Title: Whitewater (part of the Under the Southern Cross anthology)
Author: Meredith Shayne
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Publisher, Amazon
Length: 117 pages
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Andrea
Review Summary: A satisfyingly complete novella of a romance which looks beyond a physical disability.
Baker Luke Henderson loves his job, and owning a bakery at Coogee Beach makes it even better. When he opens the shop before dawn, he hears the waves. When he walks along the beach after sunrise, he admires the surfers—one in particular: Cameron Brown. A chef and café owner, Cameron secretly watches Luke right back. When Luke proposes a business deal, Cameron seizes the chance to get close. But Cameron’s ideal man is physically perfect, and Luke’s awkward limp could be the flaw that fractures their romance.
I’ve recently discovered I have a special place in my heart for imperfect characters, especially ones with a disability of some sort. Last week I read Muscling Through by J.L. Merrow. It’s a great book, which I loved, but I mention it because it introduced me to Al, a type of character I hadn’t known before. A chance to meet another imperfect character was what pulled at me when I read about Luke’s “awkward limp” in the blurb for Whitewater. As I started reading the book, I realized it’s more than a simple limp. It’s a full blown disability, which has a tremendous impact on Luke’s self-image. Luke is handsome, a successful baker, and an all-around nice guy, but he sees himself as “less than” because of his physical disability. Don’t get me wrong, Luke likes himself and knows he has a lot of great qualities to offer, but he also realizes most people find it hard to get past such an obvious flaw.
Each morning, Luke takes a walk to the beach to enjoy the sand, the waves, and get a breather before the breakfast rush hits the bakery. On these walks, he has also been stopping to admire Cameron as he surfs. Cameron notices his handsome admirer and makes sure their paths cross. Luke is surprised to find out that the beautiful specimen of male perfection he has been ogling is actually a successful chef and cafe owner. Their meeting leads to a possible business arrangement. Both are intrigued by the other, but the proverbial elephant in the room, Luke’s physical disability, leaves them feeling awkward and unsure of the next step.
I usually shy away from novellas. It’s been my experience that they are so streamlined, that important elements are missing, and they rarely draw me in as much as a full length novel. Whitewater seems to have beaten the odds. It’s only 117 pages, but I feel as though I’ve read an entire novel. The characters are remarkably well-rounded and the story moves at a comfortable pace. Even the lack of on page sex was a positive for me, as it simply wasn’t needed. Their romance developed slowly and transitioned into something neither of them expected. I did notice a couple of quick jumps in the story. Cameron’s decision to pursue Luke, as well as the major conflict between them happened rather suddenly. I would describe them as minor hiccups which are quickly, and successfully, integrated.