Reviewed by Xanthe
Member of The Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team
Bent not Broken started as a three star read for me as it took until about 20% in until I started to enjoy the story. I didn’t really feel a connection with the characters until they started connecting with each other.
My heart broke for Stefano as it’s clear that he suffered through some trauma in his childhood which was then made worse by the reaction of his father. All of that has meant that his attraction to men has been a closely guarded secret until he meets Riko, an older man doing a BDSM demonstration at the local club. Riko is lonely but not looking for anyone, at least he wasn’t until meeting Stefano who he notices straight away.
They both feel something instantly but Riko is out and proud of who he is so struggles to accept being with someone who isn’t. A compromise means that Riko can help Stefano reach the subspace he’s been searching for whilst he works on accepting himself and who he really wants. Riko opens Stefano up to the possibilities of what he could experience with another man, a dom who can let him explore his submission. He works hard to show Stefano his worth and strength but it is always the survivor’s choice to accept themselves and what happened, allowing themselves to move forward in life.
The timeline of the story is done well as it pauses to focus on the important moments of their relationship, Stefano’s journey and on interactions with family. Stefano’s family is Italian and grew up Catholic, though his sister and brother have moved to a more open church. They are openly supportive of all communities and it’s good to see that support for Stefano, even before they knew he needed it, and standing up to his other brother who is quite the homophobe, taking after their father. Riku’s best friend, Devon, is a good source of support with his friendship, always wanting the best for his friend but knowing he’ll follow his heart, and also a part of the BDSM community. It was also lovely to have a small interaction with Riku’s parents showing how they came through opposition to be together but still continuing to celebrate their heritages.
This is a well written story, allowing two men to become a part of a relationship that is good for them both but also giving Stefano the time that he needed to heal in his own way. My favourite quote is “Life may have bent you a little but you are not broken.” It is so true for so many of us and one of several reasons as to why I recommend giving this story a go.