Title: Before I Wake
Author: Eli Easton
Length: 8,000 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Nurse’s aide Jonesy is drawn to Michael, the comatose victim of a hate crime whose homophobic parents have rejected him. Jonesey sits with Michael, reads to him, and encourages Michael to wake up. Jonesy may not be the smartest guy in the world, but he knows Michael needs him. And if he also thinks Michael is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen, well, Jonesy knows better than to hope for things that can never happen. Michael is lost in a dungeon, a dark and terrifying place. His only comfort is the sound of a man’s voice. Can Michael come back? Does he want to? Maybe Jonesy can convince him that some things are worth living for.
When the victim of a hate crime is brought into the hospital unit where Jonesy works, he feels immediately drawn to the young man. After seeing that Michael is alone with no-one to care for him, Jonesy decides to do all he can to talk to Michael and spend time with him outside work hours, hoping that this will help Michael to emerge from his coma.
This story is part of the fairy tale line of stories at Torquere and is loosely based on the Sleeping Beauty story. It was a very sweet tale with a likable narrator in Jonesy, who’s one of those big men who frighten people with his size but is really a nice and sweet, if a bit dim, guy who wouldn’t harm a fly. We learn lots about Jonesy through his narrative especially his past living with his aunt and his protective feelings for Michael. Jonesy’s loneliness comes through strongly and makes it all the more believable that he should latch onto Michael, and that he should come to care for him a great deal through the limited interaction that they share.
Another aspect of the story is showing us some of the difficulties faced by those with no support or adequate healthcare provision. As a Brit, used the the National Health Service, it’s baffling to me to see people given inadequate levels of care because they are currently unable to pay for it, and I thought the author had done a good job of showing Michael’s predicament without being too heavy handed about it. Jonesy really does become a modern-day knight in shining armour for Michael and I liked seeing how resourceful Jonesy becomes when faced with Michael’s need.
If I have any niggles about the story it’s that I felt slightly uncomfortable about the sex scene. The scene is written in a way which shows consent between both characters but Michael is still technically asleep/in a coma at the time. The sex wasn’t a necessary scene and could have easily been cut and I wondered whether it had been included because of publisher demands for this series of stories, rather than to forward the plot or characters.
The story ends on a hopeful note. Not really a HFN, but not a sad ending either and part of me really wanted to read on, to find out whether Jonesy’s hopes and dreams would be fulfilled. Maybe the author will write another story with these characters, I hope so.
Overall though this was a sweet story which was so lovely it made my heart ache a little. I really liked Jonesy and was quickly drawn into his narrative. I would recommend this story to those of you looking for a different type of romance but one which will touch your heart.