Guest review by LadyM
Review Summary: Solidly written, emotional story about man’s struggle to come to terms with his life, find the closure to his past regrets and get the chance for happines
Blurb: Trapped by familial obligations, engaged to a fiancée he doesn’t love, and crippled by the regrets of his past, Dr. Bradley Durrant is miserable and rapidly caring less about his own health as he works himself to the bone at the family hospital. Then he meets Nashan Windham, the grandson of his late father’s scandalous old friend, and Brad’s downward spiral is derailed, at least for the moment.
He lets Nashan and his grandfather pull him into a world where families — blood and the ones you choose — support each other and understand that love is unconditional. Nashan helps Brad get his life together again, now Brad just needs to convince Nashan that Brad can finally accept who he is and knows what he wants.
I believe that the best thing you can say about the first story you read by, to you, an unknown author is that it made you want to read author’s other works. That was certainly the case with J. Rocci’s Ivory. The blurb very accurately describes the story, but it’s the characterization, especially of protagonist Bradley, and writing where this novella shines.
From the beginning, it is obvious that Bradley is a deeply unhappy man. He deals with familial expectations in a passive-aggressive and self-destructive manner. He walks away from the obligations he accepted, especially towards his fiancée, without thinking. He readily admits that he doesn’t care if his behavior is hurting or humiliating her. He nods his head at his mother’s ramblings and ignores them, but is still unable to untangle himself from the web of expectations and lies. Bradley hides in his long work hours and aimless night walks. I rarely have sympathy for the characters such as this one, especially since we live in the twenty-first century (Nashan makes a similar observation), however, the author is skillful. She made Bradley’s situation plausible and also showed us his other side: his responsibility towards his patients, his caring nature and compassion. Additionally, Brad comes to the realization that soon something’s gotta give: either he would break free from his hopeless existence or follow his father’s path.
“He wondered when he wouldn’t take it anymore.When he would snap and burn out and crumble, leaving behind just a note and five bullets left in the chamber.”
It was heartbreaking to read how Bradley struggles to stay afloat. The writing style reflects his state of mind well — his racing thoughts, regrets, desperation and hopelessness.
The salvation comes in the form of his neighbor and his father’s friend William Windham III. William is a widower in his eighties, a man unconcerned by social niceties. He manipulates Bradley into a weekly chess game and offers him the companionship and friendship Bradley so dearly needs. His character also provides the humor necessary to lighten the story. Through William, Brad meets his grandson Nashan. Nashan is honorable, gentle man. He comes from the large, loving family and he nudges Bradley to take control over his life, come to terms with his past and seek help for his depression. The story concentrates more on Bradley and his struggle than on the romance between Bradley and Nashan. We get to see their beginning, the possibilities their relationship holds, rather than the full-blown romance. This was realistic, because Bradley can hardly pursue anything before he deals with his own life. The story spans over several weeks and covers a lot of ground for a novella. I was especially glad that the author made an attempt to show that Brad’s family wasn’t as monstrous as it appeared at first and that there were reasons behind their behavior. His fiancée also wasn’t the brainless Barbie doll everyone believed her to be (William calls her Bambi although her name is Brianna).
If I have any niggles, they stem from the word count rather than from writing, characterization or story structure. Some issues remain unanswered. Bradley feared that his mother (and she openly threatened) would destroy his career, but it is clear from the epilogue that this didn’t happen. We, however, don’t see how this was resolved.
Overall, this is solidly written, emotional story with happy ending. There is a lot of potential in these characters, especially in the relationship department, so, maybe, the author will give us more of them in the future. The story, however, stands well on its own.