“Alone and curious and hopeful, he’d asked them about his Rose Road: Will they be as magical as this? Will they be extraordinary? Will they change me?
They’d answered him in October, three resounding one-syllable words, yes, yes, yes, and Shannon didn’t need to ask anything else.”
Thank you very much to Interlude Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke was not an anticipated novel for me this year, but I had seen quite a few of my fellow blogging friends reading and enjoying it, and so I, excitedly, requested it.
After scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge. Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate.
Fate is now a calculation.
But loving someone isn’t.
When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face-to-face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon’s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned. Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice—love one another or defy fate.
Taylor Brooke should be praised for so effortlessly creating a world where queer sexuality is the norm. From my understanding, everyone in this semi-contemporary world has no problem with sexuality, and in fact most of them are queer; in fact, the main characters are queer too: Shannon is bisexual and Aiden pansexual. There was also a brief mention of non-mongamy and the inclusion of three or even four soulmates. The queer rep is fantastic and something many other authors should strive for in their novels.
The main characters, Shannon and Aiden, felt quite individual with distinctive character voices. Shannon is a cop who is trying to live up to his father’s police reputation, but feels as though he is failing. Aiden is a thief who suffers from disassociated dysthymia, and who constantly feels inadequate. I adored their relationship and even swooned a few times at the romantic scenes. They fit well together as a couple, despite their many differences, and I enjoyed reading about how they learn to overcome their issues.
Brooke’s writing was quite beautiful. There were many sentences that just blew me away. She has a great gift for writing and encouraging the reader to keep reading.
There was a lack of world building in Fortitude Smashed, which lead to many occasions of confusion. My only knowledge about the soulmate pairing and the technology implanted under people’s thumbs came from reading the blurb. Embarrassingly, I just skimmed the blurb when I requested this book; basically, I just saw a few of my friends enjoying the book and assumed I would too, so I thought that everyone was born with this Camellia Clock imbedded under their thumb, not that technology had advanced enough for scientists to calculate the exact time soulmates will meet. Part of this confusion was my fault – read the damn blurb next time! – but there wasn’t much explanation of the Clock within the novel, aside from brief descriptions, and nothing about the history behind it.
An issue I had with the novel is considered a major spoiler, but I feel like I can’t adequately explain my problem with the book without including this in my review, so I am “hiding” the spoiler by whitening the text. To see it, highlight the massive white space below:
There’s a character who is introduced late into Fortitude Smashed called Daisy, who is Aiden’s long-lost childhood friend. She is a great character, who assists Aiden in a multitude of ways, but the treatment of Daisy was upsetting. Daisy is sexually assaulted by a stranger around the 83% mark, and the only reason I can understand why it happened was to bring Shannon and Aiden closer together. Her trauma doesn’t really serve another purpose. I was very upset by the use of violence against women as a plot device in any novel, and was quite uncomfortable by it’s inclusion here to make two characters admit they love one another. Personally, I feel that there are many other ways Shannon and Aiden could have confessed their love without the inclusion of sexual assault.
Another issue I also had was the use of the stereotypical self-centred, blonde ex-girlfriend who is jealous of her ex’s new love and tries to screw up his new relationship. That’s a very common trope that irked me. However, the character – Chelsea – does grow from this, and the next book is about her, so I am excited to see what direction Brooke takes her character in.
One minor issue that I want to mention is the way Aiden and Shannon’s ex, Chelsea, solve the problems between them: Aiden basically yells at Chelsea until she strikes him across the face, and then they’re friendly. That just … didn’t seem very realistic to me? If someone smacked me in the middle of an argument, I would not become their friend minutes later. I also don’t like it when female violence against men is viewed as acceptable, when it definitely is not.
I did except a little more from Fortitude Smashed, but for the most part – putting aside personal issues – I did enjoy the novel. I found the characters engaging and their romance beautifully plotted out. I really hope Brooke features Aiden and Shannon in the next book in the series, even for just a chapter or so.
Fortitude Smashed is set for publication on 21 September. Any quotes used in this review were taken from the ARC and should be checked against the final copy of the novel. Preorder the novel here: