A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: A deep and emotional love story that suffered due to an unbalanced plot.
Blurb: Deacon Miller never had it all—he never really believed he could. Growing up in a broken home with an alcoholic mother and a revolving door of truly pathetic father figures taught him to keep his expectations low. Now at twenty-seven, on the night before Christmas Eve, his life is turned upside down yet again; his boyfriend has dumped him, he just fled the holiday family reunion from hell, and now to top it all off, a blizzard has left him stranded in an airport hotel.
Steve Steele has spent the better part of his forty-four years living a lie, ignoring his attraction to other men in an attempt to fit into the mold of the man he thought he should be, instead of living life as the man he knew himself to be. Recently divorced after coming home from work one day and coming out to his wife, Steve has floundered over the past year, desperately attempting to wade through the guilt and find the courage to start again.
That’s when a chance meeting in a hotel bar brings two lonely men together… and what should’ve been a one night stand turns into something much more than either one ever expected.
Review: I am going to begin this review by saying I truly struggled over what to say and how to delineate what it was about this book that both drew me and repelled me all at the same time. I know that many Ethan Day fans view him as more of a humorist with really outstanding comedic timing and characters that cause us to laugh out loud. This is what author Ethan Day is truly known for and excels at, realistic characters that are flawed and vulnerable yet manage to keep themselves aloft and smiling despite their broken hearts. Northern Star is not that kind of novel. Far removed from it in fact, and for that I really applaud this author for once again delving into the more quiet and sensitive stories he is capable of writing and producing for us to enjoy.
Northern Star has a a fairly straight forward plot that examines the growing love between two men who could not be more polar opposites from their age (44 versus 27) to their economic status. However, what both these men have in common is their near toxic level of guilt over how they have made their way through the life that has been handed to them.
For Deacon, the guilt stems from what he views as abandoning his stepsister while trying to escape a horridly abusive alcoholic mother and a life that has been a living hell since a very young age. Deacon is not just wounded, he is deeply scarred and the idea that he will ever be enough for anyone, particularly Steve, is untenable to his thinking. Not only that but he has also been painfully shoved aside by his former boyfriend, who also takes the opportunity to remind Deacon that he is worthless and unworthy of being loved. When he meets Steve in that hotel room, however, little does he know he has finally met his match in the guilt arena.
Steve grapples with the fact that he has hidden his sexuality for years and through one failed marriage to someone whom he genuinely loves. Steve reveals that his ex and her little girl are no longer in his life, something that haunts him and tears at him every day and repels any thought about finding someone to love–for you see he is, in his own words, “kind of a dick”. But when these two men part, they both realize that something more than sex had just happened in that hotel room. A connection had been made and while it scares both men it also makes them want more.
Over the rest of this novel we watch as these two men wrestle with their demons and come to terms with the ghosts in their lives. For Steve I felt it was all just a bit to neat and simple. When he finally comes out, all his friends understand, his mother supports him and even though still hurt, his ex-wife welcomes not only Steve but Deacon back into her and her daughter’s life. There is lots of good-natured ribbing and earnest talks about love and forgiveness but overall, Steve really walks away from this huge revelation unscathed and still supported by all those he cares about.
This was one of the moments when I really found myself not understanding why the constant build of confessional guilt that Steve seems to go through over and over was for naught. All his constant worry and fears were brushed aside, and it made me really wonder why he hid his sexuality at all? Everyone was so okay with it, that simply did not support Steve’s constant angst and guilt over hiding for so many years. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop or for something or someone’s homophobic reaction to support Steve’s feelings, but it never did and I must say, it left me rather disappointed. Even his ex-wife seemed to eventually gloss over her pain. Yes it was mentioned but then it seemed so weak in comparison to Steve’s overwhelming sense of guilt. In the end it really felt like such a big deal had been made over seemingly nothing, or so one thought by gauging the reactions of Steve’s friends and family.
Then there was Deacon. I was amazed at the depth of this character. Author Ethan Day produced such an incredibly beautiful and deeply wounded man in Deacon Miller. I understood every nuance of his guilt, of his fears and of his deep abiding sense of self-loathing. He had been programmed at an early age to think that he was nothing and now, in his adult life, he had never yet surrounded himself with anyone who loved him despite his own inability to love himself–until Steve. As frustrating as Steve’s story was for me, Deacon’s was compelling and haunting.
This was writing that drew me in and wrapped me up in it’s gentle sorrow. Every character around Deacon, every family member supported how he felt inside. From his niece who loved him yet saw how broken they both were to his bitch of a mother who continued to demean and hate on him even from prison, every emotion that Deacon has was believable and so very, very sad. Deacon’s story was the real strength behind Northern Star. His needs and desires were so palpable that I was hooked into his life completely.
The premise and idea behind Northern Star was a good one. Unfortunately, for me, I felt that the novel was unbalanced and that one of its main characters came off as weak when he needed to be strong. The story was uneven mainly due to the underwhelming response to Steve’s coming out by his family which simply did not support all his guilty internal and verbal angst. Still and all, this is Ethan Day and he is a talented author and does not fail to deliver a solid story that leaves behind a definitive mark on your heart.