A Mended Man (The Men of Halfway House #4) ~ Jaime Reese
I've read this book two times now. Reading this book is a journey, not only is it over 400 pages but it also rips your heart out for a big part of the book and slowly stitches everything back together. The hurt/comfort ratio in this book is just perfect. First things first, I don’t recommend reading this book as a standalone. I only re-read it out of order because I've already read this entire series. I read this entire seven book series in 10 days last summer, which I’m sure shows you how much I love these books. I’ve been wanting to re-read these books for months. Since I remember most things about this series, I don’t feel the need to re-read the books in order, but I think you should read these in order the first time, this book wouldn’t make much sense without a lot of the story in the three books before this. This book is not my absolute favourite one in the series, but since it’s still a 5 stars for me, so that just tells you how much I love this series. I re-read this one because I craved the hurt/comfort after trauma I knew this book would provide me with. This entire series is high on trauma and hurt/comfort, but this book is just on another level, it’s such a nice cozy blanket of comfort after a lot of trauma. This book is 400 pages of slow burn with a lot of angst and with a lot of push and pull and everything in this book works for me. I am a very big fan of well described trauma and seeing people recover from it, with a lot of therapy and their loved ones’ support. This book really puts an emphasis on how important therapy is. So a lot of this book is like catnip to me. I just love it so much.
"Jessie loves you. Period. It's that simple so don't make it complicated. That man thinks you're the stars, the moon, and the whole damn galaxy. And you know the only way you can make that man love you any more than he already does?" […] "Let him in, Aidan. Block everyone else out if that makes you feel safe. But give him that skeleton key to get inside all your secret rooms. If you can do that, he will love you more than you ever thought possible."
Aidan is a detective and he was in the Marines before that. Jesse is an attorney. Jessie and Aidan have been flirting with each other and falling for the other for almost two years. Aidan has a lot of issues and is grumpy and keeps pushing Jessie away. He doesn’t want to let him in. This is the story of them finally getting together.
First, one of my favourite tropes is a really good redemption arc for an asshole main character; complete with lots of grovelling and lots of working on yourself to be better. I love that trope so much and when done right, is absolute perfection. And the way it’s done in this book is just so good. I love Aidan’s character progression so much. Aidan is a first grade asshole, and he has been since we met him in the second book in the series. He’s one of the grumpiest book characters of all time and I love him for it. He’s still really grumpy for most of this book. The guy hides behind multiple barriers and hasn’t been himself in years (since he experienced trauma that gave him PTSD while he was a Marine). He never becomes a sunshine character or anything, but I just love seeing him open up and trust someone (when it’s clear he doesn’t trust anyone since he went to war, including his brother) and with the help of his man and a lot of therapy, he finally deals with what happens in his past and actually becomes happy. It’s so good to see. It’s such a perfect character progression. I love how it takes him a lot of time, isn’t easy at all and how he has to work on it very much. I love how he has set backs and sometimes he goes back in hiding mode, even if all he wants is to open up to his man, because that's what he’s been doing for years. I liked how that process takes a long time and isn’t done overnight. I love how this book shows that it needs a lot of work, patience, therapy and love from the people closest to him for Aidan to get better after his traumatic experience. I often got frustrated at Aidan because he had set back and was hot and cold, one second he would open up to Jessie and then he would close himself off. Aidan had so much walls up and did everything in his power to not let Jesse in for most of this book. But it was part of his recovery and his trauma and it made me sense so I couldn’t fault him for it. I like that at least he always tried to do better, even if it didn’t work some days. I really liked how Aidan knew that he needed to do better and how he got therapy to get better. And when Aidan did start opening up, very slowly, it was just a thing of beauty. It was just so lovely to see. That scene when Aidan opens up to Jesse and tells him his trauma is such a thing of beauty, that is one of my favourite scene in a book, ever.
"I want you," […] "Any way I can have you, as long as it's the real you. Do you hear me? I want the real you. With all your soft and hard edges. With all your truths, regardless of how dark they may be."
Second, these two are just perfect together. I love the grumpy and sunshine trope so much, it’s one of my favourites and this book is one of my favourite grumpy and sunshine books. I love Aidan and Jesse so much. They’re so fucking strong, both of them. Jesse is such a ray of sunshine ever if he has bad days and still traumatized by the past events in his life. And I love grumpy Aidan. One of my favourite trope is a grumpy character that has a soft spot for him man and his man only. I love how Aidan is so grumpy with everyone else but how he has the sweetest spot for Jesse and would do everything for him. I also really love how Aidan always defends Jesse. The connection between these two, so perfect. You can see how well they fit together. They’re the perfect foil for each other. I love the banter between them, it’s just so good. Also Jessie such a saint. Jessie is probably the most patient man on earth. He waited so long for Aidan to open up and let him in. Third, I love how much these guys fight for the other and how they would do everything for the other. They fight so much to be together and it’s so lovely. Love how Jessie trusts Aidan to always protect him. I love how Jessie has an need to be independent and do things on his own. But he lets Aidan take care of him, always. I really like how he didn’t try to do things on his own when he couldn’t and let Aidan help him, it was just so lovely. I just love how these guys are always there for each other and how they want to do everything in their power to make the other feel better.
“I love you […] Every second of every day, with every breath and heartbeat”
Fourth, the love between these two is just so strong and such a thing of beauty. The love these two have for the other is just so pure and so good. I love how you can see how much they love each other through their every move. I don’t think I can put into word how much there is love between these two, it’s just so fucking good. Fifth, reading this book made me cry so much the first time around and it was the same this time too. This book starts with a sexual assault attempt on one of the main characters and a lot of the following chapters is the description of his traumatized the character is and his stay at the hospital after the assault. And we get a lot of descriptions of the other main character and how it is for him while he waits to see if his man will be alright. I had forgotten how much the start of this book hurts. I was already crying so damn much and I was just 7% in. Also, there is a lot of talks of sexual assault in this book and everything is described in a lot of details and my little heart broke every time I read one of those scenes. Even if I knew what was coming, I still couldn’t help the tears. And I couldn’t help but cry at some of the very good moments, some moments in this book are just so damn beautiful I need to cry at them.
"I want someone who makes me feel special. Someone who respects me. Someone who makes me feel safe and strong. Someone who treats me like an equal in the relationship. Someone who cares enough about me to stop for a second and make sure I'm okay. Someone who I can be the real me with and lets me know that's okay." […] "That's you, Aidan. It's always been you. That's you without even trying."
Sixth, Aidan has a lot of trauma because of something that happened when he was in the marines. I really like how the event that triggered Aidan’s trauma is handled. He buried it inside, refuses to talk to anyone about it and he never made his peace with it. There is lots of things Aidan can’t do because it reminds him of the traumatic event he lived and he gets a lot of flashbacks. The flashbacks in this just feels so damn realistic. I like how the smallest thing happening would give him flashbacks. Everything about how Aidan’s trauma was portrayed just felt so damn realistic. I love how Aidan’s trauma affects everything he does. I love how sometimes things at work trigger him. All of it just feels so damn realistic. Also, it’s a small detail but I really really love how he gets more and more flashbacks because he starts opening up about his traumatic event instead of keeping it buried inside, it’s so damn realistic. I also loved how Jessie always did everything in his power to find ways to help Aidan, for example he bought him rechargeable nightlights so Aidan wouldn’t need to keep the TV open at night (Aidan needed the light from the TV to sleep) and he set up everything so Aidan could listen to soothing music while he was at work. Jessie was just so so damn good to Aidan and so understanding. Special mention, to how Jessie’s trauma is handled. That's also perfect. I like how sometimes he still has bad days and can’t stop thinking about it, even if he’s been in therapy for years. It’s just so realistic. Seventh, the pining in this book is so good. There is like 200 pages of pining and damn do I love it, so much. Eight, I absolutely love how solid these two are together. Aidan tries to push Jessie away, a lot, but Jessie is a saint and always stays by Aidan’s side while he figures everything out and he never lets Aidan push him away. Which was so lovely to see. And it really worked in the context of the book and I very much loved it.
"I love you, Jess. More than I ever thought was possible." […] "I know I don't say it, but I need you to know that you're not just important to me but essential. I don't walk around telling the air I appreciate it and need it to breathe. I just do."
Ninth, I like that the side suspense plots in this book actually make sense in the context of the story. Aidan is a detective, so going to work with him with he works on a couple of cases is just normal. I really enjoy how it’s not too present and how it doesn’t overshadow the romance. I like that the suspense scenes are never take away from the romance plot and the characters lives, but only serve as giving us more details about the characters and their lives. Tenth, I mentioned before, there aren't many sex scenes in this book, but the ones we do get are just perfect and fit the book perfectly. I just love them so much. Eleventh, I love the epilogue of this book so much. It’s just perfect. I love everything about the epilogue and how this book wraps up. I just love this book, so much. Every book in this series just work perfectly for me. They have everything I enjoy in a book. And I still love them, so so much.