Author: Brandon Shire
Publisher: Self Published
Cover Artist: Photo: Justyna Furmanczyk
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Murder touched Stephen Dobbins when he was a young boy and left him living in a void of aching loneliness. A chance meeting with a young American chased away the fear that he would always be alone and brought him the prospect of a new existence.
Dustin Earl joined the military and escaped his small town Southern upbringing with the hope that he could give his mentally challenged brother a better life. But Dustin had never known real love, an honest hug, or a simple kiss. He considered his sexuality a weakness; a threat that had been used against those he cared about.
For eight months their relationship blossomed until Dustin suddenly returned home. He cherished Stephen, but felt his responsibilities to his brother outweighed his own chance at happiness.
Shattered, unable to function and unwilling to accept Dustin’s departure, Stephen flew three thousand miles to get Dustin back and rekindle what they had. But what he would learn when he got there… he could never have imagined.
… all men had two faces; one you could see with your heart, the other you felt with your soul, and both would be captured within the contours of his hand.
This story starts out in emotional overdrive. I felt like I was barely holding on, constantly switching my grip in attempts to keep up. Having read a number of Brandon Shire’s books, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Or rather, I should have been much better prepared. Though, I’m not sure that would have been possible. He splashes and methodically paints and sneakily drops emotion all over his pages.
This is told in relatively chronological order regarding the events, but flashbacks are utilized. After each one, I was taken right back to the present, the moment that was temporarily abandoned for the memory. That’s what this feels like, experiencing someone else’s memories.
There’s no way around it, Dustin and his brother Robbie came from a horribly messed up family. Unforgiving, uncaring, and therefore physically and emotionally hurtful in unrelenting waves, it left destruction in its wake. Life-changing and bent on suffocation of their hearts.
Shire has a way of expressing love, the idea of love, the it-likes-to-pop-up-in-unexpected-places nature of love, and then he works it between people who don’t always know how to handle it.
Their single night together had been beneath the surface of life, an invisible thing that Stephen couldn’t put his finger on…
… “beneath the surface of life…”
I almost don’t know how to process that, except that it’s true. Love can be impossible to define and express in some of the usual ways. That’s love and this is beautiful, naked writing. When a monkey wrench or ten then get tossed into the mix, love is even more complicated, messy and challenging.
”… all our romances seem to come from the dirt we bury ourselves in rather than the glitter we throw up for the show.”
Unplanned, unexpected, deeper than we could even anticipate or envision. Shire is so good at examining and contemplating love. Asking the questions about what it does to us, what we do to ourselves when we’re in its grip, how it seems unwilling to give up on us no matter the situation and how desperate we may be to give up on it.
I feel both fragile and full. How is that possible? That’s what it is so it must be possible. It’s just so rare for words on a page to both portray and elicit such unmistakable emotions that feel inextricably linked.
Like the two of us, one is empty without the other.
Stephen’s Gran, Colette, is strong, perceptive, protective and direct. Dustin’s adoptive Gran, Miss Emily, is Colette’s mirror. These two comfort and yet highlight the heartbreak of their grandchildren.
This is a love story. It’s the part of a love story that doesn’t often get told, and certainly not like this, not so well.
When you pulled me back and put our foreheads together I saw you naked, without all those fears, saw your heart swell with the reflection you witnessed in my eyes; and seeing that in your face made me understand your pain had been necessary, that it had been both river and raft.
Every book of Brandon Shire’s that I’ve read has been fantastic and emotional and unrelenting. This is no exception. I love it. That’s all there is to it. He is one of the few writers by whom I cannot wait to yet again have my heart pummeled. His words zero in like beating heart seeking missiles and I’ve been slain.
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
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