The First Three Rules (My Brother’s Keeper #1) by Adrienne Wilder

21785387Title: The First Three Rules (My Brother’s Keeper #1)
Author: Adrienne Wilder
Length: 266 Pages
Genre: Romance
Publisher: Independent
Heat Level: 3  Sweet & Spicy
Overall Rating: 5h 4.5 rounded up to 5 Surprised hearts

Synopsis:

The town of Gilford has a Big and Terrible secret hidden in the ground.
Infecting those it touches.
Exploiting their darkness.
Consuming their souls.
It’s hungry. It’s vile. It’s evil.
And it wants out.

Book One: The First Three Rules

Marshal Jon Foster lost his purpose and his sanity the day he saw the image of his dead brother. The distraction saved Jon’s life but cost the lives of innocent people including his best friend and partner. It was a price for survival Jon couldn’t live with and was sure he’d never understand.
Driven by grief and guilt he tried to escape his past by fleeing to a small town in the middle of nowhere. Only instead of peace, the memories festered.
Then the offer of a stick of gum from a stranger changes Jon’s life and puts him on a road out of the nightmare he’s trapped in.

Ellis Harper has lived the past twenty years isolated from the outside world and sole caretaker for his mentally disabled brother, Rudy. While Ellis loves his brother, he longs for a life he’ll never be able to have.
Shut away, his days consist of chores, endless cartoons, and games of Go Fish. A world that seemed to have no end until an innocent misunderstanding turns Ellis and his brother into a target for a town bully.
It’s a fight Ellis can never win on his own but thanks to a chance meeting with a stranger, he doesn’t have to.

What begins as a new journey in love for both men quickly unfolds into something neither of them could have ever imagined.

Review: I liked this one. It had some subtle differences that made it worth the read for me. And well, it’s hurt/comfort, which is pretty much my crack. John and Ellis are great together, and Rudy is just…I don’t even know. A sweet, adorably written character that you will grow to love as well.

Ellis was twelve when his parents died, his brother, Rudy, was 24. Rudy is mentally disabled and has the mentality of a child due to some kind of illness he developed at that time. (It’s not very well explained since it appears Ellis never really knew much and was left without ever fully understanding when his parent died.)

Now it’s 1992, some twenty years later and Ellis has devoted his entire life to take care of his brother, keeping Rudy from going into a mental institution. He’s essentially a very lonely shut-in, who has sacrificed his own happiness and anything resembling a life to care for Rudy. He dropped out of school at twelve, and thanks to a family friend, he had a little help. But Rudy isn’t the easiest person to care for, he makes mistakes, however harmless they might be, and thus has cause the both of them to become the town pariahs and ridiculed endlessly in this southern town. They’re taunted, tormented, even beaten by bigots with a small town mentality.

Jon is an ex US Marshal who has lost everything, including most of his sanity. He suffers from PTSD as a result of the death of his brother and a failed op on the job. The book opens with his decision to commit suicide, sitting in a park. Then he meets Rudy, who offers him a stick of gum, and later, Ellis, his brother. After getting to know Ellis, Jon is so touched by the devotion and pure, unconditional love that Ellis has for Rudy, that it sparks something in him to want to live and wonders if it will fill the huge gaping hole he has in his heart. (I know that sounds really kinda cheesy, and I guess it is, but it seemed to come across with less cheese in the story.) He still battles this little voice in his head that tells him he’s worthless, and that he should just end it all, but instead of listening to it, he begins to fight it.

I like that the author took her time to develop the relationship in this one. I liked seeing all of Ellis’ fears about sex, Jon’s about love in general. It was nice to see them grow closer, all the while taking care of Rudy.

Kinda Spoilerish – Read at your own risk. Although, I don’t think I gave anything away more than the blurb did, but just to be safe I’ll leave it up to you.

SPOILER: Highlight to Read [Lately, I’ve been reading several books where authors can’t seem come up with anything more creative to drive action/plots other than homophobia. It’s frustrating. Having said that though, I think there’s more to that part in this story. Yes, there is homophobia, yes, it’s the same thing we see in several other books where jerk A beats and/or threatens poor MC#1, and MC’s 1&2 weather the storm together. However, there’s also something to this story that hasn’t been fleshed out yet. We’re still in book one, so it’s just kind of taunting us. There’s clearly something more sinister at work here. And if that’s the case, then I’ll give some kudos to Ms. Wilder for using a very tired trope in a new way that I don’t think I’ve read in m/m yet. There’s something off with Rudy, and I mean more than being mentally disabled. He’s either gifted Rudy, or I have a very special friend like Mr. Howdy in The Exorcist kind of Rudy – no Ouija boards though. 😉 And that bit at the end in the Grove? Lots of mystery there. Perhaps that’s where Mr. Howdy lives? Idk. =) I’m curious to see how it all plays out though.]

There’s more than just the beginnings of a relationship in this one though, there’s also some kind of mystery hinted that I haven’t quite figured out yet. I have my ideas (which I’ve alluded to in the spoiler tag), but we’ve not really been given enough information to make that conclusion. That’s what made this one a little different for me, that and Rudy, and the MC’s interactions with him. He’s really a well written character that doesn’t really steal the show, but enhances it.

It does end pretty abruptly though, so be prepared to buy the next one. We get very little resolution on the bigger picture, but it’s a sweet ending nonetheless. I would however, have preferred one large book separated into three parts, but that’s just me. All in all, a well written beginning to a series.

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