own limits. He will ask for help when he needs it, but he’s capable and strong despite what he’s dealing with. I really enjoyed his character. I particularly liked that Jaden speaks up when Henry tries to “do things” for him… it’s not that he doesn’t appreciate it, but he wants the opportunity to get better, to try things… even if he might find that it’s too much.
As this is an own-voices novel, I found Henry’s voice really authentic and enjoyable. As a trans man, Henry has moved forward throughout his life with “transition” or escape from dysphoria as his goal. Once he had his bottom surgery… he seemed to be set adrift a bit. It reminded me of a book I read by Juno Roche called “Trans Power”. In that book, Juno writes about what “trans” is… is it a noun or a verb? Is it a destination? Is it a state? Is it fluid or static? Does the process even begin or end?
Henry is on a path to realizing where being “trans” fits in his life. Is it something he wants to continue to edit out? Is it something he wants to be out about? Henry’s thoughts about coming out are pretty intense at times. There are a few times during the course of the story when he comes out to people. Each time is different, and each time is emotional and a challenge for him.
Both main characters are on journeys and the author captures this really well. It’s clear this is an own-voices novel… it’s so authentic and feels really emotional. I really enjoyed this.
Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) discussion of hate crime in the past, description of physical assault in the past, descriptions of panic attacks brought on my agoraphobia, a character is treated badly at work because they are trans, character’s boss is transphobic, transphobic speech
I received an ARC of Freedom by E. Davies from Gay Romance Reviews in exchange for an unbiased review.