Saturday, 16 March 2013

Embracing The Unexpected, Ella Jade

Embracing the Unexpected

A straight attorney falls for the male psychiatrist leading an anger management class he is forced to attend.

- Review by Cindi

***** Note that this review will be one huge spoiler right down to the final resolution. There will also be sarcasm and this review is quite long. Keep that in mind before reading.*****

Parker Phillips is a successful corporate attorney.  When Ava, his best friend in the world, was attacked by an abusive boyfriend Parker attacked the man in his home and charges were pressed against him for assault.  To protect Ava, he plead guilty to assault and was sentenced to six anger management sessions.  He feels the sessions are a waste of time as he never would have blown up on the man had he not done what he did to Ava.  He does not participate in the sessions with the exception of simply showing up.  After the fifth week, the psychiatrist conducting the sessions, Dr. Jace Cross, asks to speak with Parker privately.  For the first time in his life, Parker feels attraction to a man.  He has had many relationships with females in the past but each ended poorly as he got bored quickly and the sex was bland.  He always felt there was something missing.  Jace, on the other hand, is openly gay.  At the end of the after class meeting, Jace gives Parker his business card.  Two weeks after the class is completed, Parker uses it and shows up at Jace's office unannounced.

Ava and Parker have been best friends since high school.  While Parker grew up in a happy home with both parents Ava came from a broken, abusive home.  During her teen years and beyond, Parker's family was more hers than her own.  She and Parker had a sexual relationship when they were teens but it did not do anything for either one so they decided to just stay friends... very close friends.  So close in fact that the friendship completely detracted from the story. I  will come back to that.

Parker is worried about Ava.  She had lived in a very abusive relationship for two years which led to Parker's assault charges months earlier... a relationship that Parker blames himself for.  He is determined to protect his friend at all costs, even pushing her to move into his home and to sleep in his bed every night to keep the nightmares at bay.  After one particular bad episode Parker shows up at Jace's office practically begging him to help his friend who he calls "My Ava" (and yes, reading My Ava over and over throughout the book was a bit much for this reader).  Not only does Jace say he will help but he offers to show up at Parker's home for dinner to do it.

Hmm..  Jace is touted as being the best psychiatrist in the area.... the state even.   There is a minimum of six months wait to get an appointment with him.  He has several books published on psychiatry with more coming out.  He does speaking engagements and has various other things that he is involved in professionally.  But yet... "Sure, I'll do a house call.  Sure, you can pop in my office any time you want.  Who cares about the other patients I have to put off for you?  You know, the ones who booked their appointment a year ago because I'm so busy.  Because I want to fuck you... even though you claim to be straight... I shall say screw it to everyone else and drop everything else in my life to go to your home to help your female friend."  Pardon my sarcasm and yes, that was paraphrasing but you get the gist of what I'm saying.  

Jace goes to Parker's for dinner to meet Ava.  During a private conversation with Jace, Ava tells him that sure, she will go to his office for therapy (something she has flat out refused to do up to this point) but only with the condition that Jace show Parker who he really is... meaning gay.  Parker has never considered himself to be gay. He has had sex with various women without so much as glancing at a man thinking "Ooh... I want that" but Jace will show him what he has been suppressing all of this thirty or so years and he will suddenly have the revelation "I am a gay man!  I've been faking it all these years!"   Ava, who is usually too emotionally damaged (and I am NOT making light of that) to leave Parker's home decides to leave the two men alone for the dinner so Jace can work his mojo on Parker.  And work it he does.  Parker is battling his sexuality and is terrified of the attraction he has for Jace and what does Parker do? Keep in mind he has never touched or wanted a man sexually.  He gives Jace a hand job.  The first night.  This first night turns into a whole lot more as the weeks go by and Parker and Jace become a couple that includes a lot of sex.

Things that seriously bugged me about this story:

- Parker.  I'm not a big fan of gay-for-you stories on my best days but I didn't buy Parker's sudden revelations of being gay and his jumping into it with both feet so quickly.  I'm not saying it doesn't happen in real life (I wouldn't know).  I am saying that I didn't buy it with Parker.

- Ava.  Ava survived horrific abuse at the hands of her former boyfriend and family members.  I will say again that I am not making light of that in any way.  But... not only was there entirely too much of Ava in the book but her character was annoying.  I have no problem with females in my M/M books.. to an extent.  And I totally understand that without Ava Parker and Jace never would have met but it got to be too much too quickly.  By the time I got to the end of the book I was seriously sick of her and I really did not like her at all.  

a).  Ava allowed Parker to risk jail time instead of telling the police what happened the night he attacked her boyfriend.  I get that when someone is traumatized they don't need anything added to it by throwing in more trauma.  But here is my question... if Ava was rushed to the hospital by Parker with what could have been life-threatening injuries on the exact same night that Parker attacked Mike (the ex) did no one question the coincidences?  Parker is a publicly well known attorney in the area.  His best friend has been admitted to the hospital not only beaten but as a possible rape victim... Parker attacks the man his best friend lived with that same exact night and no police were involved with the exception of Parker getting arrested for assault?  Parker now has a record because the truth was never told.   I understand suspending belief. I do this every time I open my Kindle.  But this?  Too unrealistic.

b).  Mike shows up at the end of the book after Ava has finally come to terms (thanks to Jace and therapy) with what she had lived with.  Mike is wanting to run for public office and wants Ava back because it will help his campaign.  There is a bit of arguing and when Jace and Parker show up a punch is thrown.  Mike keeps pushing Ava and even says he would call her the next day because she will go back with him.  The man, who is a proven abuser and rapist, is running for public office but yet once again, his behavior will be kept secret.  No charges are filed even though there are threats.  No public revelations about this man that would definitely keep him out of office. Let's just brush this under the rug... again.  That bothered me. It was basically "Don't press charges against Jace for punching you and we will keep quiet about who you really are. And while we're at it, we'll leaving the abusing rapist out there to do the same thing to more women and to hide his true nature from the voting public."

- Ava is Jace's patient.  She is having a meltdown .... i.e. a breakthrough... in his office.  Parker hears his friend crying and rushes into the office therefore totally screwing up all progress that Jace had just made.  I haven't asked my therapist friend how she would handle this if it happened to her but I have a feeling it would be the same way that Jace did.

- Jace's ex, Tyler.  Early in the book Jace tells Parker all about the one and only long-term relationship that he has had.  It had lasted for years and when the two men went their separate ways it destroyed Jace and still hurts him to this day.  Tyler decides to show up unexpectedly and is sitting on Jace's steps when he and Parker arrive home from Parker's family's home.  This is the first time in years that Jace has seen Tyler.  Jace arrives with Parker.  How does Jace introduce Parker to Tyler only a week or so after having professed his love for the man?  As his friend.  His friend.  Not his lover.  Not his boyfriend. Not his partner.  His friend.  That folks would have been game-over for this girl.  Jace ends up doing something stupid when it comes to Tyler and there is a huge blow up with Parker over it of course.  It gets resolved neatly and quickly with a tiny bit of drama and even a medical issue.

- Parker's coming out scene that wasn't.  Parker, having always considered himself to be straight, is obviously in the closet.  There is quite a bit of build-up over him coming out to his family and coworkers.  He is nervous about it and worries about the implications of telling these people that he is gay.  When he does come out it is completely off-page and mentioned in passing later when Parker is taking Jace to meet his parents for the first time.  Which leads me to Parker's family.... his overly sweet and accepting family.  This is great.  Really.  You don't want your parents to be upset over who you love.  But I can say with complete certainty that not one parent of a straight person would act the way Parker's did when meeting Jace so to make them this way when meeting their son's gay lover goes beyond unrealistic.

- My final complaints about this book are big ones.  Parker and Jace.  Both are depicted as well educated, intelligent men.  They act like teenage girls.  Both men have professions that involve communication.  They have an argument and each acts like a child by either pouting or walking away.  Their relationship went from "just leave" or "it's done" to the opposite extreme of sugar-coated-sickeningly sweetness.  I could take neither character seriously.

Overall, the book was simply okay for me.  It started out really good with the initial meeting of Parker and Jace but then it went downhill from there as a result of Ava and the other issues mentioned above.  I hate that because I was hoping for something that would make me feel good when it ended.  Instead it left me frustrated. I struggled to find anything that really did it for me but I couldn't come up with much.  I will not judge the author on this book alone.  I am aware that others loved this book.  I only hate that I am not one of them.


  1. WOW. What A review. I believe you have hit some significant 'nails' on the head really well. I have real problems with people in the mental health ad caring professions acting unprofessionally (even in fiction) and this psychiatist acted unprofessionally - a) starting up a relationship with a patient and b) not encouraging the relevant people to speak up about an abusive rapist going into office OR not being reported to the police at all. That just annoys me right there. I have a pet peeve of domestic violence being swept under the rug, period. It sends out an irresponsible message. When professionals are involved? It really ticks me off. Also, wouldn't an attorney/lawyer who is convicted of assault charges be disbarred? I don't know that one, but I do know this those in law enforcement here can't have an AVO or restrainig order against them and be in the profession. I'll tell you in an email how I feel about some of the other points you've raised.
    I know you hate leaving negative reviews but we cannot love them all and this is constructive with valid points. It gives people another perspective and a choice as to whether these things bother them or not. Some people may not have a problem with them.

  2. Thanks, my friend.

    The attorney was not the doc's patient.. his friend was. The psychiatrist had led the anger management class that he only showed up for but did not participate otherwise. Everything you said bothered me in the book as well. You would think a conviction would disbar the attorney. That's something I will research out of curiosity. The sweeping the abuse under the rug and how the ex was handled angered me big time.

    I really do hate leaving bad reviews but I couldn't let this one go unfortunately. I'm sure some others will enjoy the book. I couldn't get beyond the abuse thing and the way the characters acted.

  3. You are welcome. There is a profeeesional relationship with the attorney because he took part in a mandatory group run by the psychiatrist. So the psychiatrist breached a code of conduct. And it's just not good practice to do this. See how pedantic I am about this pet peeve of mine? I agree, the DV and sweeping it under the rug was bad.

    1. You're right and I DID think about the professional thing with him being in the anger management class led by the guy. The psychiatrist is the one who actually made the first move so there you go.

      I like that you are passionate about these things. You should be. That's one of the things I appreciate the most about you.