Blue Ruin 2: Close To Me by Katrina Strauss

Blue finds pleasure in playing pet to Derek, but is eager to pursue goals outside of their relationship. When Blue starts GED classes and expands his social circle, Derek affords him room to grow, trusting their love is enough to keep his restless pet in line.

That love is put to the test when Cameron Carter reappears in Blue’s life. An abusive crush from Blue’s school days, Cameron is a reformed adult now and seeks absolution for old wrongs. While Blue must find it in his heart to forgive Cameron, the greater challenge lies in keeping his unrequited desire for the former bully at bay.

Derek’s torn between enforcing boundaries and allowing Blue closure to heal old wounds. Meanwhile, Cameron struggles to forgive himself for the pain he once caused the boy he secretly loved. As Cameron and Blue begin the road to recovery, the sizzling chemistry between them can no longer be ignored.

Caught between two strong-willed men, can Blue prove his loyalty to one while denying his attraction for the other, or, is it maybe just possible that Blue can have them both?

In Blue Ruin 2: Close to Me, author Katrina Strauss continues Derek and Blue’s story where it left off in Book 1 Some Kind of Stranger. It is some two-weeks after Blue’s kidnapping and close encounter with death at the hands of a seriously disturbed predator. They’ve been holed-up in Derek’s loft, where Derek has been taking care of Blue while he recovers both physically and emotionally.

Blue is feeling much better and ready to begin living again. They haven’t had the kind of pain and pleasure sex that Blue craves since before the incident and Blue is feeling frustrated. He’s also restless and wants to pull his weight by contributing to the household expenses. Problem is, as a high school drop out all he can probably get is menial work. Blue decides to go back to school and get his GED. Derek doesn’t want to let him out of his sight and suggests online courses instead, but Blue’s made up his mind ~ he’s going to night school to get his diploma and then probably on to a local college or technical school.

On his first day of class, Blue meets a very interesting girl named Jodi with amethyst-colored eyes and matching hair who loves all things Japanese and they quickly become good friends. Blue also comes face-to-face with his nemesis, Cameron Carter, the football jock from high school who was cruel and brutalized Blue causing him much physical and emotional pain, while at the same time serving as the main source of Blue’s sexual fantasies as a teenager.

Seeing Cameron again causes Blue much angst, bringing back all the horrific memories of the torture that Cameron and his cronies had inflicted on him. But Cameron is no longer the bully that Blue remembers. He’s changed and has come to a few life-altering revelations of his own. He also wants Blue’s forgiveness. While Blue is trying to come to terms with whether he can grant Cameron absolution, he also can’t deny their strong mutual attraction. Blue finds himself caught in a triangle – he loves Derek and has vowed to be with him forever, but he also wants Cameron. However, the time that Blue and Cameron spend together may in the end cost them both their lives.

In Blue Ruin 2: Close to Me Katrina Strauss delves deeper into both the characters of Derek and Blue and by extension their relationship, while at the same time expanding their universe with the introduction of new characters to the story. There are several themes running through Blue Ruin 2 that make the second installment in this series a rich reading experience in terms of plot and in particular in respect of character development.

The most obvious character growth is with Blue. We know from Blue Ruin 1: Some Kind of Stranger that Blue’s submissive role in his relationship with Derek is not all consuming. Blue has a strong sense of self and a curiosity about people and life that outside of the bedroom manifests itself in Blue’s need to not rely solely on being taken care of by Derek and to contribute in some way to their household and ultimately to their relationship. At the same time, Blue is maturing and attempting to make emotional inroads with his estranged parents. In this context, Strauss writes the progression of this character naturally and in-keeping with the foundational attributes she ascribes to Blue at the inception of the series.

Strauss also delves deeper into the character of Derek. After almost losing Blue at the hands of a mad man Derek comes to the realization that he is in love for the first time in his life and begins to reveal more and more of himself and his past to Blue. He is also very possessive of Blue and although he should be proud of Blue’s independence and his need to make something of himself there’s a part of Derek that wants to keep Blue all to himself. These dichotomous feelings serve to further expose Derek’s underlying vulnerabilities and their origins.

“He knew he needed to support Blue, that it was unrealistic of him to keep Blue at home with him forever. Yet a part of him was scared to let Blue out of his sight. While his thoughts shifted instantly to the night Blue had been kidnapped, a deeper memory inexplicably hit him full force.”

“Bundled in his scarf and coat, clutching his mother’s hand as she’d hefted a suitcase in the other. The studio had been freezing, the radiator gone cold that day after the landlord had shut off access to the boiler room.”

While Cameron is a secondary character, he practically steals the show and this is wholly attributable to the manner in which Katrina Strauss has written this character. Given his back-story, Blue’s reminiscences and the fact that he is a key source of tension and possible divisiveness between Derek and Blue, Cameron is not necessarily a character that would at first instance evoke empathy. And yet, Katrina Strauss has written this character in such a way that the reader cannot help but have empathy if not outright compassion for him. Cameron demonstrates courage, maturity and as Blue puts it “humility” in his quest for not only absolution but also for redemption. Cameron fascinates me not only in terms of his relationship with Blue, but also in terms of who and what he is and I make no bones about the fact that he is a character for whom I have developed a great affinity.

In many respects, Blue’s need for a level of independence is the initial catalyst that encroaches upon Derek’s fantasy to both physically and emotionally cocoon his relationship with Blue. We see glimpses of this in Blue Ruin 1 and it is a constant theme throughout Close to Me. But it is the arrival and role of Cameron in their lives that brings with it Derek’s realization that if he holds on too tight the fragile balance between their private and public relationship will be broken, possibly threatening their relationship altogether. The reintroduction of Cameron into Blue’s life obviously creates conflict between Derek and Blue. But instead of taking the easy way out the author blurs the lines of this triangle in such a way that it creates delicious complexities, tensions and ambiguities that heighten the richness of not only the interaction between these three characters, but also of the overall story itself. And while there is more drama within the context of the story’s backdrop with yet another killer on the loose it is the characters and their relationships that dominate in Blue Ruin 2.

As a sequel Blue Ruin 2: Close to Me more than lives up to the promise of the first book. I can honestly say that while I thoroughly enjoyed Blue Ruin 1, I enjoyed Blue Ruin 2 even more. Katrina Strauss leaves the door open wide enough that the tenuous balance in Derek and Blue’s relationship will continue to be an issue in books to come and that the happily-for-now agreement that Derek, Blue and Cameron reach in respect of their intersecting lives remains equally fragile. Luckily for us readers there’s more to come.

While Blue Ruin 2: Close to Me can be read as a stand-alone book I strongly recommend reading Blue Ruin 1: Some Kind of Stranger first in order to fully appreciate the complexities and subtleties of the relationships of the primary and secondary characters in this story.

Blue Ruin 2: Close to Me by Katrina Strauss is available at Loose Id.

NOTE: This review was originally published online by Rainbow Reviews.

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