Guest Review: Mute Witness by Rick R. Reed

The abuse of a little boy turns a community against a loving gay couple, and nobody comes out of it unscathed.

Sean and Austin have the perfect life: new love, a riverfront home, security. Their love for one another is only multiplied when Sean’s eight-year-old son, Jason, visits on the weekends.

And then their perfect world shatters.

Jason goes missing.

When the boy turns up days later, he's been so horribly abused he’s lost the power to speak. Immediately small town minds turn to the boy’s gay father and his lover as the likely culprits. What was a warm, welcoming community becomes a lynching party out for blood.

As Sean and Austin struggle to stay together amidst innuendo, the very real threat of Sean losing the son he loves emerges. Yet the true villain is much closer to home, intent on ensuring the boy’s muteness is permanent.

2nd edition

1st Edition published by ManLove Romance Press, 2009.

Guest Reviewer: Fantasy Living

This story was intense, dark, and horribly confronting. There is nothing fluffy or dismissive about it.

Sean and Austin live in a small town of 12,000 or so people, and have weekend visitation with Sean’s son, Jason. A frightened midnight call from Shelley, Sean’s ex-wife, reveals that Jason has gone missing, and Sean’s life starts to crumble around him.

When Jason is found, suspicions and suggested whispers start to stir around town, starting with Shelley’s Homophobic mother. Jason has been traumatised, and cannot speak of what happened to him, which puts a strain on the family, and does nothing to dispel the accusations that are being thrown Sean’s way.

As a mother of four, this was an extremely difficult read for me (although I imagine it is difficult for all). But it was riveting, because of the tangled emotions that go along with finding out someone raped your child. I cannot imagine how it is for those families, children, and adult survivors who have been through this. My heart bleeds for all the survivors out there who have been forever changed by a monster, whatever form they take.

Nothing in this story was glossed over, excused, or explained away. We got the full confronting details, and the continued threat to Jason throughout the story. Rick R. Reed handled this story, I felt, in a way that gave the survivors a true voice, and showed the fallout for everyone involved.

Intellectually I know there are people out there who would think gay and pedophile are synonymous, and that is terrifying to me. Even though the story didn’t go into any witch hunt scenario, and most of the accusations were coming from one person, it hurt to see how a father’s love for his child can be twisted into something ugly.

There were some issues with the plot for me. Some of it required me to suspend disbelief, but it wasn’t overreaching. I am a big city dweller, born and raised, so I’m not sure how things work in a small town, which is where my disbelief comes from. There were some important things missing, including mention of therapy, recovery, and additional support from medical professionals. But the short timespan can probably explain that away to a degree. I also know I live in a different country, so things could be different here in that regard too.

I really liked the way Jason was handled. I liked the glimpse into his point of view. I also thought the way this was written didn’t put any pressure on the reader to want Jason to speak. I understood his muteness, his terror, and his trauma, even without the glimpse into his mind. There was no tension from the parents to try and force him to speak of what happened. There was no insinuation that lay blame at his feet, that things were happening as they were because of his inability to speak up. The story lead me through a series of actions and reactions purely from the adults, and that is where the tangled web stayed.

The most terrifying thing for me was the loss of rights Sean experienced at a time when he should have been the one right there taking care of things. I know it happens. It is deeply disturbing, and it was easy to see how things began to really fall apart. The thin threads of a relationship that Shelley and Sean were holding onto didn’t lend favour for Sean to push the way I feel I would push. It was frustrating, but it was honest, and believable.

I want to address the attacker’s point of view - of which we see plenty of. It goes into details of their past, their feelings, and their inability to admit culpability. For me, this was not a way to gain sympathy as a reader, or dismiss the severity of their actions by showing their side of the story. For me, it lent to the articles, interviews, and case studies I have read (many years ago) where the perpetrator tries to explain away their actions, without acknowledging their crimes. Laying blame solely at the victim’s feet. This is a common thread as far as I’ve read (and I admit it isn’t something I extensively studied), where the attacker claims seduction, an inability to control their ‘urges’, or just downright ‘I’m the victim here’. It is the same story that plays out when most documentaries look into the lives of child predators. I did not feel anything but contempt, rage, and an inability to connect, which is as it should be. Be warned, this point of view is intense, horrifying, and deeply discomforting.

The ending was a little too clean for me, but I am also mostly glad it ended the way it did. I would have preferred a little more from the final chapters, but I’m sure Mr Reed has his reasons for leaving it where he did.

This story is not focused on any romance. It is a contemporary piece about life, how pain and terror affects everybody within a family, and how that terror ultimately impacts the abused. It does address how a relationship is impacted by tragic events, but it is not the primary plot. I think the tag on Goodreads of MM Romance is actually doing a disservice to this story’s credibility. It is a suspense novel with LGBT characters and should be tagged under LGBT contemporary fiction, or simply fiction, as it is on Amazon. Confusion of readers when they think they are reading a romance, usually inhibits the experience of reading such a story.

Fair warning, the triggers in this story are through the roof. The most obvious is the rape of a child (off page), the injuries as a result of that rape (on page), but also not covered in the blurb is adult rape, and physical abuse, both suggested and within the story scene. I would be remiss if I did not warn people about that here.

I am definitely now a Rick R. Reed fan. I think he has captured the essence of this story well, and I enjoy his writing style, the difficult subjects he chose to tackle, and the delivery of the content. Definitely a story that will stay with me for a while.

For more information on:

DSP Publications

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