Genre: paranormal romance
Length: Novella (30k words)
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: A sweet and slightly melodramatic story about unbreakable love and faith, ending with an excellent, unexpected twist.
The Blurb: Love thaws the coldest heart.
At fifteen, Lee Mitchell and Roman Carmichael are sure their fledgling relationship can survive any heartache or hardship—until a spring canoeing trip ends with Lee in the hospital and Roman missing. With his memories of that final, tragic trip gone, Lee spends the next ten years building a life around the river where he lost Roman, existing on the hope that one day he’ll find a clue as the fate of his first love.
During a late March snowstorm, Lee finds a stranger wandering the road and offers him a ride. Lee’s shock and confusion at discovering this stranger is Roman, older and confused by his long absence, is fast tempered by relief and joy. But Roman isn’t back to stay, and as they work to repair the fractured pieces of their past, the emerging truth of the night Roman disappeared may be the one thing that their enduring love cannot overcome.
The Review: Roman and Lee were neighbors and best friends forever. Their friendship didn’t suffer from the fact that Roman outed himself to Lee as gay; actually, Lee defended Roman against the bullies in school and continued to spend almost every spare minute with him. When Roman’s father found out about his son and disowned him, Lee made sure Roman found a new home with Lee’s family. And this was when Lee discovered he felt more than friendship for Roman. The boys explored their sexuality together, and fell in love with each other along the way. They were certain that nothing could ever come between them. But they didn’t count on one of them dying… at least that was what everybody told Lee when he came to in a hospital after their canoeing trip. Their canoe had been found broken, and Roman was missing. But Lee refused to believe that Roman was dead. He stayed in his parent’s house by the creek that had taken Roman, founded a canoeing business and, well, basically waited for Roman to come back.
And in one freak snowstorm in late March, Roman does. But it’s strange: while Roman appears unchanged in many respects, he’s also a very different person from the love of Lee’s youth. What hasn’t changed in the slightest, though, is the love between the two men; and while they never got to consummate their relationship fully as teens, they do now, as adults, to their mutual elation. But Roman keeps saying that he can’t stay, even though he’d love to. Lee must find a way to make it happen, and in order to do so, he must remember what really happened on the trip ten years ago, or Roman will be gone for good.
This book was an interesting mix of realism and genuine fantasy. I must admit the sudden shifts rather bothered me here. I couldn’t say why; the paranormal element is clearly there almost right from the beginning, and still I felt compelled to suspend disbelief for this story. Maybe the reason was teenage Roman’s so realistically drawn dire fate or the beautiful portrayal of Lee and Roman’s budding relationship as teens. In short, while the flashback parts worked very well for me, the supposedly present parts didn’t. Though this might only be me.
I also thought young Lee and especially young Roman much better depicted than their adult counterparts. While my heart broke for young Roman, his adult self appeared quite foreign and somewhat detached to me. And while the love between teenage Roman and Lee just jumped at me from the pages, I found their adult relationship less convincing. Though Lee tried to wrench answers from Roman, he kept asking the wrong questions, or so I thought, and even avoiding the most obvious ones. Which, on the other hand, kept the tension at a high level.
Despite my niggles, this story kept me glued to the pages as it had me desperate for the “what happens next”. It was an intriguing and original story which, in its entirety, had a decidedly spooky feel to it, as the author supposedly intended ( and pulled through very well at that!). Classical ghost story/ revenant trope? Not at all; but I won’t tell anything more. You’ll have to see for yourself.