- Representation: Deafness, PTSD, and others
- Sensitive and deep portrayal of human beings dealing with trauma
- Found family
- Beautiful romance
- Effortless Readability
- Beginning is a little slow
- Couple moments seem a bit cheesy in how serendipitous they are.
Reccomended for: Lovers of slow burn romance, lovers of found family, lovers of m/m romance in general, and anyone who wants to read a compassionate and well-researched romance featuring leads with disabilities.
It’s been a while since a book has hit me this hard. I feel kind of floored, to be honest. So, uh, I guess I’ll start with the typical summary and go into what I feel is so special about this.
Free Hand is the first book in the Irons and Works Series by E.M. Lindsey. It’s an adorable slice-of-life romance featuring a widely diverse cast. In it, we follow Derek, a tattoo artist suffering from PTSD caused by an abusive parent, and his love interest Basil, who is deaf, and has gone through plenty of microaggressions and full-on aggressions his whole life from the ignorant and entitled among the hearing.
They meet one fateful night, when a storm knocks out the power and locks them together in a bank. Basil sweetly helps Derek cope through a panic attack, and from that moment on, they seem to be completely and utterly destined for each other.
I was hesitant about this book going into it. For one, I tend to prefer things with dark and speculative elements and don’t really read a lot of straight up romances if I can help it, but also because disabilities and diversity are causes close to my heart, and I was afraid to be let down. But I can honestly say, I was more than pleasantly surprised.
This book proves that you can steep a story in diversity. You can include glimpses into the cultures of people with disabilities and other marginalized communities. You can have your characters care deeply about consent. You can defy toxic masculinity stereotypes in romance and have deep themes around struggles with mental health and found families doing everything right to support and care for each other. You can have all of that, and have it matter, and not just a prop of virtue-signalling, but an honest-to-goodness important part of the plot, the story, and the characters. There was no inspiration porn about this book—it was progressive; it was healthy, and it was beautifully human.
Another reason I was hesitant at first was because there was a lot about their lives in the beginning: the day to day, the personal relationships with coworkers, and I wasn’t sure if all of it was relevant. (Unnecessary day-to-day tedium in books that doesn’t progress the story is one of my major pet-peeves) but it turned out all that shit was relevant. So colour me surprised and happy, because even if there was a moment or two where it dragged or I felt a little like maybe I could skip some things, by the halfway point, I was so in love, it was worth it.
This book got me emotional. It got me teary-eyed and smiling and laughing along with the characters. I felt their anger, their frustration, their pain, right along with them. It was an amazing experience and I would recommend it to anyone, to be honest. Even people not super into contemporary romance. Hell, even people not into gay romance. If you can survive two mild, gay sex scenes, it’s definitely worth the read.
Note to Authors and Readers
If you have an m/m book you think I should review, let me know! I can’t promise I’ll read it, but I promise I’ll check out the sample and see if it’s a good fit for me! My Twitter DMs are open!
More Book Reviews by Sam Clover
So in 2022, I have taken on the yearly Goodreads Reading Challenge. For me, part of the challenge was to get back into reading for fun. I’ve been beta reading and volunteer-editing for friends and other writers for so long exclusively instead of reading things I can get absorbed in and enjoy that for a … More Books I Read in 2022 (pt. 1)