Title: Holbrook Academy
Author: Dean Ocean
Cover artist: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner press
Amazon: Buy Link Holbrook Academy
Genre: Historical romance
Length: 200 pages
Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius.
Summary: Interesting historical romance which does not have a traditional romance ending.
Growing up is hard. Growing up in a society that silences anyone different is next to impossible. In 1925, the quiet, artistic Paul Blakely is turning seventeen and still hasn’t figured out what he wants to do with his life. His childhood at the prestigious Holbrook Academy is drawing to an end. Together with his friends Freddie and Emmett, he struggles to fly under the radar of schoolyard bullies who target them because they don’t fit in. Paul coasts through life a constant observer, never taking part—until he meets William Coleridge II.
Bold, good-looking, reckless Will is the only son of a hero from the Great War. In other words, he’s everything Paul is not, so when he tries to make friends, Paul is suspicious… but Paul can’t hold out against Will’s charm forever. As they grow closer, Paul finds himself discovering who he is, what he stands for, the meaning of friendship, and the true power of love. Knowing Will helps Paul answer questions about himself he didn’t know how to ask, but can he trust his heart to someone so impulsive?
Warning first – if you are not a fan of not traditional endings, I suggest you ignore the epilogue of the story. I am honestly not sure why Dreamspinner did not put this one in their Bittersweet Dreams line, because IMO this is where this story belongs and very firmly so. Now, let me express my biases and circumstances before we go any further. I did not know about what this epilogue would bring me when I requested this story for review, however before arrival of the book I learned about the epilogue by complete accident from a friend who was trying to decide whether to purchase it. Anyway, both Wave and the publisher were very nice and understanding and perfectly willing to let me not review the story. I sat down and thought about it and decided that I was able to concentrate my thinking not on how the dreaded epilogue would make me feel, but whether it would fit the story. I gave myself a talk and decided to review the book anyway. Is it possible that my unhappiness with the epilogue somewhat influenced me? Of course it is possible, that is why I am devoting so much space to explaining it, but I tried hard to not let it and to be fair to the book, I really did.
So, lets go to the story now. As the blurb tells you Will and Paul meet in British Boarding School in the mid twenties of the last century. I am not an expert of course, but while I saw some British words in the book, the overall narration sounded very American to me. I have no idea what the author’s nationality is, but his bio states that he is living in the US. I did think however that he described British Boarding schools pretty well, although my source of information is books and movies, which could also be wrong (‘To serve them all my days” for example) and not personal experience. The main characters’ mentalities felt sometimes a bit anachronistic in a way they thought and acted. The story at times felt a little claustrophobic, since most of it takes place within the walls of the school, but I also thought that by constraining the characters within a small place, the author cleverly avoided the need to reference more historical events. A couple times the characters visit home, so I guess technically they do leave school, but it still felt very constrained. I am not really complaining about that as I thought that it made sense for this story.
The book is first and foremost a romance, so while we do see the guys studying and attending lessons, I would say that not too much detail was devoted to that. The developing relationship between them is firmly front and center, and of course it takes place amongst the life and lessons in a boarding school, but I would say that the romance is a primary storyline.
It is a romance between two teenagers, and the narrator is sixteen going on seventeen when the story starts with Will a couple of years older I thought.
I thought the romance was very well done and it slowly sucked me in. Paul’s confusion, uncertainty, trying to figure out who he was and that he is attracted to guys was well done and Will with his pain, which is enough to feel for him, but not enough to undermine his strength. I thought they fitted very well together. I felt their love for each other – Will’s right away, his desire to protect Paul, his worry that he may turn him away by moving too fast. It was quite beautiful really.
But it is a coming of age story for Paul, who has absolutely no experience and for both of them it is their first love and here I run into some problems. Paul runs hot and cold several times in the story and his confusion, jealousy over nothing, etc, makes perfect sense to me and did not even make me annoyed at him. He is a teenager, it is his first love story. I felt for him and Will; it was believable and if I would have had another hundred pages or so, maybe the author would have convinced me that this is their only love story, that they are meant for each other.
In other words, I thought the development of the relationship and maturing of the characters was beautifully done for maybe three quarters of the book. The writing was a little awkward IMO (I cannot really explain why, just the feeling I had from reading it), but it had an alluring quality which made me not want to put the book down. Then the book was coming closer to the ending and it was so very rushed in my opinion. I do not think that anything was resolved after their last conflict and I do not even know whether the boys understood why they quarreled. I guess I was left with the impression that the smallest disagreement would send them into running away from each other again when I read the last chapter.
And then the dreaded epilogue came. I honestly did not think that it fit the story. At the very least I wanted to be convinced that this was a love for ages if the author was going to hit me with epilogue like that. Honestly, as much as I am not a fan of the endings like this one, I am at least able to appreciate them on an intellectual level and marvel at the beauty of the love which may not have lasted forever, but it was great while it did last.
I guess for me Will and Paul’s love story was close enough to be that beautiful, but I needed more thoughtful resolution in the last quarter of the book.
I will look for new stories from this writer, but I will definitely insist on being thoroughly spoiled first.