ARC Review by Annie: Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke

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After scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge. Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate. Fate is now a calculation.

But loving someone isn’t.

When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face-to-face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon’s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned. Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice—love one another or defy fate.

Release Date: September 21st
Goodreads
Interlude Press | Amazon | B&N | Apple | Kobo | Smashwords
Book Depository | Indiebound

reviewedbyannie

*A copy of this was provided via NetGalley

There is so much I want to mention in this review because… you guys, this book! I love it so much that I’m already reading it for the second time.

First thing I noticed (and have to do a shout-out for) was the content warnings for each respective chapter at the beginning of the book.

The characters!
I adored every character, though Aiden is without a doubt my favorite cinnamon roll character. His brother says it best when he describes Aiden as a teenaged tiger.

“You’re like a six-month-old tiger; people wanna pet you but they’re also scared you might kill them. That’s the best way to be.”
[…] “Why a six-month-old tiger?”
“Because they’re not totally grown yet. Still fluffy and cute, but big enough to eat you. Teenaged tiger. Emotionally constipated, brooding tiger.”

That just nails it. For those who don’t know him he appears to be “hard” and prickly – and he can be those things when he wants to – but it’s a safety mechanism; once you get a look behind the walls he’s put up he’s such a sweet and precious cinnamon roll. He doesn’t think of himself very highly, but he’s someone who’ll buy a homeless person a meal, just to do something good. I also loved how tactile he was. And can anyone who walks his cat be bad? Because I don’t think so.
I really treasured that with Shannon, Aiden could just be. Aiden trusts only a small circle of people, so seeing him open up to Shannon made my heart skip beats.
Shannon appears to be “perfect” compared to Aiden. He’s one of the youngest people to ever become a detective – he’s determined and successful in what he does. And he never expected his Rose Road to be someone like Aiden – someone who wears leather jackets and rides a motorbike. At first glance you’d think they have nothing in common, but – and that’s something I really enjoyed – over the course of the book they realise, that they have more in common than it looks like at first.
Surprisingly Chelsea really became a character I liked as well. I wasn’t so sure at first – ok I didn’t really like her – but I’ve really come to care about her and am looking forward to – hopefully – see more of her in the second book of the series.

The Bi/Pan rep!
The Camellia Clock doesn’t care about gender. Because of that there’s no surprise when one’s Rose Road turns out to be of the same sex. I don’t think enby people were specifically mentioned, but the way I understood the Camellia Clock is, that it pairs you with another soul – no matter where on the binary or non-binary someone is, no matter if you’re allo or on the asexual spectrum and it also does not exclude poly-relationships. It simply pairs you with the person(s) who is/are perfect for you. It was weird at first to read about a world where there is no queerphobia. Seems like such a fantastical place where no one cares about who you’re with. If I could, I’d move there within the hour!

The Mental Health rep!
Aiden wasn’t magically cured. He got his happy ending, yes, but his dysthymia didn’t magically disappear because he found his Rose Road. We see him have bad and good days during the book, and everything in between. The author mentioned on twitter that the mental health rep is #ownvoices. I don’t have dysthymia, so I feel like I’m not the best to judge, but I think that the way Aiden’s mental health is handled here is good. I’m not sure if there are ownvoices reviews regarding the mental health aspect out there yet but you should definitely check those out.

(Edited to add, that Jude reviewed Fortitude Smashed on her website, where she talks about the mental health rep from an ownvoices point ot view.)

The Prose!
So lyrical, enchanting and consuming. Brooke created this gorgeous, layered – slightly SciFi-y – setting and filled it with life. The prose reminded me a bit of Jude Sierra’s writing style. They’re not the same, but both have this beautiful way with words that just leaves you in awe. More than once did I reread a passage simply because it’s so beautifully written. Fortitude Smashed is just all around gorgeous – the characters with their struggles and hopes, the way the mental health is handled, but most of all the love and care between Aiden and Shannon. Their back and forth was sweet and delicious. This book isn’t just another soul mates-story where you wouldn’t know that the characters are soul mates without being told about it – it’s a story where you can really feel why these characters were destined to end up together.

I also loved the way Brooke handled consent in this story. And not just consent but also how considerate Shannon is. Aiden is a virgin when he meets his Rose Road. Usually virginity is treated like something you just have to lose by a certain age – not just in fiction, but in real life as well. If you’re still a virgin when you’re over that age, it’s talked about as if one should be ashamed of it. Losing “the v-Card” is treated like it’s a status symbol and to see Shannon not react in that typical macho way was just everything to me. He doesn’t just say that they’ll do things at Aiden’s pace, but actually walks the talk. And there’s also not that stupid posturing about being “the first”. To me there’s nothing sexier than that. I don’t think I could love Shannon any more than I did in that moment.

Taylor Brooke is definitely an author to look out for. All that’s left to say now is: read it.

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After fleshing out a multitude of fantastical creatures as a special effects makeup professional, Taylor turned her imagination back to her true love—books. When she’s not nestled in a blanket typing away on her laptop, she can be found haunting the local bookstore with a cup of tea, planning her next adventure, and fawning over baby animals.

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Genre: Contemporary Genre: Sci-Fi Orientation: Bisexual Orientation: Pansexual Pairing: M/M Publisher: Interlude Press Review Tag: Friends to Lovers Tag: Illness / Injury Tag: Own-Voices Tag: Part of a series Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

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