Title: Shining in The Sun
Author: Alex Beecroft
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel (171 PDF pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Summary Review: Shining in the Sun is Alex Beecroft’s first venture into contemporary M/M romance. The characters are memorable but flawed, one of her trademarks, and there is a credible plot that had a few minor hiccups but they did not affect the quality of the story.
Damn it, a man shouldn’t always have to be afraid…
Alec Goodchilde has everything a man could want—except the freedom to be himself. Once a year, he motors down to an exclusive yacht club on the Cornish coast and takes the summer off from the trap that is his life.
When his car breaks down, leaving him stranded on the beach, he’s transfixed by the sight of a surfer dancing on the waves. The man is summer made flesh. Freedom wrapped up in one lithe package, dripping wet from the sea.
Once a year, Darren Stokes takes a break from his life of grinding overwork and appalling relatives, financing his holiday by picking up the first rich man to show an interest. This year, though, he’s cautious—last summer’s meal ticket turned out to be more pain than pleasure.
Even though Alec is so deep in the closet he doesn’t even admit he’s gay, Darren finds himself falling hard—until their idyllic night together is shattered by the blinding light of reality…
Alec St. John-Goodchilde is stressed out by his life, his family and other obligations such as a recently acquired fiancee´ that he doesn’t want. There’s no way out of his dilemma, and the only temporary escape he has from his oppressive lifestyle is one month every year when he drives down the coast to do a bit of sailing by himself. This year things don’t start off very well because his vintage Morgan broke down right at the beginning of his holiday. After the tow truck had taken the car away Alec had time on his hands and decided to walk around near the sea to get something to eat while waiting for his car to be fixed. It was then that he saw HIM, riding the waves dangerously but seemingly unafraid, a vision who commanded his attention and shook his world to its foundations. This is how Alec saw the surfer in his mind’s eye, one example of the prose in the book which is rich and lyrical:
He had tipped his head back, laughing with joy. Something about that silhouette caught at Alec’s chest with a painful thrill. The curve of the man’s arms against the shining sky was numinous. His body defined perfection, from his bare feet, braced slender legs, the arch of his spine, the turn of his throat, to the streaming scarf of his long hair in shadow”
The spray of the sea had taken on a golden hue in the afternoon sunshine, and still the surfer was nothing more than a silhouette, tall and lean, faintly shining as the wetsuit reflected the sun. He came closer. Colour slid across the edges of his silhouette.
He was walking out of the haze like an ascended being materializing out of light. A last moment before the eye could fully register the details and then his surfer took another step, walking out of legend and into the everyday light.
Darren, the surfer who fired Alec’s imagination, spent his off hours looking for tricks to help pay his bills since his minimum wage job barely covered food. When he came ashore that day he noticed Alec who represented the type of rich guy he needed, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to pursue him since his last mark, Max, had almost killed him. Alec was so overcome when Darren came out of the sea he wasn’t prepared to let him walk away, but the only words he could find to say to him were somewhat over the top –
“Don’t go past. Please. Sit down and drink with me. If you go past… If you go past, I think I’ll die.”
Although Alec had never been attracted to men, it was my impression that he was in the closet because he was unsure of his sexual orientation rather than outright denial. Perhaps he was also concerned about the impact that coming out would have on his mother, the parent from hell. Darren was the catalyst who made him acknowledge that he was gay and he very quickly fell into his arms – it was as if he was waiting for him to crystallize something he had known deep down for awhile.
The first time they went to bed together they were looking for different things – Darren for someone to help pay the bills, and Alec for the man of his dreams. That first night it seemed to Alec as if his dreams were indeed coming true, but the dreams quickly turned to dust because his god of summer betrayed him the next day in the worst way and taught him a hard lesson about not trusting strangers.
This book had a few sub plots that helped to make it complex and exciting, not the least of which were the two protagonists’ backgrounds and personalities that were a world apart. Alec grew up with every luxury but was shy, bumbling, diffident, clumsy, needy, and seemed like almost a whipped coward around his mother, but he was also very sweet. Darren was his complete opposite – street smart, brash and swaggering but he was also vulnerable and kind, and best of all, when he was around Alec he made him a different man who was brave enough to stand up to his mother and fiancee´. This story depicted two extremes in lifestyles. Darren’s life was one of such abject poverty and misery that it was difficult to visualize the conditions under which he lived with his grandmother. Although it was clean, I could almost smell the mould and mildew that permeated their home and the barren cupboards were evidence of their extreme circumstances.
One reason I love Alex Beecroft’s books is that not only are her protagonists three dimensional but the supporting characters are as well, and Shining in the Sun continues that tradition. First there is Alec’s mother, a whiny, controlling woman; his fiance Caroline, a lovely intelligent woman and not the typical female character in M/M romances. Darren’s grandmother was a great old lady who only wanted the best for him; his friend Krissy always had his back even when he didn’t want her to protect him from himself; and there was his drug addicted brother who helped shape much of what Darren did because he felt a sense of responsibility to save him. The only character that I thought was a bit over the top was his scoundrel of a father, although Max the ex boyfriend was too good to be true in the end – IMO he got off too lightly for almost killing Darren, although I understood Darren’s motivations. I had a couple of other niggles about the story but those were minor and didn’t spoil my enjoyment of Shining in the Sun. Those of you who like lots and lots of sex in your M/M romance might be a tad disappointed but I thought there was enough titillation and action under the sheets for an author who writes historical romances.
Shining in the Sun is a breath of fresh air and you will love the British and French ambience. Alex Beecroft is a wonderful writer and her prose is some of the best I have read. She has a knack for creating complex flawed protagonists with whom readers fall in love and I never want her books to end because I don’t want to leave the characters behind. This book is a terrific entrance into contemporary M/M for a writer whose skill and historical characters I have grown to love. Definitely recommended.