A Guest Review by Cole
Review Summary: A promising story that quickly started to grate on my nerves for many reasons, and then ultimately had too many problems to work out.
** This review contains spoilers **
The day after Colin MacNeill admits to his wife of nine years that he might be gay, he wakes up to find himself alone with his five-year-old autistic son, Kerrigan. It wasn’t supposed to work out this way. He and his wife were best friends and his sexuality shouldn’t matter. They should still be able to live under the same roof and raise their son together, right? What would be the harm if they both took secret lovers?
His day doesn’t get any better when he has to take his son with him to the office and his boss suggests he take some time off…because obviously he has a lot to deal with, and bringing his son to the office isn’t going to work out. His boss also takes the liberty of suggesting a summer camp for disabled children, and although Colin finds the idea of abandoning his child to the care of others abhorrent, he feels he doesn’t have a choice. As a top-notch corporate attorney, he can’t be expected to leave his clients hanging. Especially when the biggest case of his career is mere weeks away from trial. At least having his son at camp would give him time to locate his wife and try to convince her that his suggestion could work.
Meeting the camp’s owner, Beau Delacroix, turns Colin’s world upside down. His insane attraction to Beau is an impossible situation. The man is going to be working with his son all summer and an affair would be completely inappropriate. Besides, the ease with which Beau bonds to his son makes Colin feel like a hopeless failure.
Beau Delacroix never intended to become the director of Five Rivers, a summer camp for mentally and physically handicapped kids founded by his grandfather fifty years before, but he discovers too late fate has a sense of humor, putting him in the one place he never wanted to be only to discover he loves the camp and the kids. When the camps funding gets cut, he needs a lawyer and fast; Colin MacNeill seems like a godsend except for the fact that they can’t stand to be in the same room together. And the even crueler twist of fate makes Colin MacNeill the hottest man he’s ever come face to face with.
Can Beau get Colin past first impressions and convince him to help save the camp? One thing’s for certain, it’s going to get pretty hot at Five Rivers this summer…
The blurb for this story (and the gorgeous cover) caught my eye not too long ago after its release and I was really excited. I’m always interested in stories of men coming out later in life and I thought that the autistic child sub-plot sounded interesting. I hadn’t read anything by Roxy Harte previously, and if I’m not mistaken, I believe that the majority of her works are m/f or m/m/f, though she has written some m/m. What I am sad to report is that I found the story ultimately disappointing, for a number of reasons that I’ll get to later. In fact, I found so many things about this book that bothered me, I have two pages of notes, and I’m going to have to separate this review into What Worked For Me and What Didn’t Work For Me, for the first time in one of my reviews.
The story starts as we meet Colin MacNeill, a Scottish-born man who now lives in the US working as an attorney in Chicago. He has a wife named Marissa, who is also an attorney, and they have a five year old autistic child, Kerrigan. They have had a rough go at raising an autistic child. By mutual agreement, they agreed that Marissa would take a couple of years off to get the care started for their son, but a couple turned into five and Marissa has started to resent Colin and their son, who she doesn’t feel is really her child because he doesn’t recognize her (there is a lot more about this, and yes, she is made out to be a villain). They have a fight — Marissa wants to have another child, a “healthy” child, but Colin cannot in good conscience father another child with her, and when she asks why, without thinking he blurts out “Actually, I’m Gay.” This, in effect, is the end of their argument. Marissa storms out and Colin wakes up the next morning with Kerrigan still in bed and Marissa gone, having left everything behind. At the end of a terrible day of having to take Kerrigan with him to his corporate law office, his friend and law partner Michael suggests that he take some time off and suggests a summer camp for autistic children in Iowa.
When Colin gets to the camp and enrolls Kerrigan, he immediately finds he has a strong attraction to the camp’s owner, Beau Delacroix. Beau feels likewise, but he won’t jeopardize the children’s treatment to have an affair with a parent of one of his campers, much less a male camper, which would drive the parents of his campers nuts and could possibly ruin the camp altogether. But, just like many parents before him, Colin is afraid to leave his son with strangers and he rents out a house across the lake. The more time they spend together, their feelings come out and neither can resist the other. In the meantime, there is a nefarious environmental anarchist group that has its sights set on Colin, who has gotten some prominent environmental pollutants out of hot water with the law. Add to that a mugging, his ongoing divorce with Marissa, and blackmail by a source that is someone he thinks he trusts and Colin and Beau have a lot to loose — the camp, their reputations and careers, and possibly each other.
What Didn’t Work For Me
First of all, what started out to be a simple love story merged into a huge scandal and several possible people after Colin, and Beau by proxy. Not only did the last half of the story turn completely away from the burgeoning romance, but it was way too much to incorporate into one book. On top of that, there were several inconsistencies throughout. Furthermore, one of these things was completely forgotten about and never wrapped up, while the others ended in a way that seemed pretty implausible to me.
The characterization of Colin bothered me a great deal. We first see him as a tough guy who won’t allow himself to be emotional, but he immediately falls into Beau’s arms and cries the first time they meet. That didn’t make sense at all. If the point was to give credibility to the fact that Colin can only be his real self in front of Beau, then at least have him wait until they get to know each other better and their feelings are stronger.
Even though a fair amount of time goes by before they admit real feelings for each other, the story still feels like Insta-Love, because there’s no delineation between the weekends he spends at the camp and the weeks that he spends at his job back in Chicago. We don’t see him going back and forth all that much, most of Colin’s on screen time is in Iowa and I was constantly confused just how much time was passing.
The whole “scandal” didn’t make sense to me. Maybe if it was just a local thing where people got upset about their relationship, but for it to be an international scandal being brought all over the world by CNN… Why would so many people care?
Personally, I have no preferences either way on the condom/no-condom debate, but what does bother me is if there is no consistency. The first time they have sex, they don’t use a condom. One time they use a condom with a massage oil (which is NOT safe, unless appropriately made for both), and at a later time in the book, they’re extremely conscientious about using appropriate protection. There was also a time when, without using any sort of lube, Beau (who is gay, not GFY at all) refers to Colin as “wet for me.” I know I’m a gay man, but I’m sorry, that just squicked me out. 🙁
There was an extremely important character that affects the ending that is brought in only at that moment. We have no idea of his existence until he pops up out of nowhere.
Though there are more things that bothered me, I will stop here at what bothered me the most. One, there is a scene where one character gives head while the other is driving. Okay, I know people actually try this, because I was unfortunate enough to actually see a woman giving a man head on the freeway once as I passed them (they got pulled over by the fuzz, just so you know), but this is way out of character for Beau, who is really worried about anyone finding out about him and Colin. Then, not soon after that, they pull off the road and right on the shoulder on the hood of the car, Beau proceeds to fist Colin with only a little lube and no prep. Come on!
What Did Work For Me
I thought that the characterization of Colin’s wife/ex-wife Marissa was done very well and with a keen eye to emotional detail. She was portrayed as a villain, yes, but as one that in a way everyone can relate to. She left her son, which is something that most people can’t reconcile, but even if you can’t, you’ll understand why she isn’t fit to be his mother, and she understands that as well. I thought her character was the most full-fledged and perfectly portrayed of all of the characters in the book.
There is a lot in the novel about autism in general, even if there are only a few scenes directly between Colin and his son, Kerrigan. They were handled very well and showed quite a bit indirectly about who Colin and Beau are in how they respond to Kerrigan’s difficulties. I learned quite a bit about autism as well.
Maybe this is a bit of a cheap shot, or unfair to list here, but I loved the addition of the two recipes at the end of the book. But, then again, I love food 🙂
All in all, I must say that I’m quite dissappointed in the story. The first third of the book was going alright, but after that the story just fell to pieces. It needed a lot more work before going to publication, to be streamlined and to flesh out the plot and characterizations. If none of those things work out, you aren’t left with much to bring the story together. I wouldn’t recommend this book, and I’m not sure how I’ll feel about reading another book by Roxy Harte in the future. I might, but I’ll be very conscientious about reading others reviews first. Unfortunately, I’d say read this one at your own peril.