It had been a while since I had read one of Ms Dee’s stories, even though I have liked all the ones I’ve read. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was looking for something else on amazon and realized that this novel was free (still is, as of this writing).
I read the blurb and one clicked–not realizing this is yet another New Adult novel, with alternating first person points of view.
I have mentioned a few times that I’m absolutely not a fan of this particular subgenre of romance, so I was not very enthused as I started to read, but it is Ms Dee, and I really like her work, so I continued reading…and then looked up, a hundred pages later.
So here you have my review.
Blind Passion, by Bonnie Dee
This category length novel is the first story in the Wyatt Brothers quartet. A sweet romance, though with a bit more explicit language, it’s set in Chicago, and the protagonists are both in their early twenties.
Leah, our leading lady, has lost her sight due to a head injury sustained in a car crash, and is still struggling to adapt to her new reality as someone with a pretty major disability. J.D. has recently been discharged from the Army, after first being captured by the Taliban, and then rescued by fellow soldiers–some of which died during the operation. He suffers from PTSD, which he combats by taking prescription medication while mostly eschewing the benefits of actual therapy.
Here’s the blurb from the author’s website:
Through personal darkness, two strangers find their way to each other.
Leah Schaeffer has come a long way since an accident took her sight. She’s finally ready for independence, but convincing her wealthy parents she’ll be safe on her own isn’t easy. The first night in her own place at last, she encounters her neighbor with the midnight velvet voice and her world shifts again.
Since finishing a military tour, J.D. Wyatt has struggled both financially and emotionally. When Leah’s parents hire him to act as her bodyguard, he seizes the opportunity. The catch—she can’t know she’s being followed. As he grows closer to the intriguing woman and begins to have feelings for her, the burden of this secret grows heavier.
Although Leah and J.D. have suffered different types of trauma, their mutual understanding of each other’s pain bonds them. But their relationship, dependent on absolute trust, is rooted in lies which will detonate like an IED when exposed.
The setup is, as you can see from the blurb, fantastic bordering on the ridiculous.
After twenty months or so, Leah is finally ready to leave the overprotective home in which she recuperated from her injuries. At first, her parents are all against it, but seeing her determination to follow through, and knowing that they can’t stop her without damaging their relationship with her, and Leah’s confidence in herself, irreparably, they choose to do something underhanded as hell.
They hire a security firm to provide a bodyguard. Between a day time aide and having security living literally across the hall from her, they feel confident enough that Leah will be almost as safe as she would living at home with them.
J.D. is one of the many ex military taking assignments from this firm, but beyond the money, he has another reason to take this particular assignment. A couple of weeks before the Scheaffers had contacted the firm, J.D. and Leah has met, incredibly briefly, and the powerful attraction he felt between them at the time, much more than the generous compensation he’s offered, convince him to sign on.
The generous compensation mentioned includes the renting of an apartment across the hall from Leah’s, and a flexible enough schedule–since, at least for a few months, the aide will serve as protection enough for Leah during the day.
Obviously the attraction J.D. felt was very much mutual, which the contact fostered by increasingly frequent contact helps develop, first into tentative friendship, and pretty soon into a full blown relationship.
Until, that is, the fecal matter hits the aeration device.
Ms Dee excels, in my opinion, in writing believable characters, and this story is no exception.
Leah’s continued struggles with anger and frustration, along with the more mundane struggle of learning to function fully as an independent and productive adult despite her recent disability, is written very convincingly. She is self aware enough to realize that some of her reactions to things are out of proportion, and struggles with feelings of diminished worth–after all, she cannot be the person she was, because she cannot do the things she once did.
Leah’s relationship with her parents is also complicated. They were a happy enough family before, and she’s always known they love her, but the dynamics of their relationship are forever changed; their hovering and worrying, and invasions of privacy, a constantly, if silently, raging battle between them.
Both of these things tangle together inside Leah when the truth comes out, and I found her reactions and feelings as she struggles to decide what to do–about her parents, about J.D., about even staying in the apartment–very well written and easy to understand.
J.D. has a number of issues, some of them predating his fateful stint in the army. A pretty dysfunctional family (as an example, his father demands a paternity test for one of his brothers), of which only the three brothers, who are obviously not close, remain. J. D. feels inadequate in general, but very much when it comes to Leah.
It’s not only that she comes from an obviously wealthy family, but that it’s a ‘normal’ family. They have class and, fucked up scheme to protect Leah or not, they love each other deeply.
While J.D. is barely threading water financially, moonlighting a few hours a week as a bartender at one of his brothers’s bar; popping pills for anxiety and depression as needed, and occasionally participating in bare-knuckled cage fighting to vent some of his rage and aggression.
When, fairly early in their relationship, J.D. could have come clean with Leah, he allows himself to be convinced by her father to keep quiet and maintain the status quo. In part, because it is what he wants, but also in part because of those feelings of inadequacy. As he argues with himself, knowing he must tell Leah the whole story, he feels that he’s living on borrowed time, grasping what happiness he can.
Because, deep inside, he knows he never would have been good enough for her.
It was very, very easy to me to relate to both these characters feelings and reactions to their circumstances–they are both very human. Decent, sensible, emotional, strong, weak–all these and more in turn as life throws things at them.
I confess that, given their individual struggles with depression and other issues, I don’t see Leah and J.D. having an easy way in a relationship. At the same time, I was convinced that they both care enough about the other to give it a damn good try. An added bonus is that they are self-aware enough and mature enough to navigate some of the bigger, immediate obstacles in their lives, and not just the ones between them.
On this point, here’s a fantastic quote, from Leah:
Small twists in life led to completely different paths, I’d learned from my accident, and there was no point in obsessing over what might have been.
I also liked that these two people do not live in a vacuum. Leah’s relationship with her best friend and with Holly, her aid, as well as with her parents, are also well drawn. I had a bit more trouble with J.D.’s brother Micah. He is clearly seen by everyone else as a character–dropping the most ridiculous pick up lines one after the other, mocking everyone and everything relentlessly and tactlessly, etc.–and I presume the reader is supposed to roll her eyes at his antics and know, since he’s so obviously the protagonist of the next book, that there’s something more to him. I confess I could never get there myself, and thus he remained a caricature–the only one in the story.
I enjoyed, immensely, how J.D.’s therapist in the latter part of the story is written–I would love to know a therapist like that, by golly!
Finally, I appreciate that Ms Dee addressed just how unlikely the setup is, not only from the perspective of ethical concerns, but financially. While addressing it doesn’t render it any less fantastic, I for one prefer it when the author does not simply expect the reader to ignore the elephant in the room, so to speak.
I don’t think I’ll read the rest of the series, because I have trouble relating to New Adult characters as a rule, and because I wasn’t as immersed in these characters’ story as I was in, say, those of the Ivy Years or Trade Me books. I very much enjoyed this book however, and I think that readers who are fans of NA will like it even more.
Blind Passion gets 7.75 out of 10.