I’m a huge fan of romantic suspense, and when Rachel Grant hit my radar eight years ago with Concrete Evidence, I knew I’d found a new favorite. Everything about it appealed to me, from the archaeology to the deceit. Much to my delight, it was not a fluke.
Broken Falcon is book twelve in the exciting Evidence series, and it’s a bit of a revelation as we circle back around to Chase Johnston. I thought it would be difficult to have any connection or empathy with him because in Incriminating Evidence, which happens to be my favorite in the series, Chase was a colossal dick and one of the main antagonists. But reader, read on, because as it turns out, he was another victim of the abusive experiments that occurred at Raptor’s Alaskan compound.
You might think being an experimental lab rat in the development of an infrasonic weapon and having an implant turn him into a sleeper agent was the worst part of Chase’s traumatic experience, but you’d be wrong. Over the course of those two years, he was raped repeatedly by his psychotherapist, Dr. Parks. His implant forced physical compliance, but his mind was always aware. And it nearly broke him.
He wanted to be normal. He wanted to be attracted to women who weren’t pixels on a screen. He wanted to walk into a bar and see an attractive woman and feel something, even if it was nothing but a mild attraction to a pretty face.
Chase’s story picks up about a year after being freed from the clutches of Dr. Parks, and he’s working at Raptor’s DC site while moonlighting to save runaway teens from being swept up in the sex trafficking market. Helping them gives him purpose and a way to exorcise his own demons. “One foot in front of the other” is his mantra, and it’s working.
The other thing that’s working is the camgirl he’s met and fallen for online, Eden O’Keeffe. The safety of anonymity, distance, and an online presence has given Chase the confidence to begin delving into his psyche and begin to reclaim his sexuality. And as it turns out, it’s that same sense of safety that allows Eden to work through her own demons as her alter ego, Desiree.
Eden was raised by ultra-religious parents who forced her into marriage at fifteen. But she was smart and found a loophole in the law that helped her escape from her husband before he could rape her. That same loophole helped to establish her as an emancipated teen, which let her uncouple from her abusive family. She found an attorney who helped with a divorce, and a therapist who helped her get the mental health care she needed. A dozen years later, she’s found her way to the small screen as a camgirl, where she considers her work to be sex-positive therapy for the clients who maintain digital relationships with her.
But to have successful interactions with clients in her camgirl role, Eden must put it all out there. It’s public and intimate and makes her own real-life relationships more difficult. She’s as safe as possible, altering her appearance on screen and blocking local network traffic with the hope of reducing the potential of running into anybody in the general DC metro area who might recognize her. But IPs can be masked, and the internet is forever. And one day Chase meets Desiree, in the coffee shop where Eden works part-time. But rather than celebrating his good fortune, he curses his bad luck. This was no romantic chance encounter—this was bringing his fight against sex trafficking to her front door, literally. And that sex-positive therapy she’s meting out? Turns out Chase isn’t the only one with a masked IP address.
At its core, Broken Falcon is a story about the healing, redemptive power of love, and two lost, broken souls who take refuge in one another. This was a rough book, y’all. There’s a lot to unpack, and a lot of emotion and angst. Grant presents an interesting twist where a strong, deadly security operative is the victim of repetitive rape. Chase’s trauma and recovery is treated with respectful grace, but I wanted Eden to be more sensitive to his trauma. She’s a harder, tougher character, shaped by her emancipated years and the desperation she felt as a runaway. It’s clear that she’s a sex worker by choice rather than by desperation, and at times it feels like she lacks empathy toward Chase’s healing process. I found myself wondering – if the roles had been flipped and Eden were the rape survivor and Chase the camboy, would he be sensitive enough to her healing?
There’s a lot of good questions here; it gives you a lot to think about. Despite my reservations about Eden, who’s dismissive of Chase’s trauma and whose independence comes off as unpleasant at times, I enjoyed the book. Fans of Rachel Grant’s exciting pacing, robust characters, and IQ-raising content will enjoy it, too.