Review: Damaged by Noah Willoughby

Nobody is invincible…

On a seemingly ordinary night, Tom Otso's life changes forever when he is ambushed, attacked and left for dead. Though he survives the ordeal, Tom finds out at the hospital that the gravity of his injuries has left him permanently disabled.

Eric Kontio is a physical therapist who is assigned to Tom's case to help rehabilitate and adapt Tom to his new way of living. In helping people for over 20 years, Eric has never met anyone with such an incredible spirit and positive attitude as Tom. Eric becomes infatuated with him and marvels at his incredible progress.

Being together every day, the two men grow closer as friends, but things become complicated by Tom's jealous and moody boyfriend, Adrian, and Eric's professionalism being doubted by his superior. When the true feelings of both men come to the surface, so do their painful pasts which could make or break their relationship.

This is a difficult review to write. There were a fair few issues, but the overall premise was interesting, and the length meant I didn’t give up on it before the end.

I liked the idea of Tom and Eric. I liked the idea of a fairly easy relationship, and the friends to lovers premise is one of my favourites. I could get on board with the overall storyline, but the issues around plot holes, lack of depth of character, and poor relationship development was disappointing.

Tom wakes from a coma that lasts four weeks, and asks the Doctor to call his then boyfriend, Adrian. Adrian arrives at the hospital in hysterics, but I’m wondering what Adrian was doing for four weeks? How did he not know his lover was in the hospital? Crazy as it sounds, if my partner didn’t come home within 24 hours, and I was unable to get in contact with them, you can bet I would be calling the police, and every hospital in the area. This didn’t make sense to me at all and it was not explained. It just was. I can’t accept that. I need to know why Adrian was not around for four weeks, and had no idea his boyfriend had been attacked. Did Tom not have ID on him at the time? There was no indication he was robbed. He was attacked by known assailants, and since the Doctor knew who he was (using his name to address him when he woke up) then surely they would have contacted a next of kin, or gone to his house to see if anyone lived with him.

I also didn’t like the way Adrian was presented as a character. This is someone who has been in Tom’s life since college. I know some people are melodramatic - I have several of them in my family - but I felt that Adrian was presented in a way that made it easier for the ‘jealousy’ so that there was room for the Tom and Eric relationship. If the focus was on the breakdown of the relationship due to the stresses of Tom’s recovery, I would have found that more palatable. Throwing Adrian’s character under the bus was not good for me.

There was a lot of telling in this story, and some long winded, poorly timed dialogue. I think this would have been better if the writing was tighter. There was a lot of time hopping, with not much to tie it together, and while I can believe that Eric was interested in Tom, and vice versa, I didn’t get the impression that they were bonding in any meaningful way.

The things that were revealed during the story, and Tom’s big secret was rushed through and then stalled in a way that didn’t progress the story. Eric is supposed to be older, wiser, more put together, and he failed in being a mature adult and explaining himself. I felt this was used as an angst point, and the story would have been much better without it.

The single intimate scene was rushed, and I didn’t really feel it. Probably because there wasn’t enough showing. It was an important part of the story (important enough to include it) and I’m asking myself why it was even in there.

This story had a lot of potential with the subject matter. There are some social issues that should have had more time and depth to get the message across. These issues were part of the plot, so they deserved more exploration.

While there was a lack of showing, the writing style flowed relatively well. There were no obvious errors, and the grammar was pretty good. This has not put me off the author, because the ideas were good ones, and I think over time, with a more developed writing style, the execution will improve.

Recommended for those who want a quick read, with an injured MC and a friends to lovers story.

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