Author: C.J. Fallowfield
Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
Note: The main character changes her name from Isabelle to Alex midway through the story. I will be referring to her as Izzie or Isabelle in the beginning then Alex when discussing the later parts of the book. I believe there is a distinct separation of the two in the form of different stages of her life.
Inescapable is an erotic romance that covers the serious topics of domestic violence and sexual assault. It is the story of a woman running from her past, until it catches up with her. Enter, Tate Castle, a man of mystery who brings with him the kind of compassion and understanding Alex isn't used to.
The opening scene included some great dialogue to establish the main character in the form of joyful kinship between her and Shaz, her best friend. In the first chapter, initial interactions between the man she meets, Richard, and Isabelle are very quick paced.
The author manages to paint Izzie's situation with Richard as abusive from the start while still keeping you in the narrators head space of believing he's good to some extent. I loved seeing Izzie's progress from hopeless faith and trust in Richard to realizing the kind of man he is as it all sinks in. Seeing the development through her perspective is eye opening as the relationship evolves.
In terms of the story setup, things can seem a bit jumpy at times, which might turn some readers off. But, if given the chance, it can be found to be the best way the author could have presented the story. Dialogue throughout remains true to each character and varies wildly from each individual. However, there were some occasions when the dialogue felt stiff
There is a sense of a renewal when she moves to London - breaking away from the abuse Richard had sustained to her. Keeping that in mind, the scars are still very present. She deals with paranoia and isolation among other things. And I think that is very true to the real experience of trauma victims.
The close knit group of friends she surrounds herself with is a great point of displaying the way she interacts with others. Tom, her assistant, is objectively one of the best character additions. His scenes genuinely made me laugh. He isn't dominantly in the book but his scenes always steal the show.
Once Castle enters, the story takes a massive shift in the way it is presented, which I enjoyed thoroughly. The relationship between Castle and Alex is such a breath of fresh air, especially after seeing the devastation of her earlier circumstances. Their chemistry is electric while they still manage to form a bond forged out of caring and mutual respect. Power dynamics of the characters are accurate to them in that the trust is given gradually.
The narrative kept me hooked and excited to read more. While the novel isn't setup for most of it to have the reader on the edge of their seat, or at least as I found, in the moments when the author required it I found myself unable to put the story down. The reader becomes invested in the telling and how the characters react to their environments, even if you don't necessarily follow the same logical thought process yourself. I did find some the pacing to be slightly sudden and jerky but it was nothing major. The incompetence of professionally hired protectors did seem to be a stretch.
There is a point in the story when the main character uses prison rape to insult the "villain" who had spent time in the system. I struggled with this for personal reasons and even debated giving it a lower rating because of this. But then I thought and realized that it was the character's way of thinking. If I don't fault the book for displaying the villain's grotesque thoughts of violence than how could I fault it for Alex's one time of reprehensible, in my opinion, reactions . She is facing off against her abuser and I can understand the feeling of wanting to target an individual who has been cruel to you where it hurts. That being said, sexual assault is a serious issue that affects many prisoners, mostly nonviolent offenders, and should not be joked about.
I really appreciate the lessons of love and strength woven throughout the narrative. The reunion with Shaz brings the story back full circle. The chess reference didn't click for me until the end but when it did I freaked out in glee because subtle things like that make my happy.
Inescapable manages to tackle serious issues well while still maintaining the heart and passion of an erotic romance. It is a delicate balance that I would argue was displayed quite strongly in the book. The halves of seriousness and lighthearted meld together to create a novel worth reading.