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Release Day Review: Jace's Trial, by J.M. Wolf

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Release Day Review: Jace's Trial, by J.M. Wolf

Book Info

Book Series
Trials of Abingdon #1
About the Author
JM Wolf never thought he would one day say that he's a published M/M romance author. Having a poet for a mother and a sister to once ran a blog, it was only a matter of time before JM discovered his writing genes. In the beginning, his sole purpose in life was to be a singer/songwriter. Writing lyrics was the first step putting his thoughts onto paper. Even while singing, JM always found time to dabble with writing little short stories but never thought too much about it.

Once he reached adulthood, his music dreams left him, but not the feel of writing down what was in his mind. However, that didn't mean music no longer played a part in JM's life. His debut book The Black Feather was inspired by one of his favorite songs. Whether lyrics or love stories, you will always find JM's heart and soul in every word on paper.

JM Wolf lives in Chesapeake, VA with his husband and in-laws. When he's not writing, you could always find reading a good book, spending time with the love of his life, or jamming out to music. He didn't pick the world of literature; the literary world picked him.
Publication Date
February 20, 2018
Available Formats
Content Warning
Potential triggers:  loss, grief, depression, rape (not on page), domestic abuse, stalking
Life is a trial full of obstacles that stand between you and your goals. Do you have the courage to face your own trial? 

Jace Garrison was a musical prodigy at Juilliard ready to take the world by storm. Everything he could ever want out of life was unfolding right before his eyes, until everything came crashing down at once. 
With his muse gone, along with everything he loved, will Jace find the courage to move on?

Former Navy SEAL Gerard Ramhart had always played by his family's rules and traditions. Until he fell in love with Riley Garrison. Unfortunately, before Gerard had the courage to propose to the man he loved, Riley's life was taken away. Gerard was left devastated, with only his memories of Riley and the pain of losing him to keep him going.

One year after Riley's death, Gerard finally makes it to Riley's hometown in Abingdon, Virginia and meets his son Jace for the very first time. Two men grieving over the loss they shared, and during their time of heartache, something blossoms. Can Gerard help Jace find the will to live the life he's meant to have? And can Jace find his muse and accept his feelings for Gerard, despite the fact that Gerard once belonged to his father?

This book contains content of physical and mental abuse, grieving, and bottled emotions.

* This is Book 1 in the series, but can be read as a standalone story- no cliffhangers.*

Editor reviews

1 reviews

Touching and Inspiring!
 Cover – Gorgeous!
 POV – 1st person, dual character
 Would I read it again – Yes
 Genre – LGBT, Romance, Contemporary, May/December


 Jace's Trial is the start of a new series and one that proves to be as touching, inspiring, and heartwarming as it is heart-wrenching.

 First off, for an ARC copy, I was seriously impressed with how well edited it was. I know that there was another, more fully edited, version after the copy I was given, but I'm still impressed. ARC's are given on the basis that they're not the completed version, so I never usually remark upon the editing unless it makes it difficult to follow or understand the story. Here, there were so few issues that I barely noticed them. That's amazing and I love seeing it. The presentation of music notes and guitars was also a really addition, making it pleasing to the eye as well as well formatted.

 When it comes to the story, this is one book that has everything. It hits hard on the emotions, but it also has lighter moments that don't make it feel oppressively heavy or depressing in any way. It deals with some very serious and important topics, without glossing over them or using them just for impact. They're true plot points and not only show who Jace is, as a person, but are part of his journey from who he was to who he will be.

 Jace has always seen himself as too young, too naive, and without a backbone. He has bad taste in men and constantly thinks about his regrets. But, I love how his character explored the truth of victim mindsets. Jace was once in a domestically abusive relationship – both mentally and physically – and the way he is used by J.M. to explore the reality of that hard time of his life is both beautiful for the growth we see in Jace but also heart-wrenching because he felt so alone and isolated. Not only do we see Jace continually blaming himself – in the classic way that most domestic abuse victims do – but we also see his thought process for why he blames himself. That he feels like he gave in, that he allowed it to happen, and why. He explores the situations that felt natural, at the time, but feel wrong in a different light, with some distance.

 And, can I just say, that I was concerned Jace hadn't said anything for a long time. For a good part of the book, I hoped and prayed that the entire Brett issue would have a satisfying conclusion did! Thank you! I can't count the number of times that a guy like this has been a big part of an MC's story but it was all ignored or brushed under the “it's in the past” rug, so that there was no real conclusion. Here, I got peace of mind. I got to see Jace find his strength and the power that he'd always had, but never knew he possessed, to do something about the man who had so seriously impacted his life, both professionally and personally.

 When it comes to the relationship Jace and Gerard have, I'll admit that I was intrigued but sceptical. I have never really been comfortable with “close family” relationship cross-overs, such as a dad's boyfriend moving on to date the son. It's always felt a little too close for comfort, for me, but I knew the skill of J.M.'s storytelling and had seen enough snippets in his private group to be convinced this could be the story to change my mind. And it did. There was real chemistry between these two.

 Not only are Jace and Gerard smart enough to question the closeness, to wonder how Riley would feel about their growing proximity, and what people would say or think, and about how weird it could be, but they talk. They actually communicate with each other and the people who care about them and their happiness. They share their feelings. They get to know each other. They spend time together. Yes, initially, it's all for Riley's sake, because he would want them to get on with each other and to know each other. But then it becomes personal and they realise that they're both suffering and maybe they can help make that pain they're carrying a little more bearable, a little less traumatizing, and less of a burden.

 In the process, the insta-attraction becomes respect, understanding and a budding relationship. It's in no way insta-love. Sure, there's some intense and complicated insta-lust in there, but they're both smart enough to remain hands-off until they know where they stand with each other. I love that. I love that J.M. took the time to think about it and explore that relationship and all of its complications, when so many other authors have glossed over it. J.M. admits, through his characters, that some people (like me) would struggle to accept such a relationship, but he doesn't confine it's exploration to the MC's, he also has Jace's godmother, aunt and boss/second-father-figure talk through it with him on multiple occasions, asking how he feels, if he's comfortable, and challenging Gerard about his intentions. They challenge each other about how it will work, how they feel about it, and if it's weird. THANK YOU! Finally, an author who can see it from both sides and takes the time and care to explore both sides of the argument.

 And can I just say...Jace's song lyrics are beautiful. They really show the extent of J.M.'s extraordinary talent. Not only beautiful, but thought provoking and inspiring, the lyrics add another dimension to an already great story.

 There's one more thing I have to say about the writing, before I stop waffling...there's a lot of repetition. Now, while this would normally bug me to all Hell and back, I get it. Because, this isn't repeating things to remind the reader. It's not repeating things just because it's showing the same thing from two POV's or because one person is telling lots of people the same thing. The repetition here has a purpose. Yes, Jace repeatedly mentions why he left school, what happened within his relationship with Brett, his worries over his potential relationship with Gerard, and how his dad's death is affecting him, but it's all necessary. First off, it's made quite clear that Jace has been thrown off his usual mental equilibrium with his dad's death. His head had been thrown into a tailspin and his emotions are all over the place, so it's natural that he would be stuck mentally replaying all of his regrets and all of his pain, while trying to convince everyone that he's alright. But, most importantly, secondly he has to repeat himself. Because, writing Jace's POV without mentioning these important things would be wrong. It would feel like, as a reader, I was being deliberately deceived about his head space and his life. These things are too important to keep hidden from his own POV. At the same time, we can't read about how these things are affecting him and then not see him telling Gerard. That is a pivotal moment in their relationship and to avoid putting it on page, just because we already know the story, would have been wrong. So, although I have never said this before, kudos to the author for repeating these important events. They're vital to who Jace is, but it's just as important for us to see him dealing with them internally and then sharing them with Gerard.


 So, why did I give it 4 stars and not 5? While brilliant and with a very touching storyline, there were times that I just felt Jace wasn't ready for this. Sometimes when he spoke, especially during the boyfriend conversation, I felt like he was still way too emotionally fragile for a serious relationship. He felt too young, too hurt and traumatized by the loss of his father and all it had brought out in him, to really be ready for something so serious and permanent. At times, I felt like he was more of an emotionally distant sixteen year old than the twenty year old he should have been. For that reason, I had to hesitate over how serious his relationship with Gerard became and how quickly. It was only two weeks. Two weeks of intense emotional growth, revelations and a lot of serious thinking that went back to previous abuse. At times, I felt that he wasn't fully recovered from his relationship with Brett – flinching or expecting to be hit, when Gerard stopped the door from closing, etc. For that reason, I just couldn't allow myself to be so fully invested in the relationship. I loved it and how it was told, but I was also left with questions about Jace's state of mind and whether this was the best thing for him. He seemed so eager to fall in love, to be serious with someone that I was afraid he was searching for a distraction from his pain more than anything else. That he was trying to push all the bad things into the past by hiding them behind a happy relationship.

 Saying that, I have to give some serious praise to J.M. for the way he dealt with the issues he explored in this novel. Exploring grief, friendship, family, freedom and trust, all in the guise of a small town where people looked out for each other, while Jace lost himself, found himself, and mentally examined his past and his future. Exploring domestic abuse in all its facets, from wanting out, feeling at blame, trapped, ashamed, responsible, afraid of judgement; the use of emotional and physical threats, financial vulnerability, the abuse of a position of power. The story is a strong but heartbreaking tale that is so poignant in today's society of #MeToo and #TimesUp.

 That, for me, is what makes it so special. The fact that Jace truly did go through trials and struggles and had to find the surface while drowning in his own life. The romance and the relationship were, for me, the secondary plot to all of that. They were a great added element, but it was Jace and his struggles that had all the power in this story, and used it to draw me in.

 I can't wait to read Adam's popstar adventures in the next installment.


 Favourite Quotes

 “Everything needed to go. Locking them away was like locking the last piece of my heart, and I
 realized that my passion for music was another thing that the universe was taking from me. It took
 music away from me the moment it decided to take my father away from me.”

 “My lyrics were like a diary, telling the world what I was afraid to admit out loud.”

 “Gerard Ramhart entranced me, and that terrified me.”

 “I pulled away from the most heated kiss of my life and rested my forehead against his. We
 were panting, our eyes closed, but we saw each other in more ways than simple sight. We could
 see right through one another, our affection, our fears, our joy, our sorrow. It was all on display
 for us to bear witness.”
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