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Strong Medicine

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Two men who meet in a psychiatric institution couldn’t possibly find happiness together—could they?

The world seemed to be telling disgraced former child star and singer Cameron Fox that he would never be happy again. A drunken car accident gets him sentenced to a work-release at Riverbend Behavioral Health Facility.

Reclusive, traumatized writer Jonah Radley has an entire graveyard of skeletons in his closet. Jonah regularly hospitalizes himself for psychotic episodes caused by a horrific childhood trauma, his biggest secret—one he refuses to speak about in therapy.

Jonah and Cameron form a bond inside the hospital, forged in mutual pain and hope for a better life. Once they leave the hospital, they must decide if they are brave enough to explore the intricacies of living with mental illness—and find a new normal together.

278 pages, ebook

First published May 11, 2016

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About the author

J.K. Hogan

19 books292 followers
J.K. Hogan has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, beginning with writing cast lists and storylines for her toys growing up. When she finally decided to put pen to paper, she found her true passion. She is greatly inspired by all kinds of music and often creates a “soundtrack” for her stories as she writes them.

J.K. resides in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, and their pets. If she isn’t writing, J.K. can be found designing book covers at Wicked Pixel Design, or knitting, weaving, watching Hurricanes Hockey and, of course, reading! For more information, please visit www.jkhogan.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 64 reviews
Profile Image for Ele.
1,274 reviews40 followers
May 10, 2016

"Love could be a dangerous thing between two people who weren't free. Jonah had his illness and Cameron had his family. They were two people who should never be together, but the universe kept throwing them at one another."

This was not an easy story to read and by the time it ended I was exhausted. But at the same time, it sucked me right in and I had trouble putting it down.

Cameron, child-star and famous singer, is sentenced to a work-release at Riverbend, after the drunken car accident he caused. That's when he meets Jonah. I absolutely loved the character growth we saw in Cameron. It actually satisfied me more than watching Jonah working on his issues. So Cameron starts as this spoiled "kid" and by the end of the story he's a mature independant, and hard-working man.

Jonah's head is brimming with demons. What he witnessed as a child, has left permanent marks to his soul and mind. He's aware of how mentally ill he is, and when he feels a psychotic episode coming, he hospitalizes himself in Riverbend Behavioral Health Center. Being inside his head, was terrifying and fascinating at once. I think the author did a good job portraying how he experienced his episodes.

"What do you see, Jonah?"[...]

"I see fire," Jonah whispered.
"Everywhere. Always. I see blood and pain. I see people who are dead and people who should be dead but aren't. And that's just an average Wednesday."

Jonah and Cameron form a special bond, which eventually turns into more. But it takes a long while to get there. The burn is really slow. In the first half of the book, not much happens in the romance department and the steam is almost non-existent, but the second half makes up for it.

Their relationship was pretty special, and not just a romantic one, because they gave each other a reason to try to do better. After all these stories I 've read lately that involved a "magic dick", that cured people, this was refreshing. Cameron and Jonah fell in love, helped each other heal, all while keeping things realistic.

It's pretty dark inside Jonah's head, and the reader spends A LOT of time in there. It's also a pretty long story, and a large part of is all about the illness. There are pages upon pages filled with details about Jonah's episodic symptoms, treatments, procedures, and therapy sessions. It didn't feel like info-dump because it was essential to the plot, but still....I wish there was less of this and more relationship development or romance.

Overall, it is great, engaging story, it matched my current mood, and I always love Hogan's writing. There are some pretty interesting secondary characters too, like Milo or Jaxon. I'll be a happy, happy girl if this turns out to be a series.

Disclaimer: This book deals with severe mental illness, like depersonalization and hallucinations, that I'm not familiar with at all. I have no clue how accurate all these details about said illness, symptoms, or medical treatments and procedures are. But the author's previous work was pretty well-researched, so I don't have a reason to believe this doesn't apply here as well.

*Review cross-posted on Gay Book Reviews.*
Profile Image for Jewel.
1,795 reviews243 followers
May 10, 2016
4.5 Stars

​​Strong Medicine is the second book by JK Hogan that I've read, and I must say, I love her writing! Her characters are well drawn and flawed and real. It's just so refreshing to just be able to relax into a story and just go on the journey with the characters. This is a fairly long book, too, but it did not feel like it, to me. I found myself so immersed in the story, I didn't even notice the time pass.​ I was also surprised that though the book has some angsty elements, I did not feel overpowered by it.​ The romance is a very slow burn, though. Our boys have a lot to go through and come to terms with before they're ready to be with each other.

​Jonah Radley​ is a 23 year old man who has seen and experienced true evil. When he was a young child he went through some horribly traumatizing experiences and they left their mark in a big way. ​​​​He has episodes a couple times a year that cause him to voluntarily institutionalize himself because he hallucinates and stops sleeping for long periods of time. He's not all that compliant with treatment plans, though, because he has zero desire to talk about his childhood and what he went through and, he refuses medication.

It isn't that he doesn't want to get better, it's just that he doesn't think he can. He's terrified that if he lets himself think about and talk about what happened, his delusions will overtake him, completely. Jonah is a very creative person - a successful author and poet - and he doesn't want to lose what little of himself he really has. He's not comfortable around people and he suffers from severe anxiety when he is faced with having to interact with people outside a very controlled environment. But then he meets Cameron. And he surprises everyone, including himself.

​Cameron Fox was a child star of a successful TV show, and then lead vocalist for a band consisting of himself and his siblings. It's really quite Brady Bunch. Every step of Cameron's life has been dictated to him. His father is the manager of the band and he is very controlling - he, exclusively, picks the songs they record​, takes care of touring and all of their schedules, and, of course, he is in charge of all the money. He has this vision of how his kids should live their lives and he doesn't let anything stand in the way of that.​ He even arranges dates with vacuous women for Cameron. It's enough to drive a man to drink, even if he's not gay -- but Cameron is gay and it does drive him to drink. Spectacularly. Which, of course, leads to him on his path to a DWI and a work release program at Riverbend.

​Being at Riverbend​ gives Cam a chance to get his head together and figure out, not only what his underlying problems are, but how to manage them, and an opportunity to step ​away from his "normal" life and take a bit if a breather. Now Cam is in charge of himself, except the job, of course and the counselling, which are mandatory. But, he doesn't have his father breathing down his neck and he can be himself.

Strong Medicine is about finding the person you want to be and finding the strength to become that person. It's also about finding the reason to fight for it. Both Jonah and Cameron come so far in this story and they overcome so much to be together. Jonah may never be completely stable, but Cameron is there for the long haul, and I feel very confident about their HEA. In fact, I kind of loved it.

Profile Image for Bev .
1,901 reviews404 followers
April 30, 2019
A fantastic start and a good ending but the middle let this one down. This should have been a 5 star read for me, it's one of those books that gave me goosebumps when I started reading it. I've read it and I still can't comprehend the absolute horror that Jonah endured as a child at the hands of an evil, sick, twisted and perverted adult. I don't even think horror is a strong enough word.

However, I felt the middle of the book just dragged a bit in places and the romance and slow sizzling burn that should have been there wasn't, it kinda got lost on that roundabout.

There was lashings of hurt/comfort, broken characters, healing (to a point because Jonah will never be cured), redemption, sweet characters - all the things that make a book a winner for me, but ID, I just feel there's something missing that's keeping me from rating this higher.

3.75 stars
Profile Image for Fabi.
1,009 reviews143 followers
May 9, 2019
3.5 stars

This could've and should've been a five star book. Two broken characters who had their childhoods taken away from them.

There's bad parenting and there's unimaginable, horrific parenting.

So how can these two end up being good for each other? They click. They connect. They give each other strength. They both strive to be their best selves for the other.

Like I said, this should have been a five star book. I almost overlooked my first niggle . But then we get the sex scenes and they are so incongruous. I'm sorry, but those erotic sex scenes made no sense at all in the flow of the plot. It was like someone cut and pasted sex scenes from another story into this one. I overlooked them as much as I could. I skimmed and skipped, but ultimately they brought my rating down quite a bit.

But I felt like the writing was top notch and I'd like to read more books by this author.
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 75 books2,513 followers
September 19, 2016
This book has one of the most broken characters I've met in M/M, but the things that happened to Jonah as a child are not quite the standard abuse tropes of M/M. Still, close enough that this needs a big trigger warning on it. Jonah survived his bad times, and has managed to reach adulthood, but he's deeply damaged and circumscribed by what he went through.

Twice a year, his panic attacks and hallucinations begin to crowd him, until he reaches the point where even his reclusive life as a writer is impossible. Then he checks himself into a local psychiatric inpatient hospital to weather the worst of it. But his past is also a reason, or perhaps an excuse, to refuse drugs and dodge therapy. Jonah is locked in a holding pattern, living half a life. He thinks that's probably the best he'll ever manage.

Cameron was a childhood TV and music star, whose controlling father has created a fictional perfect life for the family band. It wouldn't be so bad, except fictional Cameron is straight, and real Cameron is deep in the closet. He took to drinking, and one day he drank too much and crashed with a blood alcohol level that could not be ignored. His connections do get him a placement as both orderly and patient at the psychiatric facility, doing public service hours, and getting some counseling. Cameron's not an alcoholic, but he is at loose ends, cast out of his band, and unsure of his future.

These two young men meet, and have an instant connection, facilitated by Jonah's teenaged crush on Cameron's fictional character. But the obstacles to them having a real relationship are both internal and external. Jonah has a lot of healing to get through. And unless Cameron breaks free of his father's influence, and Jonah is able to leave the hospital, they're playing with fire that has nowhere to go.

I appreciated that this is another book which uses real, extended psychotherapy to treat a damaged character. It was also cool to see Jonah's perception of the doctors and their motives change. I liked the slow arc of his progress. The climactic events were not allowed to sink to melodrama (although the childhood trauma verged on it), and the ending was nicely but not impossibly warm.
Profile Image for CrabbyPatty.
1,574 reviews170 followers
January 25, 2020
Wow - I started the book a few times (probably got to the second chapter) and it didn't grab me, but when the story took off, it took off and left me hanging on for dear life.

Cameron Fox, former child star and lead singer in Foxfire (the family band managed by his asshat of a father), has a drunken car accident and ends up sentenced to a one-year work release program at Riverbend Behavorial Health Center, where he meets Jonah. Jonah voluntarily commits himself at Riverbend about twice a year when he has psychotic breaks due to a horrific childhood experience. We get inside Jonah's head to see his hallucinations and demons, and it is truly frightening.

Strong Medicine is a tough read, at points agonizing and heartbreaking and at other times a bit unfocused with rivalries between the doctors on staff, some briefly-introduced and then never-again-seen secondary characters and Foxfire band in-fighting. But we also see Cameron's growth and acceptance of his true self, and how his relationship with Jonah helps Jonah to finally deal with the past. They fall in love and help each other heal, and it is beautiful to read.

ARC received from author via Indigo Marketing And Design in exchange for an honest review.

Visit my blog, Sinfully Good Gay Book Reviews
Profile Image for Susan.
2,195 reviews395 followers
January 31, 2018
-Re-read January 2018-
I still feel the same about this as the first time I read it. It's a good book, but I constantly had the feeling it could have been more.


3.5 stars

This was quite good, but I did feel as if something was missing. I can’t quite put my finger on it though.

Cameron has been sentenced to help out in a mental health center after a DUI arrest. He needs to help out for a year and also join in on group therapy. Cameron knows it’s for the best, so he tries to make the best of it. Especially when his father, also his manager, kicks him out of the family band.

It is there that he meets 23 year old Jonah. Jonah, who admits himself to the institution twice a year, when his episodes get the better of him. Jonah suffers from hallucinations and severe nightmares due to a trauma from his childhood. That trauma was so extreme, he refuses to talk about it. He just tries to get through his episodes so he won’t hurt anyone and then gets back to his reclusive life.

Cameron feels attracted to Jonah from the first day, and it appears to be mutual. But they both know nothing can come of it while Cameron is staff and Jonah a patient.

They develop a friendship instead, but after a stolen kiss, they are caught and forbidden to see each other anymore. Jonah knows he has to get better if he wants a chance at something with Cameron, so he knows he has no choice but to open up about his horrific childhood...

This book has all the ingredients for a 5 star book for me. A traumatized person, a mental institution, group therapy sessions, a forbidden romance, and some horrifying hallucinations that will give you the chills. But despite all of this, it didn’t live up to its full potential. I’m not sure why though…

I think it was the romance. Perhaps it wasn’t romantic enough. I did admire the way J.K. Hogan handled Jonah’s mental illness. Love doesn’t cure everything! Cameron and Jonah spend some time apart during several stages in this book, and that was necessary for Jonah to try to at least get a bit better. But I felt as if the foundation for the relationship wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be by then. I felt as if they hadn’t seen each other all that much before the separation(s).

What I did like was the horror aspect of the story. I’m going to spoil what happened to Jonah, so if you don’t want to know, stop reading now.

Overall, this was quite a good story, but I think I wanted a bit more emotion within the relationship. A bit more ‘I NEED you, I WANT you.’
Profile Image for **Kαчcєє**.
632 reviews17 followers
March 14, 2018
**4.5 stars**

I've always said...the strongest people are those who have overcome the biggest obstacles.
This was very well written. I was really drawn in. The MCs were so sweet together. The mental illness was believable. There was abuse but it was prior to the story. Just a great book.
Profile Image for Paul.
648 reviews
May 26, 2016
I don't know how to review this book, I really liked it but Trigger Warning's for severe mental illness but chronic warning for severe childhood mental abuse

It's a dark story and might be pushing it for some but not me.
Profile Image for Monique.
982 reviews385 followers
May 20, 2016

Not having read a book by Ms Hogan before it was definitely the synopsis (well, and the cover, because that’s just fabulous) that drew me in. I’m so glad I picked this book up because it’s one of those where you get really excited about discovering a new author. I love her writing style, it’s intelligent with beautiful phrases and a wealth of vocabulary. I got lost in J.K. Hogans words and just enjoyed traversing the highs and lows of a touching, tender and very emotional journey of two men, Jonah and Cam, finding a new ‘normal’ together.

I have to admit, I didn’t initially have much sympathy for Cameron, he came across as egotistical and too full of his own self-importance, not for one minute thinking his actions would be punished. Pouting like the child star he was, rather than taking responsibility like the twenty seven year old man he is.

However as the story unfolds it becomes apparent that his work placement at Riverbend is the catalyst that helps him discover himself and sees him finally take ownership of his life. One which so far has been as much a pretence as the persona he presents to the public on TV and stage, where despite being in the limelight and surrounded by people, his life is lonely, especially as he’s unable to share who he really is.

I loved watching him realise his potential as a person of unselfish compassionate generosity and embrace it. Especially where Jonah is concerned. It’s then we start to see the thoughtful and kind hearted person that has been stifled for so long.

Jonah, bless him, just broke my heart. He immediately pulled me in and had my emotions in complete turmoil. His back story was tragic, but it was his inner strength that gave me hope. I don’t think I could have managed to sustain his struggles with such aplomb.

Dealing with his illness and trying to maintain some semblance and quality of life whilst haunted by the demons of his past, was distressing and sad to watch. I felt that for a twenty three year old poor Jonah had already lived a thousand lives, resigned to his illness with no friends and a tentative hold on his sanity, needing a self-imposed solitude just to survive. Disconnected from a world he feels at odds with, trying to balance the finite line between his sanity and reality and maintaining equilibrium. Fear of falling means both emotion and love have no place in the darkness of his heart, so he lives his life through his stories, the written word his only outlet and means of expression.

Both men are detached from their lives for different reasons but it’s that mutual attraction and spark that just might see them living, rather than existing. As a young boy Jonah was dazzled by the gorgeous blond on the TV and it’s that feeling of comfort he remembers that starts to reignite something within, warming the cold he’s felt for so long. Whilst Cam is drawn to the lost boy he sees beneath the mania that’s trying to smother the sanity. But they are drawn to each other. Inexplicably so. And neither can resist that pull.

Please read the rest of my review over at Sinfully Gay Romance Book Reviews

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Profile Image for Resyries.
1,802 reviews
May 10, 2017
I am in love with this book <33333!! THIS is why I am so stingy with giving books 5 stars ... it's so I can rack em' up and give books like this one a gazillion of them <333333333!! *Looks at book and throws stars at it* - Take all my stars, take them <3333!!!

I keep saying I'll add my thoughts at a later date and you HAVE to trust me here in that I will ... 100% ... absolutely <333!! I have SO much to say, all of it gushing and adoring <3!!! This book is officially one of my TOP 10 favorite M/M books, with Cameron and Jonah being one of my TOP 10 favorite M/M couples :-)!!! I'll go so far as to say this is one of my TOP favorite books ever <333!!! AMAZING & PHENOMENAL book ... highly highly HIGHLY recommended!!!!

More [coherent] thoughts to come :-) ...

In the meantime, my updates are definitely review-worthy. That said, I'll be working on a review page worthy of this book, because WOW!!
Profile Image for Ariana  (mostly offline).
1,366 reviews39 followers
July 1, 2016
ARC received from author via Indigo Marketing And Design in exchange for an honest review.

4,5 stars

I am a sucker for deeply torn, broken characters who struggle to make sense of themselves and the world around them. This book certainly delivers that, and it did remind me in many ways of Nicola Haken's fabulous 'Broken'.

Jonah has pretty much given up on himself. He has withdrawn from the world, mentally and physically, living as a recluse in a small cottage in the middle of nowhere, accepting his (self-certified) craziness as something that will never leave him. He is only 23. Jonah is so young, and yet, there is no shred of hope in him.
Considering what he is going through, I can't blame him. On the contrary, my heart wept for him as he battles through one break-down after another, defeated by his past and resigned to a life just 'floating'. J.K. Hogan does a brilliant job describing his condition and what is going on inside him.

Reality was an elusive beast. It toyed with him like a cat would a mouse, dangling freedom in front of him only to dash hopes with the swat of its giant paw. Oh, how it laughed at him, setting Jonah's teeth on edge.

At times being in Jonah's head is intense and goes from gritty right down to scary, but it felt totally real and believable to me. The author must have done an enormous amount of research into mental conditions and their treatment. I was also pretty impressed by all the very professional sounding 'doctor talk'. Jonah's plight just grabbed me and never let me go for once. I suffered with him every step of the way, and yes, there were tears. A couple of times, at least.

And I could so associate with this one:

That thing you felt when you lay awake at three a.m., knowing you have to get up at six and do it all over again, that never ending Möbius strip of existence, sometimes it just snuck up on him and crushed him.

Cameron has his own issues to resolve, like dealing with his controlled life and coming out to his father. Cameron is 27 and (theoretically) a grown up. But it seems he is only coming 'off age' once he faces his problems. I liked the way he embraces his sentence, how he doesn't hesitate to take on new responsibilities. His new job helps him to re-evaluate and find himself, and getting to know Jonah is crucial to his development, too.

Jonah and Cameron's love story starts out very tentatively. There is a pull neither can deny, but how can they possibly act on it? Cameron is a probie at the clinic, Jonah a patient who is highly volatile. I really appreciated that J.K. Hogan didn't go down the 'love immediately conquers all' route. Although Jonah's progress is jump-started by his feelings for Cameron, he has to go through a huge cycle of treatments and jump through countless hoops before he is ready for any kind of relationship.
And although that meant virtually no sex for a good part of the book, it couldn't have been any other way. It would have made no sense. But when it finally happens it is more than explosive!

I also loved that we were shown how Jonah and Cameron's relationship was panning out once they had gone past the 'honeymoon' stage. There is no miracle cure, only a realistic approach to what is possible - but happiness is definitely on the menu. And if there ever was a message of hope, this book certainly puts it across, this quote summing it up nicely.

Start by doing what is necessary, then do what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible."

This is my first book by J.K. Hogan, and I was really bowled over by her writing. However, I wasn't sure whether it was necessary to use big words like 'scoliotic', 'coppice' or 'discombobulated'. It did extend my own vocabulary (so thank you for that!), but I wonder if maybe some simpler words would have sufficed?

For those who love pink and fluffy - this is not for you. Some themes of the book are dark and heavy. But if you fancy a love story amidst the most unlikely circumstances, some incredible MCs, five star characterisation and excellent character development and a story that tears at your heart, this is pretty much perfect!

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Otterpuss.
680 reviews3 followers
May 12, 2016
4.5 stars

This is the first book that I've read by this author. I had a bit of a tough time getting into it and I struggled over the first few chapters but boy am I glad I persevered, something happened around chapter 3 or 4 that drew me in. I became involved with Jonah and Cameron and their stories.
I think getting Cameron away from his family had something to do with it. Suddenly he was a much nicer character, compassionate, kind and thoughtful rather than immature and whiney.

Jonah hurt my heart, I felt so much for him. I wanted to wrap him up in a hug and somehow make him forget his demons.

There are pages and pages about Jonah's symptoms and treatments but it never feels like too much, like wasted information. It's all vitally necessary for the story.
We spend a lot of time inside Jonah's head and its dark. Really, really dark. But not once did I feel overwhelmed by it.

The bond between Cameron and Jonah is oh so special.
The romance didn't even start until well after the half way point. The first half of the book has little or no romance in it but I didn't miss it. I was so wrapped up in Cameron and Jonah, especially Jonah, that I didn't miss the lack of romantic involvement.

I liked that Jonah's issues didn't just disappear over night. He's still working through them with Cameron.

I wasn't too keen on Jonah's families (especially his dad) complete turn around at the end of the book, it didn't quite ring true.

This book is really well written and the characters are real, flawed and oh so beautifully connected.

It's not always an easy read but believe me it's worth it.
It gave me all the feels.

I received an ARC of this book from the author via IndiGo Marketing & Design in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jay.
240 reviews44 followers
May 18, 2016
4 stars – Strong Medicine is a riveting read about the effects on two people’s lives that were essentially taken away from them at some point in their childhood and them finding an appropriate impetus for taking back control. This is my first exposure to J.K. Hogan’s work, and I enjoyed the journey.

Cameron Fox is a 27-year-old former child TV star turned lead singer of his family’s popular teen-targeted band, Firefox, until they kick him out after getting into a car accident caused by him drinking and driving. Fortunately, the injuries to both him and those in the car he hits are minor, but it’s still a DUI. His sentence: one year in a work-release program at Riverbend Behavioral Health Facility. Jonah Ridley is a 23-year-old successful author who still suffers from the effects of a serious childhood trauma. The effects cause the need for him to commit himself frequently and voluntarily to Riverbend, because he fears being left free would result in his hurting himself or others. The bond the two men form when they meet in the hospital is instantaneous and strong, as is their mutual attraction, but just sharing a common pain can never be enough to be more than just friends.

The majority of the novel deals with the mental issues the two men have. Without giving away too much of the story, Jonah’s stem from being kidnapped and witnessing terrible things as a young child and are definitely the worse of the two. They cause him to hallucinate and experience dissociative episodes, though his symptoms are not constant. They manifest themselves in a cyclic fashion, twice a year for several weeks, almost like clockwork, and then he’s fine for a while. But this makes it feel even more like he’s out of control of his life. He compensates by being a recluse. Cameron’s life has always been planned for him, even as an adult in the band. His father managed all the important aspects of his life, including setting him up for public dates with women (despite the fact that Cameron is gay.) As one might expect, he acts out as a result of this and suffers from depression from feeling like he’s living a lie.

Cameron is essentially an employee of the hospital because of his sentence, but he is also required to attend counseling. The employee thing poses a problem for his and Jonah’s friendship when it becomes apparent that they are attracted to each other, and this forbidden aspect turns the story into a long, slow burn and does cause a bit of drama in the book.

And this is a long book, but it doesn’t feel long or intentionally drawn out. The writing is quite beautiful, and the author isn’t afraid to use some $5 words (I like a book that makes me consult a dictionary a few times.) I will say, though, that if you aren’t at all interested in reading about mental illness or hospitals, this book probably isn’t for you, even though there are none of the ugly things you think of that often appear in books, movies, and TV shows set in insane asylums.

Jonah and Cameron make a good pairing. Even though their situations are vastly different (except perhaps their daddy issues, but that’s all I’ll say about it to prevent spoiling), they share a common goal. And they both realize they have to make the decision to help themselves before they can help each other, let alone be together. It’s a beautiful process once it starts, and once they’re together, it’s clear they were meant to be.

In addition to the main characters, the book also contains a bevy of secondary characters that add a lot of richness to the story. In my opinion, this fact also helped prevent the problem of forgetting whose perspective was being used while reading the book, because during the first two-thirds of the story, Jonah and Cameron interacted with each other alone relatively infrequently, thereby allowing the author to establish the two identities solidly before they were both out of the institution and could be together all the time.

Overall, because of the subject matter of Strong Medicine, it is not an easy or light read. While it isn’t a “mind-fuck” book, it does deal with mental illness in a serious and realistic fashion, so if this is a trigger for you, be forewarned. Fortunately, there isn’t anything truly ugly here, except perhaps for what happened to Jonah as a child, but when it comes time to relate the details, the author handles it in a smooth and elegant way. This style of book also means it’s not often gushy or over-the-top romantic. That being said, they do get their happily-ever-after, and how they get there is quite satisfying. This is a good read for when you have the time and energy for something that a little grittier than your average contemporary romance. I really liked it, and I look forward to reading more from this author.

The author generously provided me a complimentary copy of Strong Medicine in exchange for this fair and honest review.

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Profile Image for ♣️ Lynda ♣️.
449 reviews43 followers
May 19, 2017
4.5 Stars

You can be crazy but only on the inside..

This book sucked me in and I had trouble putting it down. The topic was difficult but also it was so well written I felt like I was living it.

I adored both characters. They had incredibly different upbringings but they found each other at the perfect time and helped to heal the past.
Profile Image for Candice.
2,857 reviews120 followers
September 21, 2016
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I KNEW this book was going to tear me into shreds. I have a thing for completely "broken" boys. I my heart BROKE for Jonah. From the minute he came on page I knew I was in love with him and I knew he'd break my heart.

Jonah is suffering from a mental illness that even his 3 therapists have a hard time diagnosing. But, he's trying, and does a biannual "vacation" at the Riverbend Behavioral Health Facility. Speaking of his therapists...
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I loved how he was "honest" with his therapists. If he didn't want to do something he didn't. If someone asked him a question he was blunt with his answers. He was real with them, but then again he kept so much back from them. I liked that. I liked how he knew he needed help, but he just wasn't ready to accept REAL help.

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I loved how he opened up to Cam. I loved how their relationship was easy, because they both had so much hard stuff in their lives already. They needed something easy. No, I'm not saying everything was hunky dory; I'm saying they fell in with each other easily. They both "got" each other. I loved how Cam wanted to help Jonah.

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While Jonah was going through his stuff, Cam had his own ordeal. Granted his, on the larger scale, were "easier" to fix.

There's so much I could say about Jonah's delusions and his mental health, but there are no words to describe what's he's going through. You just have to read it to find out and I hope you fall in love with Jonah and Cam as much as I did. They will never have a "perfect" relationship, because how can they? But, I believe in them. I believe that whatever life throws at them, they'll find a way through it and be stronger for it. They're solid and I know they'll be okay.

J.K. Hogan is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. She has a way of pulling me into her stories--even stories I didn't even want to read in the first place, ie. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

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Profile Image for Frederic.
94 reviews7 followers
July 16, 2016
Strong Medicine is the best book I have read so far in 2016!! It is not a Bubble Gum happy story, au contraire, we mostly found ourselves navigating between darkness and brokenness. I also want to give a fair warning that this story might be sensitive for some people. It is dealing with mental illness and childhood abuse, if those elements are triggering some intense emotional response from your part, you might want to pass up this book. It is a tough read, it taking us in the heart of 2 broken young men and we are agonizing with them. It took 4 days to finish it, which is unusual on my for me. Why it took me so long to finish it you will ask yourself, well the answer is simple : I did not want it to end.

I found myself in a space that I don’t visit that often (I usually prefer Unicorn and lollipop ),It might be because my brokenness met the one of Cameron and Jonah in this story. Let’s do a quick summary of the story, you will see why it is so good!! Cameron Fox is a former child/teen star that is now singing in his family band. One night he had an accident and was convicted of DUI. Instead of going to jail, he has to do community service for a year at Riverbend Behavioral health Centre and enroll in an alcohol counseling program as well. He is struggling with the fact that he is gay. His late mom knew and now only one of his brother knows about it. He is definitely not ready to come out to his family, nor can he accept that he has a problem with alcohol. While working at Riverbend he met Jonah, and he is feeling attracted to him.

Jonah is checking in and out of Riverbend on a voluntary basis twice a year. He has a psychotic breakdown and is unable to sleep for weeks at the time. He is also dealing with hallucinations and he is losing touch with reality. Growing up he lived through traumatic events that are eating him up alive. When everything is under control, he is a prolific author writing under different pen names and different genre (suspense, romance, poetry, etc.). He is an artist but a recluse a the same time. The story is following Jonah and Cameron in their journey to heal themselves and each other.

This is an intense story that is leaving me with some foods for thought. It may sound as if it is a dark story and not enjoyable, but there are hope and light in it. Cameron and Jonah have faith in their abilities to heal each other, to be there for one another. To accept themselves completely and their willingness to move forward is what is changing their life. I also liked the fact that the 3 doctors at Riverbend were not on the same page in regards to Jonah problems. It is reflecting a problem that is often encountered in the mental health field. This story is also showing us the judgments that we hold against the people that have mental health issues and put it right in our face. It is also a tale of acceptance, faith, love and the strength that each of us is owning in ourselves. When we have the willingness to change, the sky is the limit.

This was my first read by J.K. Hogan and you can be sure that I will read her other books soon. If you have one book to read in 2016, it must be Strong Medicine! Now would be a good time to do so!!

*This book was gifted to me by Jeep Diva in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Alicia.
365 reviews10 followers
May 11, 2016
-4.25 stars-
This was really good. Only my second read by this author, but so far I have enjoyed both, so I think it's time to go grab a few more.

we have Jonah, a 23 year old author, who has suffered greatly over his life time, stemming from something horrific that happened to him in childhood. he was never gotten the help he needed when he was younger, and now has recurrent and severe mental health episodes. Jonah checks himself in to the behavioural facility twice a year when these episodes come on, but Doctors are unsure what is causing them, because Jonah has to been to afraid to open up. he wants to get better, but it doesn't truly believe he can, and has never really had a reason to try until Cam comes along. this kicks him in to gear, albeit slowly, and makes him want a future he never believed possible.

Cameron is a 27 year old former child star/lead singer of his family band. He has always lived his life per his fathers wants, hiding who he truly is, which in the end was his ultimate downfall. After a DUI incident, Cam is sentenced to one year of work release at the behavioural facility, where he must also attend counselling due to alcohol issues. this is where he meats Jonah, and they appear to have an instant connection. Cam comes a long way in realising who he wants to be, what the underlying issues are regarding his life seemingly falling apart, and comes out so much better through his stint with the facility.

This is not an easy read, there is a bit of angst, some sadness, but a beautiful connection between two broken men. it is long, and the romance is extremely slow burn, but given the type of story it was, that was completely understandable. they have to go through a lot of hurdles, and a lot of heeling before they can finally be together, and watching them struggle with their illnesses, and there feelings for each other could be heart breaking at times. When they finally did get together, it was perfect (as much as it could be given the situation), and hot, and both guys were there for each other implicitly.

this really was a fantastic read, and for me there were only a few downfalls. I would have liked more romance, but I suppose that's a given, and I would have liked someone to kick Cam's families asses. I did not like them at all. I don't want to give away spoilers, but I found them to be horrible. What they did to Cam with the band was not OK, yet Cam let it go, and then Milos horrible betrayal. Don't even get me started on the father. The fact, that after everything they had all done, they thought it was ok to just pop by, unannounced whenever they pleased, bugged me to no end. I wanted to see Cam get more angry, make them suffer a bit, but hey maybe I'm just a sit of a sadist.

So do I recommend this book? Hells yeh. get it, now.

-copy provided by IndiGo Marketing for a fair and unbiased review-
Profile Image for Tamika♥RBF MOOD♥.
1,224 reviews142 followers
May 16, 2016
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

DNF @49%

I'm kinda disappointed with myself more then the book. I've tried to read this for the past two days and I just kept thinking that I didn't like either character. Not in the romantic sense, or personally either. For me, I need to connect with the characters and both guys just wasn't doing it. I really like this author, and I love her writing. She writes some realistic guys and they are usually flawed but that's what I enjoy the most about them. I think I could have enjoyed it more if the focus was completely on Jonah. I know eventually both guys would probably get the help they need, but I wasn't able to read on.

I had so many issues up until that point. The romance was not there and that's okay because the story wasn't about romance. It was about two broken souls finding each other and helping out with the self healing. I was more conflicted with Jonah. I won't presume to be in the Psychology field, and a doctor. I couldn't grasp him being in control, lucid and able to write as an author under different pen names, and then the next second in a trance or sick. I guess I would have appreciated if it was a full focus on his condition, and the not taking medication thing was bothering me. I mean Riverbend isn't a hotel, he's just in and out when he feels he's ready. It was just confusing for me as a reader, and with me so focused on him I kinda lost Cameron in the background. I didn't care as much about him. I wish I could have continued and maybe in the future I can pick it up again.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
552 reviews12 followers
May 15, 2016
ARC received from author via Indigo Marketing And Design in exchange for an honest review.

I’m not sure where to start with this one other than to say that I loved it. This is far from light hearted and the slow unveiling of Jonah’s past will have you engrossed from the beginning. Cameron escapes a jail sentence after being caught DUI and his alternative is to work in an institution for people with mental health issues, forced to go through therapy while there. It is during this time, that he encounters Jonah, a very troubled man who checks himself in, twice a year when he has his ‘episodes’. Both men find it very easy to be around one another and Jonah wants to confide details to Cameron that he has been unable to tell his doctors. This is a hard hitting story, dealing with many of the problems experienced by the residents but also, the horrifying details of the life that Jonah was forced to endure as a child. A relationship between the two MC’s is not an easy one but is all the more realistic for it. The road to recovery is not simple for either man and the situations will have you on the edge of your seat in anticipation. I may have had a few ‘NOOOO!’ moments, while reading this. There is a happy ending and you can’t help being glad Jonah and Cameron found each other. A great book and I’ll look forward to more from this author.
Profile Image for Dreamer80.
387 reviews
September 19, 2016
This is a very particular story between Cameron and Jonah, two guys with a very different past. Cam is the front man of Foxfire, a pop group made up of Cameron and his siblings, with the aid of their overbearing stage-dad-slash-manager, and because he had the best singing voice, Cameron was lead vocals and guitar. But nothing is like it seems. Cam is also well-known as Kyle Chase and the poor guy has a secret that only is brother Milo knows about, apart from his dead and loved mother. Because of all that inside pain, the lies, the fight of being someone he isn’t, he starts drinking. Caught while driving drunk he's very lucky to just get one year working at a behavioral health facility that doubles as a substance abuse center, thanks to his father.
Then there is Jonah, a famous writer and with a very horrible past that has been his living hell since he was four, maybe five. Because of it, he has nightmares, episodes of hallucinations, and much more stuff that only someone with a tragic childhood can really understand. Every time that Jonah can’t deal with it, he knows that it’s time to go to Riverbend Behavioral Health Center.

In this story there are really important topics: be someone that you aren’t just because you can’t be yourself, the emotional hell that someone goes through because of someone else, because of things that nobody should ever experience.
Reading about Jonah’s PTSD and reading about what he had to live with the knowledge that he could never be better, made me want to go to scream for him. Doctors that can really be insensitive and look at their patients like they are their next chance to win an award or being nominated the next guru for a new cure for the “broken ones”. There isn’t a cure for most of the illnesses and if they comes from traumas, you just can’t delete them with meds or “you have to fight back” or “you have to talk about it” speech. Sometimes you need someone that “sees” you as the person that you are and not just for the man/woman that needs to be cured. That’s what Cameron was for Jonah. He was someone he could trust and for Jonah, that step was pretty easy to do.

The young Jonah feels very attracted to Cameron, physically and emotionally, and he trusts the actor/singer more than anybody else. Surely it’s because Jonah used to find comfort in watching Cameron/Kyle on TV when he was a teen but also because Cam gives him a sense of hope and peace. But not only Jonah feels something for his ex teen idol – something deep starts growing inside Cam as well. But nothing is easy as it sounds. Their own past comes to haunt them both and the two men need to face their own demons before starting to see if they can built a future together. Jonah will have to face something that almost ruined everything for him and what he fought for.
I loved how Cameron tried to help Jonah: the music, the walks, the “no pressure to talk” attitude. And what about Jonah? I loved him since the first line. And what about the sex/love scenes? There was so much passion, desire to connect with that someone that made him want to feel better and to find his HEA with, even if he knew that everything could have been destroyed by his personal issues, since there isn’t a cure for everything. You can just try to deal with them and try to work around them.
Something that I didn’t like was Cam’s family… not very helping and too “it’s for the best for the band” but “we love you, bro” attitude. Kenneth, their father, behaved like a huge idiot with Cam and when Jonah faced him… it was pure perfection!
I don’t want to write much more because I don’t like spoilers but let me tell you this: if you want to read a well-written story about love, strength, serious issues, real life situations – not everything is about unicorns and rainbows, believe me – and want to see what real love can do, give this story a chance. If you are too sensitive though, I don’t think this is for you.

This book was provided by the author via IndiGo Marketing & Design in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Daniel Mitton.
Author 3 books36 followers
May 31, 2016
(Originally reviewed for Love Bytes Reviews with a copy provided by the author / publisher for an honest review.)

The minute I read the blurb on this book, I added it to my request list at Love Bytes. Not only the blurb, but the cover grabbed me. I’ll admit it, I’m a cover guy. I’ve bought more books over the years based on a covers than on blurbs, so a good one catches my eye immediately! I’m not sure how I managed to get this book, since Donna has reviewed all the works from this author in the past. Can I just say how very happy I was to get the chance? I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and can’t wait to read other works from the author in the near future. I’m ashamed to say that one of them, Shadows Fall, has been in my TBR pile for months! I’ll have to bump it up in the stack!

So let’s talk about Strong Medicine. Ms. Hogan brings us a tale of two broken men, both with some serious background issues, who meet up in, of all places, a behavioral health facility. Cameron Fox is a former child star, well known from a syndicated television show he starred in during his teen years, when he was a teen heartthrob. After the show, he and his siblings continued their careers as a popular singing group, of which Cameron was the lead singer. But all that changed when Cam got into a fairly serious accident while drunk, and got the option of going to jail for a year, or going to work at Riverside Behavioral Health with the added stipulation that he attend regular substance abuse and other counseling sessions while there. He grudgingly takes the deal, but isn’t sure that he needs the counseling. It doesn’t help when his father, who is the stereotypical overbearing stage dad/manager of the band, in the best interests of the group, throws Cam out of the group. On top of that, Cam doesn’t realize he has been living under a cloud of depression since his mom, who was the only one who knew he was gay, passed a few years before, and that he has just been stumbling through life without a goal or focus. He knows that hiding his sexuality from his family has pushed him over the edge. Working at Riverside might be a good fit for him, if he gives it a chance. His attitude is get through his year and move on, or so he thinks.

Then one day Cam notices a man huddled up in a rocking chair in the group area at the facility. The man seems to be a magnet…drawing Cam to his side. The man’s first words, if I remember correctly, were something like “I know you.” and “I used to be in love with you.” Pretty startling under normal circumstances, but remember Cam is a former teen heartthrob.

The man in the chair turns out to be Jonah Radley. Jonah has been in and out of Riverside for years, since his mother passed away there. But it isn’t anything to do with his mother’s death which causes him to voluntarily check himself in a couple times a year. Jonah sees things. He sees his dead mother, he sees his father…who is very much alive but incarcerated, he sees fire, and he sees shocking reminders of his past. When Jonah was a young boy, he was witness to some truly horrific events. He hasn’t been able to talk to anyone about them since.

Something draws the two men together. Obviously there are rules against fraternization, but Cam is the first person that Jonah has ever considered telling his story to. The tale that grows from that point kept me enraptured. I actually got up this morning early to go to the gym, and then made a 90 degree turn to pick up my kindle and finish this book. I can work out anytime!

I want to finish with a little bit of raving about this lady’s writing style. The characters seemed so very real to me. She took us inside their heads, and gave us both viewpoints so expertly that I feel I know both of the main characters. There were also very well written and developed background characters, and the world building of the facility and the small town were perfectly meshed. Excellent job Ms. Hogan. You’ve definitely gained a new fan! My one and only complaint…and it is small…I really hoped that Cam would go back to help Jaxon. I know the story moved away from the facility, but I had hoped to hear what happened to him.

I very highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Morgan  Skye.
2,784 reviews27 followers
July 1, 2016
Cameron is what I would call a “B” list celebrity. He WAS a child star and now he’s in a band with his family and they are fairly popular but not “big stars”. When he gets a DUI the judge gives him a year of working at Riverbend, a psychiatric home as work release (at his father’s request). To make matters worse, Cameron’s dad kicks him out of the band for having a “bad image” and Cameron suspects that this image is not the DUI but the being gay.

Jonah is a voluntary resident at Riverbend twice a year. He has a past that is horrifying and it every once in awhile rises up to make him unable to cope with life on his own. The therapists there want him to go on medications, but he refuses and as such they feel he “doesn’t want to get better”.

When Jonah sees Cameron he remembers the character Cameron played on TV as a child and remembers that character as being special to him when Jonah was a child, too. This helps them to form an instantaneous bond that they build on from there.

Cameron’s life is in major flux right now, he sees by being at Riverbend that there’s more to his life that was wrong than right and now he wants to make things right. Jonah can’t keep doing what he’s doing and he certainly can’t keep doing it if he wants to be in a relationship with Cameron. The two men will have to decide what they want from life and what they’re willing to do to get it.


This book surprised me! I’d read the blurb, read a couple reviews and was expecting a very angsty and dark read. And it is BUT it’s also a very sweet and tremendously touching love story that (to me) really overshadows the dark.

I have to admit that I skimmed most of the spots where Jonah is trapped in his mind and “remembering” the horrors of his past. I just didn’t want those images in my mind. I skimmed them and got the idea, but I didn’t need the specific details haunting me! Hogan is a great writer and she does a fantastic job of putting the reader in Jonah’s mind space and that can be an awful place – so be warned – it is a dark read.

However, Cameron, for all his fucked-upness – is a really wonderful counterpart for Jonah in that he’s like a naïve new man looking at the world with fresh eyes. His life hasn’t been bad but it hasn’t been good but it hasn’t ever been as bad as most of the people’s lives at Riverbend. He’s smart enough to realize that really quick (no spoiled super star here!) and that really helps him do good things for himself and the residents of Riverbend. Since he’s in such a better place (mentally) he can be the support Jonah needs and yet Jonah helps Cameron make decisions about his own life, too. As a result they were a really well balanced couple by the end.

This is a fairly low steam story. There’s a couple hot and heavy scenes toward the end but most of this story is about Jonah and Cameron finding their way and finding one another. The smexy times were just icing on the cake!

I enjoyed this book and thought it was really interesting. I’d recommend it only if you’re prepared for dark and angsty but I’ll also say you get rewarded with a lot of warm and fuzzy – so it’s worth it!

4.5 of 5 stars
Profile Image for JustJen "Miss Conduct".
2,270 reviews151 followers
May 25, 2016

4.5 star review by The Blogger Girls.

What a wonderful story this was. Two guys each suffering for different reasons from the results of their upbringing find each other and click in ways that help each other heal.

First, we have Cameron, a young man who was a child TV star who then became the front man for a band made up of his siblings, all managed by their controlling father. Losing his mother (and the only one who knew he was gay), coupled with the pressures of his family obligations, sent him into a bit of depression. He turned to alcohol to ease his problems which led to a DUI and court-appointed work release at the facility where he meets Jonah. In the middle of this, his father kicked him out of the band to save the reputation of the family.

Jonah is a sweet guy who is suffering from a mental illness that he “manages” by admitting himself into the facility when he feels the episodes coming on. He has been able to maintain a somewhat functioning life by being a recluse author, limiting himself to personal interactions, etc. It is pretty clear from the get go that not addressing his childhood trauma is the root of his lack of recovery. Being voluntarily admitted seems to keep the doctors from pressing this issue though, and instead, they continue to try and diagnose him and push for medications, which he refuses.

Once Jonah meets Cameron (his crush from Cameron’s TV days), he realizes Cameron calms him and Jonah allows himself to have a real friendship for the first time. They definitely have a connection, but there is so much at play with Jonah’s issues. It was beautiful to watch the relationship grow with these guys. Cameron is able to be himself for the first time ever and is able to share more of himself with others. The same holds true for Jonah, who finally feels he might be able to share his darkest secrets and talk about what happened to him.

For some reason, I love these kinds of stories about people with mental issues and how they cope and/or overcome them. These guys are not able to rush into things for various reasons, and everything about how and when they were able to do so just felt right. Their problems were not magically gone once they were together either. It is easy to see that they will be taking baby steps for quite some time, but their love and commitment to each other will surely help them over the hurdles they are likely to encounter.

While there are some serious events that take or took place here, the details never get too overly gory. I was turning pages to get Jonah’s story out so he could really begin to heal, and was just as excited to see how Cameron made out with his problems. This ends on a good note, but I could have easily kept reading more. It was my first time reading this author, and if everything else is as well-written as this one, I’ll be a happy camper when I dive into some of her other works.
Profile Image for Caroline Brand.
1,740 reviews70 followers
June 2, 2016

This is my second JK Hogan book and to say I enjoy this authors writing is such an understatement. There is something very intense in the words she puts on page and this was especially true in Strong Medicine.

Two superbly real, flawed and extremely broken characters that desperately try to carve out a piece of happy in their dark and imperfect lives – welcome to Cameron and Jonah’s story. Prepare for the inevitable book hangover when you finish this one, they take you through a year of ups and downs and it’s not an easy task to leave them at the end of a mere 278 pages.

Let’s start with Cameron as we meet him first in the book. A child star who later becomes part of a family band that is managed by an overbearing and often obnoxious father. Everything in his life is about ‘image’. When he tarnishes that image because the stress becomes too much he is banished by his family and ordered by the courts to work at a mental health facility for a year instead of serving time in prison. As bleak as this may seem to Cameron it’s actually a huge step in taking back his life and becoming the person he should be, the person that he wants to be rather than his father’s puppet. He becomes a work in progress and that progress is kick started the day he walks through the doors of Riverbend Behavioural Health Facility.

To explain Jonah and what is going on with his life I would probably need to write another book. Jonah is a successful author and is 23 years old. Twice a year he checks himself into Riverbend when life becomes too much for him to cope with. For as long as he has been doing this he hasn’t got better and that in itself is complicated. Jonah was kidnapped as a child and kept for two years in a basement. The things he witnessed have become his living nightmares and up until now he hasn’t had the strength or resolve to face them head on fearing that if he were to do so those memories would finish him off. Jonah is a character that will stay with you for far longer than it takes to read this book!

For the first time in forever Cameron becomes someone that Jonah thinks he could open up to but there is no magic cure here. This is brutal and raw and made more complicated by the fact that these two men are attracted to each other but are unable to act on their feelings. Caring for each other intensifies everything and also offers a small bit of hope where once there was none but first they both need to start to heal.

Strong Medicine will pull you in from the first page. It will feel like it ends too soon on the last page. It will make you cry for the evil that Jonah has lived through. It will make you smile at the small steps he makes in recovery with Cameron supporting him and always at his side. The ending is perfect in its own imperfect way.
Profile Image for Tracy~Bayou Book Junkie.
1,461 reviews41 followers
May 11, 2016
4.5 Stars

27 year old Cameron Fox, a former child-actor and frontman for his families pop band, Foxfire, is sentenced to a year long work release program at Riverbend behavioral Health, after he causes an accident while driving under the influence.

23 year old Jonah Radley suffers from disassociation and hallucinations, caused by a childhood trauma. He checks himself into Riverbend twice a year, to keep himself safe. Jonah agrees to therapy, but refuses to tell the doctors what happened when he was a child.

Jonah and Cam spark
a friendship, something Jonah has never had before. He's a recluse, when not in the psychiatric ward, but something about Cam
calls to Jonah. Something about Cam makes him want to talk and gain his life back.

This was an amazing story. I loved both Jonah and Cam, and I wanted to take them home, wrap them tight and keep them safe. The author did a fabulous job pulling me into Jonah's hallucinations. She kept exactly what happened a mystery for most of the story, and I was so intrigued I couldn't put the book down.

Cam and Jonah were both extremely likable and well developed characters. The chemistry and bond they shared was amazing. This book was mysterious, sweet, angsty and sexy. It was well written and paved well. I thought the characters had good growth throughout the story.

I've read all of J.K. Hogan's m/m books and they are always very entertaining, enjoyable, and I can't wait for more! Highly recommended!!
Profile Image for J.R. Barten.
Author 9 books26 followers
June 28, 2016
I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

While the language was beautiful and descriptive, I wasn't engrossed in this story immediately. However, that soon changed, once each character's life unfolded. Their current and past lives are not easy to take, and J.K. navigated through with thoughtful dialogue, depth of character, and a bit of humor.

Mental illness is often a difficult subject for me to read; I suppose stories like this one hit a little too close to home, but I am so glad I pressed on despite my initial trepidation. This book made me cry, it broke my heart and then it put it back together. There is hope. And every story about mental illness and gay men doesn't have to result in people dying.

Please take the time to read this beautiful story of love and redemption. It'll make your heart happy.
Profile Image for Elaine White.
Author 41 books236 followers
May 20, 2016
Book – Strong Medicine
Author – J.K. Hogan
Star rating - ★★★★★
No. of Pages – 278

Cover – Really nice!
POV – 3rd person, past tense, dual POV
Would I read it again – Yes. With a lot of tissues.

Genre – LGBT, Contemporary, Medical, Mental Health

Reviewed for Divine Magazine

Wow! What can I say? I loved everything about this book.

When it started, I'll admit, I found it a little strange to be introduced to Cam first, then to flashback to what brought him to the moment. It would have been best if the flashback was a prologue and the present day paragraph was the start, but I do get why the author did it. It was a sort of mysterious mis-direct, leaving us wondering if Cam was a patient before we found out his true role. It would have been really clever if the blurb hadn't already prepared me for his role in the story.

I really loved the implication that Cameron has always wiggled his way out of trouble, thanks to his dad's connections. But, now he can't. It shows how much he's relied on his dad getting him out of trouble in the past and that he's not really prepared to deal with the consequences of his actions. Adding in the whole 'superstar' and 'child star' persona he's had all his life, not only does his family totally remind me of the Partrigde family, but it's another important key to Cameron's nature. He's never really fought for anything, stood up for anything or learned anything in all his years. He's been spoonfed situations and forced to put a lid on his private life, even to the extent of causing himself harm. He's as ill equipped to be in the wider world as Jonah is.

As for Jonah, even from the first, very short, scene with him, I knew I wanted to know more and that I felt for him. He touched my heart in ways that other characters haven't managed in a long time. Although our illnesses are different, he perfectly expresses things that I've never found the words for. Another great example is this quote, which describes a feeling I know well, but can't articulate.
“Cameron felt an oppressive weight descend upon him, abhorrent but not altogether unfamiliar, and then he felt it the way he always did, that unbearable heaviness of being alive. That thing you felt when you lay awake at three a.m., knowing you have to get up at six and do it all over again, that never-ending Möbius strip of existence [...]”

What I really loved was the true sensitivity and research that the author used to write the mental health issues presented in the book. Tackling everything from schizophrenia, anorexia, psychosis, personality disorders, suicide and more, I just want to give major kudos to the author for tackling such issues in a way that opens the readers eyes to the reality of living with an invisible illness. This quote, right here, expressed so much of what is sad, but true, about the world and their perception of mental health.
“Cameron was secretly relieved that no one was in restraints, or screaming and raving like he'd imagined when he first for his sentence. He knew it was...prejudiced or whatever it was called, but movies and books had given popular culture a singular view of what goes on in a mental hospital, and Riverbend didn't seem to meet that criteria.”

As characters, I had no problem falling in love with BOTH Cameron and Jonah, which – in recent books – has been a real issue for me. There was no ego trips, no posturing or judgement. Cameron is this naively innocent guy who says whatever comes to mind, even if it's rude, insulting or just downright questionable. He'll apologise immediately after, if there's a need and sometimes when there isn't, but he's always mindful of those around him and how his actions affect others.

On the other hand, Jonah is this young man with an old soul, wounded by his past and afraid to hope, because he sees his situation as pointless from the start. Until Cameron walks into his life. As a child star from the only show that kept Jonah feeling safe and alive as a boy, there's an immediate connection between the two that is beautifully explored, through slow and meaningful hours, weeks and months together, as they learn about each other and begin a friendship.

There's no rushing in, with this relationship. No insta-love or anything of that sort. You can feel the two migrating towards each other, like magnets with no choice but to follow the pull. Gradually, feelings develop and they're not in a situation to explore that. Which makes it all the better.

What was also awesome, were the realistic sex scenes. For once, there are no million and one condoms randomly on tap, when the characters want a spur of the moment tumble. There's insecurities, questions and deliberations and smart thinking, as well as blind action. It's brilliant and real.

The pace of this book, exploring big events by season, was fantastic. There wasn't anything that didn't need to be there, that wasn't important and even all the small parts were really vital to the character growth or the progression of their relationship.

Jonah also had a great sense of humour, which drew me in right from the start. When he calls Doctor Calloway 'the hellbeast' and so much more, I absolutely love him for it. I've had a therapist and doctor or two that I didn't like and this is exactly what happens. Just as all the medical knowledge – mental and within the resident centre itself – was well thought out, so was the execution. Flawlessly, this story delved deep into the heart of the cause and treatments of mental illness and the things that happened to a person, when under extreme mental pressure.

Every time I was in Jonah's POV, in the first half of the novel, I felt like crying. He was nothing but this lovely, vulnerable little boy, who had been through Hell and back again, and it made my heart hurt to see him struggle so much. But, strangely enough, I felt exactly the same for Cameron, who had never had a real childhood. In a way, these characters were both the same – deprived of love and affection from a young age and put through terrible strains on their mental wellbeing – and they both broke my heart in different ways.

Can I also just thank the author for using my most favourite quote in the world to help Jonah and Cameron get through their time together?
“damaged people are dangerous; they know how to survive.”


Most of all, I just loved the way the book made me feel. It was so rich and inviting, right from the start. I connected to Cameron very quickly, with a nice long scene or two, to get me acquainted with him. Then, Jonah came along with his POV and I didn't need a long time. I just needed that one half page of his POV, I knew that I'd love him forever and nothing could change that. I was afraid, for a little while, if Cameron would be good enough for him (as I said, I've been disappointed with the love interest in books recently), but it was all done so expertly that I had zero complaints.

Sure, there are things I'm not saying. That's important. I won't give away the major plot lines or anything like that. But, it's because I want you to read the book and experience it the way I did – blind surprise that drew joy from ever word.

Overall, I only have one thing to say....

This book shattered my heart, piece by piece, then took a final hammer to what was left with those last few words. This story will stay with me for a long, long time. It broke me, but like with Cam and Jonah, it put me back together again, too. And I'll always love it for that.


Favourite Quote

“Cameron vowed that as long as he was in Jonah's life, no one would ever hurt him again. He wasn't a hero, he wasn't a saint, he was just a boy, holding another boy, and promising to protect him.”
Profile Image for Jen Davis.
Author 7 books700 followers
November 18, 2016
If you’re looking for a light, sweet romance, this is definitely not the book for you. But if you can handle a story that’s a bit darker… a story with a hero who is deeply damaged and finally given a lifeline… If you want a book that’s truly compelling — well, clear your schedule and start reading. Once you get a few chapters in, this story won’t let you go.

The majority of this story takes place inside of the walls of a psychiatric facility. Cameron is there, working as part of a DUI sentence. The former child-star and pop group frontman must get substance abuse counseling, while serving as volunteer helping other patients. Folks are there for a variety of reasons, from eating disorders to depression to PTSD. But one man, Jonah, is not like the others. He’s there voluntarily, and he’s in and out of the facility twice every year.

The doctors aren’t sure what’s wrong with Jonah. He goes days at a time without sleeping. He hallucinates. He goes off into trances. They know there’s been some kind of trauma, but Jonah won’t talk about it. He can’t –or won’t– connect with people. That is, until Cameron enters the picture. Jonah remembers his face from tv in his childhood, and it opens the door to a friendship, and eventually, an attraction that prompts him to truly fight his demons as he never has before.

This romance is a very slow burn. The author really takes time to put us inside these characters. She lets us really get to know them, to feel for them as individuals before there is any movement on them as a couple. Considering their positions and the depths of Jonah’s problems, this would never have worked any other way. Both of these men felt so fleshed out. And I was impressed by how clearly Jonah’s POV articulated his illness.

Be aware, this isn’t your standard tortured hero story. The backstory took me down roads I didn’t expect. It was tough reading at times. But I really appreciated that this wasn’t predictable. The road is difficult, but the reward is better for it.

There is some sexual tension and we get some satisfying love scenes, but this book is much more about the journeys these men take to get to a better place in their lives. Jonah’s transformation is much more obvious, but Cameron comes a long way as well. They earn their healing and their happy ending, and it definitely satisfies.

It’s a good book. If the darker elements don’t worry you, I would definitely recommend.

Rating: B+

*ARC provided for review
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