Open Water (ParisDude’s Review)

Title: Open Water (Scandinavian Comfort Book 2)
Author: Sophia Soames
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: July 20, 2019
Genre(s): YA, Enemies-to-lovers
Page Count: 338
Reviewed by: ParisDude
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5


Meet Lukas Myrtengren, Mentor Teacher in Biology and Maths at Östra Real Senior School in Stockholm. This isn’t how his life is supposed to turn out. In your late thirties you are supposed to have your life figured out, right? Somehow, Lukas has lost his compass, his life spinning aimlessly out of control. He still gets up in the morning and goes to work every day without fail, making sure his students pass his classes and that his schedule is right on track. His love life is a shambles, his head is a mess, but he is trying to sort it all out. Honestly. He can’t keep living like this.

Meet Tom Andersson. Emergency room doctor and single dad. He has no idea how he has managed to mess up parenthood this bad. He tries too hard, has no patience and can’t even hold a normal conversation with the seventeen-year-old son he loves to the point of insanity. Tom knows that he is drifting out to sea without a paddle, he just doesn’t know how to stop it.

Meet me, Max Andersson. Seventeen. Gay AF. An emotional wreck with no future, no skills and no clue. All I know is that I am in love. Helplessly. Desperately. And, unrequited, of course. What else can you expect from a loser like myself? It’s not like my life is going to get better. The truth is, I’m just another disaster waiting to happen. A ticking time-bomb full of stupidity. That’s just the way it is.

Welcome to Open Water.

I went to Stockholm last May and simply loved, loved, loved this city, so I was super happy when I saw Sophia Soames had released a new novel set in Stockholm. To be honest, the city doesn’t play a prominent role in the plot, however, but I do think I detected something in the character’s attitudes that I could call genuinely Scandinavian. A sort of coolness, of acceptance that things don’t always turn out the way we’d love them to turn out, and of necessary resilience to cope with that fact.

There are four main characters and three alternating POVs (one of them in first person): Tom Anderson, ER doctor and single dad; his son Max, seventeen, gay, suffering from frequent and severe anxiety attacks; Max’s Biology teacher and mentor, gay Lukas Myrtengren; and Matteo, a handsome fellow student of Max’s. Matteo has a very painful past (the details are told by and by, in little bits and pieces). He doesn’t know Max is secretly in love with him, and he just might or might not reciprocate these feelings (I won’t spoil the thrill and fun of finding out—read it, and you’ll know). What with his incapacitating anxiety issues and subsequent lack of self-esteem, Max is on the brink of failing his grade, so Lukas asks to see him and his father in order to tackle the problem together. But the meeting is a complete disaster because it reveals that Tom and Lukas have a common history; in fact, they attended the same school Lukas is teaching at now. Back then Lukas was already out, and Tom was the stupid bully who made his school life a living hell. Little by little we learn that the reason for that behaviour was Tom being head over heels in love with Lukas and envying his easy-going hipness and acceptance of his sexual orientation. Tom has tried ever since to atone for his errors by becoming unselfish and acting as altruistically as he can. We also learn that Lukas, far from being the easy-going person others are allowed to perceive, is a tortured man with a long history of failed relationships and a therefore low self-esteem where his capacity to love is concerned.

In a nutshell, this is thus the story of four people life has hurt and who’re desperately looking for love. The challenge is: will they be able to pair up as we, the readers, would like them to? And will the author manage to write that story without going tacky or twisting the whole thing into a long series of annoying misunderstandings? Well, as to the former, I won’t tell. As to the latter, however: yes, she does. The pace is good, slowing down at times so as to give us time to breathe, and the book is… one could say as messy as modern life often turns out to be.

For, basically, we get four characters who are messy. Like, really, really messy. They all have important issues that weigh them down, most of them linked to painful events in their past, and they all have to struggle if they want to remain standing in the face of adversity, to keep a smiling face, to keep loving life. I don’t do trigger warnings because I consider we’re all adults and can cope with life’s uglier sides when presented in fiction, but let’s say some of these characters could be outright depressing. Except, strangely, they aren’t. Ok, Max can be the basic ungrateful No-Future and All’s-Gloomy/Existence-Is-Black teenager at times, moaning and whining. But he quickly gets his act together, especially when in the middle of his troubles his life suddenly turns heartily rose-tinted with butterflies in the guts. All four are wholesome guys insofar as they embrace what befalls them, good or bad, with acceptance. Yes, they question events, feelings, actions, reactions, and they do so in a sometimes oversized scale. But they never surrender, they never give up on life, never give up on hope or love. There are passages where Sophia Soames’s writing just looks like a ray of sunlight piercing an otherwise gloomy rain-day, and that is really heart-warming.

I have to add that I would have preferred the book to end right before the epilogue, which I found a tad “too much”. I don’t need all the things spelled out not all the threads brought to a happy ending. I guess this is not a book everyone could like because some really heavy problems are tackled in it; nevertheless it’s one that I gladly recommend, despite the epilogue, because I enjoyed the rest very much.

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Galley copy of Open Water provided by the author in exchange of an honest review.


Dieter, born and raised in Austria, studied Political Sciences in Vienna in the early 90s. He's living in Paris, France, with his boyfriend and working as a graphic designer. In his spare time, he loves to write, read, cook, take photos, and travel as often as possible. He’s already published two short-story collections as well as four poetry collections. His first murder mystery novel “The Stuffed Coffin” featuring Damien Drechsler and the dashing Greek student Nikos has been released on Jan. 6, 2019, and is available in English, French, and German. By the way, the French version "Le cercueil farci" has won the prestigious Prix du roman gay 2019 in the category murder mystery. Dieter runs a gay book reviews site in French and is also writing reviews for Gay Book Reviews under the pseudonym of ParisDude.