Title: Beached Hearts
Author: Scarlet Blackwell
Publisher: Totally Bound Publishing
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Length: Novel (184 PDF pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Summary Review: Two characters, one almost broken and refusing to believe in love, but the other won’t give up and ultimately heals his heart.
Inspector Conor Kelly’s heart broke and his life fell into disarray seven years ago when his father disowned him and his lover Liam left him. Now Conor is fighting both old, lingering pain and a new, fierce attraction to Eli Sanders, a marine biologist—just like Liam—who is only in Ireland for a short time to study the unfortunate death of a whale. Conor will have to find the courage to face the demons of his past, because if he lets Eli go without making his feelings plain, it may very well be Conor’s last chance at love.
Conor Kelly was the local Chief of Police in a small Irish town. The Mayor had decided, for tourism and publicity reasons, to allow a marine biologist and his crew to perform a post mortem for a television special on a whale that had died a few days ago on the beach. Conor hated the thought of the whale being cut up after its valiant struggle for life for two days, consequently he was in no mood to be cooperative when Eli Sanders, the marine biologist, showed up. To add insult to injury Conor felt an immediate attraction to Eli and it was obvious that the attraction was mutual. This was the very last thing Conor wanted, since his first sexual experience with a man 7 years ago was with another marine biologist who trampled on his heart and left without looking back. Until he met Liam, 5 years younger and sexually aggressive, who was studying for his doctorate in marine ecology in the town, Conor had always dated women, now everyone knew that he was gay. His few discreet affairs since then did not have any lasting positive results and Conor had decided to spend the rest of his life alone.
The first night the television crew was in town Conor saw Eli in the pub. When Eli offered to buy him a drink he refused and rebuffed his other advances, even though he wanted him badly. Conor was infuriated with himself for being so weak after what Liam had done to him, and he sought every opportunity to vent his anger on the man who continued to try and be more than friends. Eventually Conor was so mad he arrested Eli for no apparent reason and threw him in jail, which only made matters worse as they were alone together at the police station. Eli seized his opportunity to make some headway with Conor when the handcuffs were taken off and kissed him, but after being turned on he turned him down again. Things didn’t get any better as Eli kept pressing his suit and Conor kept refusing, and eventually Eli gave up the pursuit. Then matters got much worse for Conor when Liam showed up as part of the team, to help Eli with the post mortem of the whale, and he showed that he was an even bigger prick than before.
With two men pursuing him Conor was going quietly crazy. He was not entirely over Liam and he was also fighting his strong attraction to Eli. Then Liam moved in for the kill and showed up at Conor’s house. Conor, who had not had sex in a long time, was ripe for the picking, however even though they did have sex, things didn’t go quite as Liam wanted as Conor shoved him out the door when the sex was over. Unfortunately for Liam he did not come off unscathed like the last time. Conor felt terrible because he had turned Eli down and had had sex with Liam, a man who was totally unworthy of his affections. Just before Eli returned to California he went to say goodbye to Conor and they made love for what Conor firmly believed was going to be the only time. For six months Conor’s heart broke and he became even more of a recluse, then out of the blue Eli returned on a three month marine research project and scholarship, but his stay was just as short-lived because Conor still didn’t want to open himself to hurt again. This time Eli accepted that Conor didn’t want him and prepared to leave a few days later, but on his way to the airport tragedy struck.
I really loved Beached Hearts which is told almost entirely from Conor’s third person POV, with occasional commentary from Eli’s which gave a different perspective to the romance. Conor had been hurt by Liam and because this was his first gay love affair it affected him deeply. Eli, on the other hand, was very open and likable and his emotions were on the surface. His life was very different to Conor’s, with a supportive family, and living in California he had access to a network of friends. Conor’s closest friend, and the only person who supported his sexual orientation, was Aiden Bell who was very funny and his character scored high marks from me. Conor’s parents were typical of what would be expected of small town folk, although his mother did turnaround late in the book.
Those of you who love angst will be in heaven because there’s more than enough to go around in Beached Hearts. Both characters had to work very hard to overcome a twist thrown in by the author in the last couple of chapters which I thought was really confusing. I got the sense that Scarlet Blackwell wasn’t sure in which direction she wanted the book to go for the finale and so, instead of sensibly wrapping up the romance, she added a new wrinkle and about 20 more pages that came out of left field. However, she pulled it out in the end and our lovers had their HEA.
This is the second book that I have read by this author in less than a month and I like her prose and characterizations, although Conor was so bitter and insecure that I wondered how the couple would ever resolve their differences. The dialogue and prose were pretty good and there is an incredible amount of information on whales for this type of book – it was obvious that the author had done the necessary research to make it credible. I loved Eli’s character and I thought he came out much better than Conor. As for Liam, the less said about his character the better. Definitely recommended.