A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: A beautifully written friends-to-lovers story parts of which I truly loved while other parts didn’t work for me at all.
The Blurb: Kestrel and Rory are the very best partnership in Wester Fleet’s elite Mountain Rescue Team. They’ve trusted one another with their lives for five years. They’re closer than brothers – but Rory’s feelings for his handsome, daredevil partner are far from fraternal.
He knows better than to tell Kes the truth. Climbing partnerships are a delicate balance of love and practicality, and the Fleet MRT has a strict non-fraternisation code. Rory could lose everything by a confession. And Kes is an enigma – sometimes distant, sometimes seeming to crave the very devotion Rory longs to give him.
Kes is all set to become the MRT’s next leader. He’s a shoo-in for the job, except for his impatience with amateur climbers and his inability to hold his tongue. When he and Rory are given the job of guiding two important visitors across the Fleet range, it’s a test of his tact to say the least. But nothing about this mission is as it seems, and soon Kes is facing the most terrifying challenge of his life.
Almost everything about this story was sheer perfection–the compelling, colorful, at times almost lyrical writing, the setting, the dialogue, the characterizations, the pacing–well, almost everything. Except for the actual plot, but more about that later.
Let’s start with what I liked.
First, the setting. I’ve never been to the Scottish Highlands, and I barely have the vaguest idea about where I’d find the locations mentioned in the story on a map. Yet, I could see it, the mountains, the rocks, the lake (pardon: Loch) as if I were walking the mountain paths alongside Ro and Kes. And I loved the way how setting descriptions seamlessly morphed into characterization morphed into the course of events–like this, for example:
He had a good view from here, although rags and scraps of clouds were beginning to fly on the wind[…] Grey as those clouds, the eyes of his partner, and sometimes just as sombre… but not now. Even from his perch, Rory could see they were alight with daredevil laughter. Kes made a tiny, unmistakable gesture towards the far side of the gap.
–making the setting a part of the characters and the characters a true part of their world.
I also loved both main characters, aptly named Kes (short for Kestrel, because this is how he climbs the sheerest rock faces) and Rory, who is Kes’s anchor in more than one way.
Kes is passionate, hot-headed, temperamental and at times close to abrasive to both his colleagues and the accident victims he saves. A grievous loss he couldn’t mourn openly threw him off track so much that his superior climbing skills can barely make up for his lack of social aptitude when it comes to him becoming leader of the Mountain Rescue Team. Lucky for him he has Rory to belay him on the rock face and to clean up after him with the general public. Rory would do everything for Kes and trusts him as blindly as vice versa on the mountain. But he’s also been smitten with his partner for years, yet never dared to let Kes know. Kes making a move on him comes unexpected for Rory, but he still trusts his partner–only to find himself left hanging when Kes’s raw emotions get the better of him. Nevertheless, Rory won’t retaliate when Kes really needs him, as Kes is still his partner. A new kind of trust builds on Rory’s unshakable fidelity, one that has Kes finally open up to him, leaving them stronger than ever as a working partnership and making it possible for them to become life partners, too.
So far, so good. This part of the story I adored, I found it dark, intense and very compelling. But then the story veered of into a subplot that had me shaking my head all through reading it with its implausibility.
All of it, from the severely overdone French clichés (which, granted, were meant to be overdone, but really, even as a satire, that hurt!) to the premise to the solution was one single, giant “wait, what?” to me. So for me, this second part of the book fell flat, sadly.
The ending made this up to me, at least in part, as I found myself wishing Rory and Kes the best of luck with making it work between the two of them. Oh, and there was the tiniest bit of a hint at a supernatural element at the very end, very beautifully done.
I’m a bit torn about recommending this one. I liked it enough to overlook the odd plot turns, but others might think differently. Guess you’ll have to read it and see for yourself.