Virtual Book Tour ~ Relationship Material by (Guest Post + Review + Giveaway)

Hi, I’m Jenya Keefe. Welcome to my blog tour! I’ve been writing for my own pleasure for too many years to count, and now my first novel is being published by Riptide Publishing! It’s called Relationship Material, and I’m delighted to talk with you about it.

Relationship Material is about a guy who had a terrible childhood and suffered a violent assault when he was a teenager. He suffers from PTSD and chronic anxiety, and though he functions well enough in society, he doesn’t feel worthy of the love offered him. It’s about Portland, the love of a good dog, learning to be brave, and being open to joy.

About Relationship Material

It’s not always possible to meet in the middle.

Registered nurse Evan Doyle doesn’t consider himself fit for more than occasional hookups. He has a good life, but the emotional aftermath of a horrific crime makes him feel too damaged to date. So when his sister’s hot bestie, Malcolm Umbertini, comes on to him, he turns him down flat. Mal is Relationship Material: the kind who thinks in the long term. What would Evan do with a man like that?

As a prosecuting attorney, Mal’s learned how to read people, and he knows there’s more to Evan than meets the eye. Mal has faced his own hardships since his family kicked him out as a teen, and he respects Evan’s courage and emotional resilience. More than that, he wants Evan—in his bed and in his life. But can he weather another rejection?

Both wary, they agree to a no-strings fling. Mal knows that Evan wants things to stay casual, but he’s falling in love a little more with each encounter. With health, happiness, and bruised hearts on the line, Mal and Evan must risk everything for love.

Now available from Riptide Publishing!

Inspiration for RM: Anxiety

Relationship Material has two main inspirations. The first was a book – I won’t say what it was – about a character who was struggling with the emotional fallout of a traumatic past. The book was not bad at all, but it ultimately went in a direction that didn’t work for me. I kept thinking about the main character and how I would have written him. I basically began writing fanfiction of this other book, and that evolved into Relationship Material.

The other inspiration was my dear friend, who I will call L. Like Evan, the main character of Relationship Material, L struggles with PTSD and chronic anxiety. I am under no illusion that my depiction of Evan accurately reflects the symptoms of all chronic anxiety sufferers. But many of Evan’s symptoms do resemble L’s.

One of L’s most troubling chronic symptoms is what he refers to as free-floating anxiety. This is when the sensation of anxiety comes over him without any trigger, for no reason. If he’s not being mindful, he will unconsciously construct scenarios to explain the anxiety. These scenarios can feel very powerful and real to him, and they definitely affect his ability to function and maintain relationships.

You can see this same tendency in Evan: he sometimes worries about being followed, worries about being seen in public by people who might wish him harm. Certainly he worries about not being loveable, about not being good enough.

The central conflict in Relationship Material is Evan’s struggle with himself – his past, his shame, his ongoing sense that he isn’t safe. But Evan has come a long way: he can laugh at himself. But when true love comes along, can he trust it? Can he trust himself?

4* A really great intro to this author, with unexpected depth and darkness. 

The blurb isn’t quite accurate and doesn’t do this book or its leads’ justice. I wasn’t expecting a tale so dark, so painful for the leads – all three of them, because Caro, Evan’s sister, is as much a lead as the guys are – or so horrifying, and tbh, I wasn’t expecting such damaged leads in Evan and Caro, nor in Mal, though he wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the others.
There’s darkness and damage in all the leads’ pasts. Some is shared, some can’t be shared by Evan because of how still-traumatised he is, and because he has issues with control and fright and anxiety. His lovely doggie, Dulcie, is his therapy dog and for a little girl of such small stature, she does a huge job; I felt at times that Evan would be barely functional without her. Caro, too, is damaged but has managed to change some of that by accepting her faults, acknowledging that she’s made bad choices and by listening to Mal, who is her best friend and her confidant. She also needs therapy, but for different reasons to Evan. And Mal, he’s making a relationship again with his mother who abandoned him in a way that you wouldn’t traditionally consider abandonment. His mum had her own issues to deal with, and he had issues with his father, and whilst I didn’t feel as if he needed therapy, he was open to the idea of it with Evan, to be able to build a relationship. And, he made a decent effort to bring his (very slightly) remorseful mother back into his life, especially with a really personal and sweet gesture at the end of the tale.
It’s not at all a sweet tale or a romantic one or a nice one, as it’s too dark for that. But, it is a very good tale, one that will draw you in and make you feel for the characters. It’s not an out-and-out romance, but it is a story where someone who loves someone makes that someone heal in some, not all, ways – sorry for all the somes! I did end this book feeling as if the leads were on the right path, individually and jointly, but I suspect it won’t ever be a bed of roses for Evan and Mal, and that there may be more time apart for them before they’re together forever. But, I did feel like Mal would be his rock, come what may. Not a doormat, despite Caro’s concerns, but his rock. Him and Dulcie.
ARC courtesy of Riptide Publishing and NetGalley, for my reading pleasure.

About Jenya Keefe

Jenya Keefe was born in the South. She has an advanced degree in European history, and has spent much of her life working the kinds of jobs a history degree qualifies you for: gift shop employee, lumber grader, classifieds clerk, hot glass artist. She currently lives in the Seattle area, where she works at a library. She has always written stories.


Twitter: @JenyaKeefe

Pre-order Jenya’s next release, The Musician and the Monster, coming September 30th from Riptide Publishing!


To celebrate this release, Jenya is giving away a $15 gift card to Powell’s City of Books! Powell’s is an independent bookseller located in Portland, the setting for Relationship Material. Those not in Portland can shop online. Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on August 10, 2019. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

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