Tuesday, May 10, 2016

ARC Review: Strong Medicine by J.K. Hogan


Two men who meet in a psychiatric institution couldn’t possibly find happiness together—could they?

The world seemed to be telling disgraced former child star and singer Cameron Fox that he would never be happy again. A drunken car accident gets him sentenced to a work-release at Riverbend Behavioral Health Facility.

Reclusive, traumatized writer Jonah Radley has an entire graveyard of skeletons in his closet. Jonah regularly hospitalizes himself for psychotic episodes caused by a horrific childhood trauma, his biggest secret—one he refuses to speak about in therapy.

Jonah and Cameron form a bond inside the hospital, forged in mutual pain and hope for a better life. Once they leave the hospital, they must decide if they are brave enough to explore the intricacies of living with mental illness—and find a new normal together.

Jewel's rating:

​​Strong Medicine is the second book by JK Hogan that I've read, and I must say, I love her writing! Her characters are well drawn and flawed and real. It's just so refreshing to just be able to relax into a story and just go on the journey with the characters. This is a fairly long book, too, but it did not feel like it, to me. I found myself so immersed in the story, I didn't even notice the time pass.​ I was also surprised that though the book has some angsty elements, I did not feel overpowered by it.​ The romance is a very slow burn, though. Our boys have a lot to go through and come to terms with before they're ready to be with each other.

​Jonah Radley​ is a 23 year old man who has seen and experienced true evil. When he was a young child he went through some horribly traumatizing experiences and they left their mark in a big way. ​​​​He has episodes a couple times a year that cause him to voluntarily institutionalize himself because he hallucinates and stops sleeping for long periods of time. He's not all that compliant with treatment plans, though, because he has zero desire to talk about his childhood and what he went through and, he refuses medication.

It isn't that he doesn't want to get better, it's just that he doesn't think he can. He's terrified that if he lets himself think about and talk about what happened, his delusions will overtake him, completely. Jonah is a very creative person - a successful author and poet - and he doesn't want to lose what little of himself he really has. He's not comfortable around people and he suffers from severe anxiety when he is faced with having to interact with people outside a very controlled environment. But then he meets Cameron. And he surprises everyone, including himself.

​Cameron Fox was a child star of a successful TV show, and then lead vocalist for a band consisting of himself and his siblings. It's really quite Brady Bunch. Every step of Cameron's life has been dictated to him. His father is the manager of the band and he is very controlling - he, exclusively, picks the songs they record​, takes care of touring and all of their schedules, and, of course, he is in charge of all the money. He has this vision of how his kids should live their lives and he doesn't let anything stand in the way of that.​ He even arranges dates with vacuous women for Cameron. It's enough to drive a man to drink, even if he's not gay -- but Cameron is gay and it does drive him to drink. Spectacularly. Which, of course, leads to him on his path to a DWI and a work release program at Riverbend.

​Being at Riverbend​ gives Cam a chance to get his head together and figure out, not only what his underlying problems are, but how to manage them, and an opportunity to step ​away from his "normal" life and take a bit if a breather. Now Cam is in charge of himself, except the job, of course and the counselling, which are mandatory. But, he doesn't have his father breathing down his neck and he can be himself.

Strong Medicine is about finding the person you want to be and finding the strength to become that person. It's also about finding the reason to fight for it. Both Jonah and Cameron come so far in this story and they overcome so much to be together. Jonah may never be completely stable, but Cameron is there for the long haul, and I feel very confident about their HEA. In fact, I kind of loved it.

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