Author: Xavier Mayne
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: May 22nd 2017
Genre(s): M/M Contemporary
Page Count: 250 pages
Reviewed by: Belen
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Newly turned thirty, Cameron North is preparing himself to spend his life alone. When he inherits his great-aunt’s teashop on the remote island of Farlough, he returns for the first time in more than a dozen years to a place where memories—and demons—flit close to the surface of his mind. There he meets Gwyneth, a sassy barista who becomes his instant best friend—until Cam discovers she’s the wife of his first love, Matthias. She has only the best of intentions when she arranges a reunion between the two men, and it forces them to finally discuss why Cam left the island so long ago.
With his heart broken anew, Cam retreats to his great-aunt’s house—where he learns he is not alone. Someone—or something—has pledged an oath to look out for Cam, and as he investigates the presence, he uncovers wounds that both he and his mysterious guardian sought to escape by coming to Farlough. Now Cam must figure out how to heal them—and himself.
WARNING: PERSONAL OPINION AHEAD.
…and you know what they say about opinions, right? Amiright?
I didn’t like most of the story. Filled with purple prose, odd situations, and not very well-fleshed out characters or setting, I spent a large majority of the time reading this and wondering why I didn’t just set it down. I still can’t really adequately explain why I continued to read.
I didn’t like Cameron, mostly because he struck me as a very self-centered character. When he left Farlough when he was eighteen and heartbroken, he never seemed to even contemplate that his Aunt Hilda was without any other family, and that she was getting older. He barely even communicated with her, and never visited her. Frankly, he spared little thought to her life, or her death. Then again, it didn’t seem like he had a different reaction to his parent’s death.
He returns to Farlough only because the inheritance from his parent’s estate is running out and he loses his job. So he comes back to fulfill the requirements of the will, and then plans to leave quickly again. Otherwise, he probably never would have returned.
When he does come back to the island and people figure out who he his, he’s treated warmly by the Farlegions. Because Hilda was so proud of him, had kept tabs on him, and spoke of him highly to all who would listen. At first Cam doesn’t even appreciate it.
Cam, who had never considered himself to be anything other than alone in the world, felt an alien weight settle onto his chest. It was the burden of attachment—of meaning something to someone. He had, he was starting to realize, carefully constructed his adult life to avoid meaning anything to anyone.
As the reader I didn’t feel like I was really given great insight into Cameron’s character, other than his selfishness, so he was a hard character to warm up to or like. He’s alone in the world? Whose fault was that? He had a loving, and willing family member, a community to be a part of – but he kept himself separate deliberately.
“You are alone, Cameron Percival North. You will always be alone.”
He said this aloud several times. It was an incantation, a curse, a lament. It was the truest thing he knew about himself. And it would never be other than it was. Of this he was certain.
Like I said, it was hard to like him.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice characters in the story (The Misters, Gwyneth), and while we get some insight into some of them, through multiple points of view (besides Cam we also get POV from Gwyneth and Matthias), I continued to feel as though something was missing.
I liked Gwyneth, who I found to be a lovely character, and I appreciated her practical reaction to finding out Cam and Matthias has been lovers. I liked that the women in the story were practical, familial, loving, and warm. It made a nice change to have it be the men who were messes.
I wouldn’t really characterize the story as a romance, though I’m sure some will, and maybe it was the structure of the story that kept me from investing emotion into it. I don’t know.
The thing I found most ironic is Tristan, who went to extraordinary lengths to escape the life he was living, actually says to Cam at one point:
I’d never been a person to anyone. Every single person I’d ever met had already figured out the role I would play in their lives before they’d even spoken to me.
This is so ironic because Cameron has actually done the same thing in a way. He projected his own feelings onto Tristan, before he ever met or set eyes on him, going so far as to claim he was falling in love with him even before they’d actually spoken.
I didn’t believe in the relationship between Tristan and Cam, which further drove me away emotionally from the story. There are several moments that I would classify “creepy” in the story, which drove me even further…
Tristan, in order to remain unseen, hides continuously from Cam, going so far one time to jump out of a second story window to avoid being seen. He regularly looks in on Cameron as he sleeps, leaving tokens on his pillow for Cam to find the following morning.
Tristan, upon first acquaintance with Cam, comes into his room in the dark and when Cam sleepily requests he get into the bed, Tristan does (yet he’s nude). This brought me up short – mainly, why the hell was this man, who’d only had a single conversation and breakfast with Cam, coming into his room in the middle of the night nude?
Tristan admits that one night, he’d been watching Cam sleep, Cam was restless, had thrown back the covers and orgasmed mightily, without waking up. Tristan had gone and gotten a cloth and cleaned Cam up so he wouldn’t wake sticky.
“If that happened, then why didn’t I wake up all wet—or at least sticky?”
Tristan pursed his lips as if unsure whether to keep talking. “I, um,” he said, his voice suddenly tentative. “I cleaned you up. I didn’t want you to wake up and feel even worse about whatever was going on with Mads, so I got a washcloth and mopped things up.”
“You did that for me?”
Tristan whispered conspiratorially, “I had to wring out the washcloth three times.”
Cam felt perversely proud.
Cam might have felt perversely proud, but I felt totally creeped out.
Bottom line is this didn’t work for me on many levels. I was hoping for more insight into life on the island, getting a better understanding of its inhabitants and, frankly, of Cameron. I didn’t get what I wanted with this.
But maybe you’ll have better luck or a different take – this is only my opinion.