Firstly, I'd slap this book with a trigger warning
. Even though the major rape scene is not explicitly described, it still makes very uncomfortable reading from a third party point of view. Exercise your own judgement before reading, especially if you have trauma in your past. It recalled some very uncomfortable memories for me.
Secondly, I've shelved this on my bdsm shelf because there are elements of a D/s relationship between Cody and Victor, though it must be emphasised that this is not a major theme of the story.
With that out of the way...
Cody and Victor are a long-term couple, though they are struggling to pick up the pieces after Cody was assaulted. Then, Cody is sold by his ex, Jonathan, to cover his debts. After this second, brutal rape, Cody and Victor have to pick up the pieces and deal with the aftermath.
This story was very short - I read it on the train on the way back to Warragul from Melbourne. However, unlike some stories where it can feel lacking, this story felt just right. Any further length would have felt unnecessary.
Despite the uncomfortable themes, at its heart, Aftermath
was a sweet, romantic story. Erotica does not often deal with already established couples, so I loved that side of it. It was a very character-driven story and, even with its shortness, Angel Martinez managed to fit in a lot of extra scenes building a bigger picture of the characters and their lives.
It might have made very uncomfortable reading, but I liked the way the rape scene was described from Jonathan's point of view. Just having the sounds described was actually much more effective than if it had been described explicitly from Cody's point of view. It made my chest tight and my hands shake, and I suddenly regretted very much reading it in public on the train. Angel Martinez handled such a difficult scene very well, and I admire her so much more than I already did for that.
I really enjoyed Victor and Cody's relationship. As I said earlier, it has some elements of D/s, but it does not completely describe it. Victor, despite his gruff ways, really cares for Cody and is very protective of him. They're such a good couple, especially after they've worked their way through all of their problems.
There are very strong characters in Aftermath
. Each of the characters is three-dimensional and well-developed, with flaws and multi-faceted personalities. One of the most interesting characters was Jonathan. Despite the evil he helped come to pass, I couldn't hate him entirely, which, I think, is a testament to Angel Martinez's skill.
One of the best things about this book was the process of healing Cody and Victor went through. It wasn't easy, not at all. It was a realistic look at the aftermath of rape, and it showed that it was not just Cody that needed to heal, but Victor as well. They needed to heal as a couple, and as individuals. I felt that this realistic healing process reflected some of my own experiences, and for this reason, the book was very powerful. It is not one of these books that glamourises rape or dramatises it; it's very real, both to the characters and the reader.
All in all, though this was a very difficult book for me to read, I can't give it anything less than five stars. It was such a strong, powerful story, and has resonated with me ever since. I actually got a bit teary-eyes writing this review, almost a month on!
Highly recommended, but keep the trigger warning