Steve Gavan and Daniël Borghart are professional soccer players for Kinbridge Town— and also secret lovers. All that changes, however, when Steve innocently wanders into a city park and falls victim to a vicious gang of queer-bashers who beat him within an inch of his life. After that there are no secrets any more—and it's a very long road back, for both of them, from there...
I’m having trouble knowing where to start with this review. Ravages is full of so many things to discuss and explore, that I could be here all day. The love Daniël had for Steve really got to me. He absolutely adores him, true love like you wouldn’t believe, and I’ll tell you why.
Ravages starts off with such an unusual writing style—for me, anyway—and a voice that grabbed me right away. We have Steve, happier than he’s ever been, walking along, not a care in the world. He’s in love, he’s exultant because of it, thrilled beyond belief that “love” has happened to him. It’s palpable, I felt it humming off the page, this happiness, and I settled down to find out more about the man who had made Steve so happy.
And, my God, I found out so much about him, even though the tale is told from Steve’s point of view. R. A. Padmos skilfully shows exactly who Daniël is and how he acts, thinks, and loves. He’s an adorable character, a man I wish all men could be. Saying that, Steve is also a major darling, so they’re both fighting in my mind for the “best hero” slot! Mind you, they’re not fighting, not really. They don’t fight. They talk things through, understand one another perfectly, and so, as Steve walks along, he finds he needs to take a leak.
*plot spoilers ahead*
I can’t write a review on this book without letting some things slip out, so here goes. Steve’s world is turned inside out, upside down, and almost ended when he takes that leak. Some a**holes decided to nearly beat the life out of him because he’s gay. Not only is he gay, but he’s a prominent footballer, and these men took extreme exception to that. They didn’t care that he was good at his game, that he gave his all with every match. No, all they cared about was what he did in the bedroom and how that disgusted them.
I will say this beating scene is one of the most harrowing things I have ever read. I didn’t want to read on once I started crying, but I found myself unable to stop seeing the words that were causing me so much unhappiness. It was as though I wanted to go through the pain with Steve, to understand the horror he was going through. I had got attached to him already—and only after a very few short pages.
Steve almost dies. I almost died with him. I was right there, seeing it all in its devastating glory, knowing this happens time and again for real, which made it all the more shocking, all the more terrible. But, Steve’s love for Daniël prevents him dying. He holds on, knowing that somehow they will be together again.
In a coma, Steve begins the painful process of realising he can hear but can’t speak. I won’t give much away here, but his journey to recovering is absolutely incredible, aided by Daniël, who, despite also being a pro footballer, shunned his games and career in favour of sitting by Steve’s bedside 24/7. I have a lump in my throat just thinking about that. Steve is a mess, has lost most of his teeth, but d’you know what? Daniël doesn’t see that at all. To him, Steve is Steve. Steve is alive, with him, and it doesn’t matter what state he’s in, what he looks like, that’s enough for Daniël.
So, Ravages not only deals with bashers and gruelling recoveries, it also deals with acceptance—on many levels. Steve has to accept he isn’t going to play football again, may not even walk or be any way normal once he wakes up, and when he does wake, he has to accept that Daniël will not ever, ever leave him. There is a touching scene—won’t spoil it—where we get to see just how much Steve loves Daniël by what he asks him to do—and how very much Daniël loves Steve by refusing to do it. Steve and Daniël’s friends have to accept they are gay. Their football manager has to accept that not only has he lost Steve from the team, he may very well lose Daniël—because Daniël will give up the riches, the fame, for Steve. And he means it.
As Steve recovers and is eventually allowed out of hospital, the pair have other things to accept and face. The public. The internet. The newspapers. Certain private snail-mails. All they want is one another. All they want is peace. I must just say, before I forget, that another touching scene in the hospital had me crying again. When Steve urges Daniël to go and play football. Steve knows he himself never will, but he doesn’t harbour a grudge that Daniël is still able to—he wants Daniël to play, to do what he can’t. And when Daniël comes back smelling of the outdoors and grass… Whoops! Set myself off crying again just writing about it.
He tasted like boy turning into man, like sweets and beer.
It can’t be helped: a tree is getting watered one extra time. (And this was the pin that pricked my balloon of happiness, where I’d previously been gliding along with Steve, happy as anything. What follows is something I will never forget.)
Mother-fucking sons of just as many bitches. (Fab line!)
Iron-nosed boots. (Fantastic description.)
So many slow words. So much silence between the words. So much patience from Daniël.
Steve wants to drink it in, close to tears because of the beauty of it all.
“…There is so little left of me.” (*sniffle*)
“But I’m able to hold you.” (*bigger sniffle*)
…but love doesn’t need a lot of space. (Gorgeous line in the context of the scene.)
“…And if it wears out and tears, I’ll make another one.”
Ravages is a wonderful story (but not for the faint of heart) that deals with love to the highest degree, and everything else in between. It’s an emotional roller coaster, I won’t lie and say it isn’t, but it’s a book well worth reading if you want to be amazed by just how strong the power of love can be. If you like your romance with a heavy dose of reality, please read this book. I think it will change you in some way, just as it did me.
And the epilogue. Just make sure you have Kleenex handy, okay?