Title: The Garden (Lavender Shores #2)
Author: Rosalind Abel and Kirt Graves (Narrator)
Publisher: Wings of Ink Publications
Release Date: December 11th 2017
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Length: 8 hrs and 23 mins
Reviewed by: Lily G. Blunt
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Beautiful Gilbert Bryant designs jewelry for the rich and famous, and he made his escape from his gossipy little hometown of Lavender Shores. However, with so many friends and family, he keeps getting pulled back. When he attends his best friend’s engagement party, Gilbert can’t help but sample one of the new men in town. It’s just some innocent—or not so innocent—fun. Nothing that will even cross his mind once he gets back to his everyday life.
Walden Thompson dreamed about living in Lavender Shores since he visited as a child. He finally gets his chance, and he embraces the opportunity to start over, to become someone new. He leaves both hurts and dangerous habits in the past, where they belong. When Gilbert crosses his path, Walden gives in to his baser instincts. He can indulge in the carnal pleasures this once and still be okay. Their few hours together haunt Gilbert, the two-hundred-mile buffer from home no longer shutting out the past or the sexy man he left behind. Walden is just beginning to recover from the smoldering encounter with Gilbert when they are thrust together once more. This time, neither of them can walk away, no matter how hard they try. But when their pasts crash into each other as surely as the magnetism that pulls them together, walking away may be the only option.
The Garden is #2 in the Lavender Shores series, but this story can easily be read as a standalone. It features the main characters from book 1, Andrew and Joel (their engagement party and wedding happens here), and also Gilbert, whose story is now told.
Both Gilbert and Walden have issues that keep them from committing to a relationship early in the story. Gilbert has been in therapy because of an incident that still haunts him. He’s done his best to avoid visiting Lavender Shores and the incessant gossips, but has returned to celebrate Andrew and Joel’s engagement. We eventually find out what happened when he was sixteen and the guilt that still plagues him makes it difficult for him to enter into a relationship with anyone. He’s all about hookups and anonymous sex, which for me seemed to be entirely contradictory to his past. And this runs throughout the story, he feels guilty for his past actions yet he still behaves in a similar manner. He’s arrogant yet not confident enough to begin a relationship or go for what he wants.
Walden comes across as a geek, albeit a sexy one. He’s a new teacher in Lavender Shores and has his own heartbreaking past that he’s trying to forget and keep hidden, lest anyone should feel sorry for him. Once bitten, twice shy could be his motto.
Right from the start when these two hot guys meet, they are instantly attracted physically and have an intense hookup in a gym’s steam room. And that’s fine. It’s just sex, or so they keep telling themselves. More hookups follow, along with a lot of internal reflection and doubting. The more they spend time together, the more their feelings get in the way. Instead of going with it, they try to avoid each other and what it could mean for them. And this I found quite frustrating, all the will they or won’t they as they give in and change their minds once again. This goes on for over half of the book. They don’t think they’re good enough for each other or want to risk a chance of happiness.
They struggle with their pasts and these are gradually revealed as the story progresses. You can sort of understand why they behave the way they did. It didn’t quite work for me, I’m afraid.
I enjoyed the second half of the book much more, where they kind of work at being together and finally give it a go. They work through issues and doubts together. The Garden features in some of these scenes and is partly responsible for their healing. The story moves to a lovely HEA with a little angst thrown in from Walden’s ex.
The story was well written and it was great to have the dual point of view. The chemistry between these two characters is hot and explosive from the start, with plenty of sizzling scenes whenever they get together, whether they are talking, kissing, or making out.
Kirt Graves is new to me and, as always, it took me time to adjust to a new narrator. His voice is soft and steady, and I gradually came to like his style of storytelling. He created subtle differences in the characters’ voices and overall I enjoyed this audio version.
Check out the Lavender Shores site for more information on the series and inspiration behind the characters and location.