REVIEW : The Empty Box (Square Peg book 3) by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow
Dave’s taking life day by day after leaving Travis, his emotionally abusive partner of fifteen years. Working as the cook at the Square Peg is all the social life he has, and he’s content with that.
When a swerving car leaves him sprawled on the snowy sidewalk with a broken ankle, being rescued by his new neighbor–young, sinfully pretty Jeremy–seems like the start of something good, even if twenty years separate the two men. But Travis isn’t content to let Dave slip away and Dave’s his own worst enemy, holding Jeremy at arms’ length when Jeremy wants to get as close as possible.
With decisions about his future are complicated by his tangled past, can Dave accept the second chance Jeremy offers or will his heart stay empty of love?
Third in the Square Peg series (The Square Peg, the Broken Triangle)
Dear Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow, I enjoyed the first two books in this series quite a bit, but it took me a while to start this one (it was published in 2015). For the new readers, you can easily read this book as stand-alone. The couples of the past books (all the workers and owners of a gay-friendly bar named The Square Peg) have supporting roles in this book, but the main couple in this one is different.
Also, if you want to start from the beginning, I have to warn you that while this book does not have BDSM in the sex scenes at all, the first book does (I don’t remember whether the second one did or not).
I have to admit that as much as I trust these writers, the blurb for this book was not making me very eager to start it. I’ve been reading m/m for about ten years, and when some book buddies asked whether I am tired of the genre, my honest answer was absolutely not. I read across several genres, so that helps, and I enjoy romance, and m/m is still hands down my favorite. Having said that, though, over the years I’ve absolutely become tired of certain, I don’t even know the right word to use here, tropes? No, that’s not it. I am tired of certain things so many m/m writers seem to use and overuse so very often, especially excessive angst.
Obviously people have different definitions of what angst means to them and mine is not set in stone, but I can say that for me it is not about a character facing and overcoming problems, or dealing with serious issues – it is the over top way a character’s sufferings are often described.
So anyway, I read the words “abusive partner” in the blurb and I ran away for quite some time – because I and excessive angst are not friends these days. But then I took a deep breath and dove in, and I’m glad I did. This book did a lovely job of portraying a character who is still going through the aftermath of years of emotional abuse without engaging in too much angst. Dave’s struggle was in no way minimized (although that’s from somebody who never was an abuse survivor so take my opinion with a grain of salt), but for me at least it was not a very angsty book.
About a year has passed since Dave left Travis and as the blurb tells you, he is taking it day by day. He has a good job at The Square Peg and he has coworkers and bosses who are also his friends and who love and support him. But he does feel lonely at times and as much as he fights against it, his self-esteem took some hits after years of emotional abuse. There was no physical abuse, but Travis played nasty games with his head for years.
Dave is 47, I believe, and he does feel lonely and does not want to be alone, but when by chance he and his new neighbor Jeremy come into close contact, Jeremy is not someone Dave envisions as a boyfriend. That’s too bad really, because Jeremy is exactly whom Dave needs and Dave ends up being exactly whom Jeremy needs as well.
Jeremy is 29 and he builds computers while working from home. Predictably and understandably, Dave keeps talking about how Jeremy is too young for him. I liked how Jeremy was not taking it sitting down, and as I said, I think a big age difference is a very understandable thing to worry about, but at some point it became a touch too repetitive for me. I was glad Jeremy showed his annoyance, though, because I thought that was what Dave needed.
“I’m not some sweet innocent virgin with a sexual-identity crisis. I like women, and I like men. Totally happy with that. Right now, I like you. Want you. Have you seen the porn on my computer? You’d get off on half of it. Assuming you’re into porn and more or less vanilla, because I’m not so much into the kink. And you wouldn’t be the first man I’ve kissed or seen naked in the flesh, so don’t assume I’ll run away screaming and leave you with blue balls.” And Dave had smiled, unmoved“.
So the guys have to overcome the age difference issue, which obviously concerned Dave more than Jeremy, and overall it was nicely handled, I thought, but the main conflict was over how Travis kept trying to get back together with Dave. Let me say that I really do not remember a story where dealing with past abuse storyline was handled in a similar way.
I do not want to give out spoilers here, but I will say that while Travis’ behavior was not justified or excused in any way, the authors still made me feel, if not sympathetic to him, then at least to “regret the waste” he made of his life. As I said, I am worried about judging the believability of this storyline because I am a complete outsider, but as a story I really liked it.