Author: Parker Williams
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: July 28, 2017
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 200
Reviewed by: CrabbyPatty
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Matt Bowers’s life ended at sixteen, when a vicious betrayal by someone who he should have been able to trust left him a shell of himself, fighting OCD and PTSD, living in constant fear and always running. When he buys a remote tract of land, he thinks he’s found the perfect place to hide from the world and attempt to establish some peace. For ten years he believes he’s found a measure of comfort, until the day a stranger begins to run on Matt’s road.
He returns every day, an unwelcome intrusion into Matt’s carefully structured life. Matt appeals to the local sheriff, who cannot help him since the jogger is doing nothing wrong. Gradually, after tentatively breaking the ice, Matt begins to accept the man’s presence—
But when the runner doesn’t show up one day, it throws Matt’s world into chaos and he must make the hardest decision of his life.
After an attack when he was sixteen, Matt suffers from OCD and PTSD and has basically been a recluse ever since, living alone in a house in the remote Maine countryside. Matt has shut himself away from his family:
As much as I loved Mom and Clay, they were no longer part of my world, and having them in my house would require me to put things back to rights after they were gone. In essence, I’d be excising them from my life each time, and I couldn’t handle that. Easier to just not let them visit.
Matt spends his day in compulsive routines of cleaning, planting, reading, cooking, etc. until a handsome runner on the road outside his house disrupts Matt’s careful routines. Matt’s calls to the local sheriff (Matt’s younger brother Clay) are unsuccessful in making the runner go away and Clay finally tells Matt that he must talk to the runner and learn his name before Clay will consider talking to the runner. Matt and the runner, Charlie, slowly begin a relationship of sorts which moves from Matt screaming in terror as Charlie knocks on the door to them having lemonade on the front porch.
At the start of this story, I wanted to become invested in Matt’s recovery and wanted to see Charlie and Matt’s relationship develop and grow, but this book just did not work for me. Beyond numerous details of Matt’s OCD, there is little character development of Matt or Charlie, with Charlie (a fairly successful author) serving mostly as a besotted cheerleader and in terms of emotional development, Matt is stuck at sixteen. I would have liked Charlie’s or Clay’s POV to balance the story.
But my larger issue is the way in which Matt’s OCD is handled. From what I’ve read about OCD, friends and family are ask to not reinforce a person’s OCD by participating in OCD rituals and compulsions, and should try to remind them about other people’s needs as well as their own. Yet Charlie tells Matt “There is nowhere in the world I’ve been that is better than where we are right now. I could live here with you happily for the rest of my life. We don’t need to change a thing” and continues with:
I explained to him [Clay] what you meant to me. What being here with you did for me. And I told him there is nothing wrong with you. If you’re happy, how can it be wrong? I said maybe it wasn’t you who needed to change, but him and your mother.
Now this is solely my opinion, but Matt has virtually a been a recluse since he was 16, refused to continue therapy beyond three months when his therapist suggested talking about what happened, refused medication and has taken his large court reward and built a secluded house. Once he’s over 18, sure, he has control of his life, but it bothered me that he received no court-ordered treatment of any kind at a stage where it might have been the most effective.
- And when Matt does decide on his own to finally return to therapy and to see his family, there is a one-year time jump around 80% in the book and we next see Matt running daily with Charlie, visiting family and friends and controlling his anxiety. Given that so much of the story to this point was devoted to explaining Matt’s OCD, it seemed disingenuous to not detail the work involved with Matt learning how to handle his OCD.