Saturday, July 4, 2020

Book Review: Break My Bones (A Deadly Sins Novel Book 1) by Rachael Tamayo

A Raw Tale of Domestic Violence Weakened by Plot Inconsistencies

Take one demanding, abusive husband, Cain, who equates marriage with ownership. Add one sadistic sidekick, Donovan, who believes it’s his obligation to goad his friend into settling the score with his wife—whether her indiscretions are real or imagined. And finally, the woman, Brook, who’s tired of running with her child and has decided to take a stand against Cain. Those elements promise a tense tale of domestic violence and that’s what Rachel Tamayo delivers in Break My Bones. The prose is descriptive and raw—not for young audiences. The pacing is fast, as the story moves between the ‘lessons’ Cain taught his wife in the past to the reconciliation he plans for their future, a reconciliation on his terms or else.

For her part, Brook prepares for Cain’s return from incarceration for DWI, the only crime he’s been convicted of perpetrating. She starts to rebuild her life. She pulls herself out of poverty. She buys a gun and gets into shape. Those measures, however, prove completely ineffectual, as he easily overpowers her, again and again after he returns. Now, she is trapped in the psychological conflict of an abused spouse—guilt in turning against a first love and the father of her child vs. her terror of making another misstep in his eyes. There is hope for Brook, however, in the form of a new love—one she didn’t want, never expected, but can’t resist. Brandon enters the picture, offering her the shelter she needs in this violent storm. This budding relationship is described with sensitivity and well-turned prose, although it felt a bit far-fetched in the midst of everything else.

But the real problem with the book are issues with the plot. First, there is an “explanation” at the end of the book that presumably was to be a twist. Unfortunately, it’s a convenient scapegoat easily spotted early in the book. But more importantly, events just don’t hang together. For example, at one point Brook decries the fact that she has no proof of her husband’s abuse to take to the police, and yet, in other places we learn her back is covered with scars from cigarette burns. That’s not self-inflected. In another scene, Cain breaks into a house in the middle of the night where Brook is staying with friends. It’s surprising he could do so without waking anyone, but when the friends do nothing the next morning—they don’t call the police, change the locks, install a security system—the turn of events is inexplicable. And as a final example, Cain visits his lawyer, then leaves his office with the man dead. And yet, the lawyer’s receptionist apparently can’t put it together since no one comes looking for Cain at that point. A book that could have been nail-biting and gut-wrenching becomes unfathomable in several places. 

Overall, Break My Bones is a chilling account of domestic abuse and the psychological conflict of a woman caught in it. Fixing some of the plot inconsistencies would have made it much better.

I was given a copy of the book by the author. I elected to write this candid review.

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