Title: Finding Zach
Author: Rowan Speedwell
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Length: Novel / 270 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5
A guest review by Kassa
For five years, Zach Tyler, son of one of the world’s richest software moguls, was held hostage, tortured, and abused. When he is rescued at last from the Venezuelan jungle, he is physically and psychologically shattered, but he slowly begins to rebuild the life he should have had before an innocent kiss sent him into hell.
His childhood best friend David has lived those years with overwhelming guilt and grief. Every relationship David has tried has fallen apart because of his feelings for a boy he thought dead. When Zach is rescued, David is overjoyed—and then crushed when Zach shuts him out.
Two years later, David returns home, and he and Zach must come to terms with the rift between them, what they feel for each other, and what their future could hold. But Zach has secrets, and one of them might well destroy their fragile love.
Finding Zach is an unexpected delight. The issues offered could have been depressing but the light touch and deft pace keeps the book absorbing and emotional without delving too far into dark and heavy. The characters are well defined with good chemistry and the various supporting characters help solidify an engaging cast. There are a few minor hiccups and the ending feels very rushed to wrap up everything and move on unfortunately but other than these few qualms, I think Finding Zach is going to be a hit among readers.
The book starts with Zach being rescued after five years of sheer hell. He was kidnapped in South America and forced to live as a dog under a ruthless paramilitary leader. Zach’s long imprisonment and torture leave physical, mental, and emotional scars. After his release, the story jumps two years into the future and picks up with David returning home and slowly resuming first a friendship and soon a relationship with Zach. Their stops and starts are hampered by Zach’s past and their own misunderstandings on their way to a happy ending.
The point of view shifts around some from first person to third person but in very distinct and obvious ways. Whenever Zach is thinking of his imprisonment and torture, he uses the first person and this brings an emotional impact seeing his pain through a shattered mind. For most of the story though the narrative is through the third person from Zach and David’s point of view. Both men are well defined and come across as honest, real, and likable. They make mistakes, are quick to leap to assumptions, and generally bungle their way into a relationship together. They have some moments of circular arguments where neither man is really listening and only hearing what they think is said rather than what is really sad. These fights get a little tiresome since not much is resolved. But thankfully there are only a handful of these moments and at least the men attempt to talk and communicate without letting their insecurities and issues fester – no doubt a fact that will appeal to romance readers.
Zach is a great character struggling to pick up his life again with the backdrop of massive PTSD and events that of course are going to alter someone permanently. His reactions didn’t always make sense to me, the anonymous sexing and so on, but they felt like honest emotions in a sea of turmoil. Thankfully the author has a light touch and keeps these moments real without getting too heavy and depressing. The theme is constant – as it would have to be – but never overwhelms and bogs the story down. In fact Zach has a pretty amazing and healthy recovery, considering everything. Perhaps unbelievable but that’s not the point and I doubt anyone will have issues with that aspect.
The various supporting characters from Zach’s parents to Anna, and even the best friends are nicely well rounded and feel like important characters rather than just place holders in scenes. There are no true evil characters – aside from the initial captor – and everyone since is highly supportive with honest concerns. The plot itself is mostly character driven so the well defined cast helps create a good pace and engaging story. The writing is very good and helps maintain a balance between emotional drama and sexual tension. There are a few minor issues I had with David calling Zach a “dweeb.” It’s a fine nickname but towards the end it starts to grate on me when it’s used almost every other sentence. Additionally the ending felt very rushed and an attempt to wrap things up quickly.
Here there are several choices that make no sense since the story glosses over them quickly. There is the reporter resolution, Zach and MIT, and the happy ending that frankly didn’t make sense. Why these choices were made and the reasons aren’t really given, instead we’re simply told about them in a very quick few pages wrap up to end the story. At 250 pages I can see why going into these issues may prolong an already lengthy story but instead they feel superficial and confusing to be thrown in at the end. The separation especially is a bit of an eye roller even if a thinly veiled reason is offered.
Other than these few issues, I really liked Finding Zach. It’s an absorbing and interesting story with a quick pace and good characters. The light hand to the PTSD issue keeps the issue relevant throughout the story without being too heavy. I think a lot of readers will really like this offering.