Rant, Review

Review: Claiming Grace by Susan Stoker (2017)

Ace Security, Book #1

Heat Factor: It gets a little explicit

Character Chemistry: I hate them both

Plot: Rescue man saves demoralized, abused woman

Overall: I struggled so hard. But my eyeballs probably got their best ever workout with this book.


I really struggled with this book. I’m laying this all out there up front because this book deals with some heavy, serious issues, and I totally want to be sensitive to that. But with these protagonists I also Could. Not. 

I just reread some bits and I still can’t. OMG. Everything about this book rubs me the wrong way. The writing is not bad, so this book could totally work for some people. I guess. It’s pretty well reviewed on Amazon. 

Here’s the deal: Logan Anderson and his triplet brothers, as well as their father, were abused by their mother, and after she kills their father and then herself the brothers decide to start a security business that will help men (and women! But mostly men) out of abusive situations. Because abuse of men is not commonly considered. This is true, and domestic violence is a serious and important issue. Statistically, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. That’s a lot! It’s really bad! As I said, this book is dealing with some serious and heavy issues. 

And so the brothers have started their business and they’re making a difference in their greater Colorado community. Since they’ve moved home to start their security business, Logan has been avoiding running into his former flame, Grace Mason. I found this book on a friends to lovers listicle and I think it was badly miscategorized. They were friends-wanting-more, but now they hate each other because Logan went into the army and Grace was supposed to go be with him but instead fell off the face of the planet. So it’s a second chance romance. That’s disappointing.

Grace had a reason for disappearing off the face of the planet, and it’s because she’s abused by her parents. The abuse is more (though not all) emotional than physical, so it’s invisible to the greater community. Even Grace’s best friend doesn’t realize just how bad it is, and she’s been helping Grace with a secret bank account and secret wardrobe at her own apartment for years. 

Here’s where Stoker starts to lose me. Grace waffles between being afraid of what her parents will do and voluntarily staying where she is in hopes that she’ll gain her parents’ approval. It starts out with Grace recalling a time she tried to be independent and her parents handcuffing her to a chair as a result and then morphs into a sort of, “If I just do what they want they’ll love me!” Then her parents lock her up in her bedroom… When there’s a moment that would lead Grace to fear the consequences of her parents reprisals, like they’ve threatened her friends if she misbehaves, Grace fears them. But when there’s a situation that might be an opportunity for her to exert herself (in a way she wants to, mind you), she folds in on herself and says that she just wants her parents’ approval. Now, I’m not by any stretch an expert in abuse, and it’s totally reasonable that both of these things can be true – that Grace is at once afraid of her parents and seeking their approval. But Stoker seems to choose the convenient device at the time, so instead of creating a feeling like Grace is conflicted or pulled in different directions because of the emotional ravages of her abuse, it just feels like she’s inconsistent in her foundation. 

Grace is also problematic in that her “awakening” is due to the fact that she wants to be Logan’s woman, and obviously Logan wouldn’t want a woman who’s not a fighter. Oh, there’s also the fact that she wants to go to college against her parents’ wishes and she wants to have her own life and her own friends. But no no, she’s going to turn things around because she needs to change for Logan. I’m not even exaggerating: 

She wanted to be the kind of woman Logan wanted to be with. And she knew, without a doubt, a weak woman who wouldn’t fight for the man she wanted, wasn’t Logan’s kind of woman. 

Grace’s parents are also caricatures of evil. There are points when they are simply manipulating her with, “we’re getting old and we need you here to take care of us.” But then there are points when they’re just over the top. For example, Grace’s mother snaps when Grace resists her demands and says:

You will seduce Bradford Grant. Your only job is to get pregnant. You’ll lie and say you’re on birth control. He and his parents won’t be able to stop a wedding once you’re carrying his child. Of course, you’ll have to quit your job and spend the days here with us, where we can watch over you, make sure you’re not pushing yourself too hard. Once you have our grandson, we’ll have you declared unfit to raise him and we’ll finally have the son we always wanted. If you don’t want to be a loving daughter and help out your parents in their golden years, being a brood mare is all you’re good for anyway.

WAT.

Like, Grace’s mom can totally be a terrible human being, but doesn’t she also have to live in the modern world with the rest of us? Bradford Grant is gay. Pregnant women can have children out of wedlock. The fixation on the grandson is obviously something that she can’t control since she already had a daughter instead of the son she wanted. “BEING A BROOD MARE IS ALL YOU’RE GOOD FOR ANYWAY”?!?!? I just can’t. And also, Grace’s parents might be loaded, but for realsies, how is she going to pay for all her pregnancy appointments and the birth if she is unemployed and has no insurance?! 

Anyway, the parents are not just controlling and manipulative. They swing to straight up insane. This contributed to my inability to take the abuse aspect seriously as part of the narrative. Because the narrative wasn’t taking itself seriously either. It’s a suspense novel, so there is going to be a bad guy, but I would argue that about 98% of the time a scalpel approach is better than a sledgehammer. 

Let’s get back to Grace and Logan and the ridiculous that is their relationship. It starts off with Logan telling his best friend that he wants nothing to do with Grace. Then he approaches her to talk things out at a party after she escapes her parents’ house. Then it takes them a ridiculous number of pages to realize that Grace’s parents were messing with the letters Logan had sent her after he shipped out. RIDICULOUS. Logan said he sent letters. Grace said she never got letters. Grace knows her parents are manipulative and didn’t like Logan. It honestly HONESTLY should have taken three paragraphs. Not upwards of ten pages. AND THEN! Logan gets a random boner?!?!?!?! Because obviously this woman who is having an existential meltdown is hot. That is an appropriate reaction.

Things progress and Logan and his brothers break Grace out of her parents’ house and take her to Logan’s house where he then goes all paternalistic alpha because Grace is a little baby girl who needs to be taken care of. They’re protecting Grace while they try to figure out how to bring down Grace’s parents. Grace suddenly has a breakthrough and doesn’t need her parents’ approval anymore. (?) Logan wants to have sex with Grace, but only when she’s ready, but he’s also the one who thinks he needs to decide when she’s ready. I was so enraged. 

While I really wanted to be sensitive to and understanding of the abuse narrative, I just couldn’t get over the larger construction of this story. I felt like Logan was way nicer to Grace than her parents, but she was never fully self-actualized because Logan was so paternalistic.


Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop


Looking for something similar?

Rich Woman Problems (I mean this lovingly)

Bossy Man Problems (ditto)

I want to start a series

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