Author: Izzy van Swelm
Publisher: Wilde City
Cover Artist: Wilde City Press
Rating: 3.5 of 5 and 4 of 5 Stars
The effects of an attack on SIN, a twenty-nine year old University lecturer, reach out further into his future than SIN could ever imagine. In a story, which seems doomed to start with an end, SIN learns about the forever kind of love, and how family is not just biological. ‘Soul-Mate for SIN’ shows how twists of fate can take a loving, but ordinary family, from a small market town in Lincolnshire, England and turn them into something extraordinary.
Izzy van Swelm’s first novel speaks to the grace of family and the hope and forgiveness that comes through the healing powers of love. When university lecturer Samuel Isaac Newton, aka Sin, is attacked in a brutal gay-bashing incident, his bright future suddenly becomes unclear and laden with doubt, fear, and hopelessness. As he recovers and works to reclaim his life, he comes to realize what an unexpected impact love, in all its forms, can have upon one’s destiny.
There was much to like about Soulmate for SIN. Its characters are compassionate and empathetic, especially Sin’s parents. How refreshing it is to read a novel in which the gay main character has a loving and supportive mother and father who simply wish him happiness and healing. Their care and concern for both their sons, though quite different, speak to a kind of parental dedication and devotion that I wish were seen more frequently in this genre.
Further effective elements are the realistic timeline of the story, along with convincing medical and judicial details. Sin’s wounds and their after-effects take a believably long time to heal and not only have a physical impact upon him but also an emotional one. I appreciated the kind of attention to detail the author paid to the duration of the healing process and the arduous task of recovery. Additionally, the more social aspects of the hate crime, namely the processes of the law and courtroom procedures, felt well researched and authentic, adding even more credibility to the events of the story.
There were a few elements that didn’t work as well for me and could have used a little more polishing. Shifts in tone and POV, particularly in the beginning, were a bit distracting and confusing. Though technical details were well executed, there were times when I wished for a bit more emotional depth in order to truly connect with the characters’ feelings. I would also have loved to see more of Win’s complexity and his experiences so as to fully grasp his character and understand his actions a bit better. Although I enjoyed the exchanges between the characters overall, there were moments and situations in which the dialogue just didn’t ring as true as it did for others.
That being said, there is a cozy warmth to the narrative, mainly due to the endearing relationships displayed between the characters and the many British details that Ms. van Swelm lovingly weaves into her scenes. Whether they are dancing at a drag show, having tea and biscuits, or stepping outside the cottage to take in the bucolic setting, these lovely Englanders exude charm, hospitality, and kindness. In stark contrast to the initial brutal act that sets the events of the story into motion, this gentle portrayal of love of humanity sheds a glowing light upon the goodness that exists in our world and outshines even the darkness of hate.
With characters and a storyline written from the heart, Soulmate for SIN is a sweet and tender debut into the m/m romance genre. Having established this solid foundation, Ms. van Swelm is a new author who shows excellent potential, and I look forward to reading more of her work.
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Samuel Isaac Newton—Sin to his friends—has it all, almost. When he meets Charlie in the park one fine day, however, all that’s about to change. The one dark spot in Sin’s life is about to become a big black hole.
Izzy Van Swelm’s first book is a curious one. Smoothly written and full of emotional warmth and authentic character, it is a surprisingly low-key narrative of emotional and physical recovery with a very dark center. A funny bit of misdirection at the very start opens the book through Charlie’s perspective. It’s odd because after his central role in the first chapter or so, Charlie becomes a distinctly secondary character, fading into the background after having been vividly imprinted on the reader’s imagination. It’s almost as if Van Swelm intended to pick him up again later on, but never really does.
Equally offbeat is the book’s prologue, which introduces the idea of a soulmate and its mythological roots. With a cursory glance it seems that the prologue is there only to pave the way for two chapters that bookend Sin’s story with a poignant, gently comical sci-fi fantasy. I tried to make myself think that these chapters were meant to be read as dreams; but I don’t really think so.
The crux of the book is the relationship between Sin and his nurse, Gabriel. As one reads about these two characters, and about Sin’s amazing parents, Sally and Snowy, both the prologue and the first dream/sci-fi chapter continue to hover just out of sight. Aside from the dark, unhappy center of Sin and Gabriel’s story—in the person of Sin’s brother William—there is little in the way of sturm und drang. That’s fine with me; the real nature of evolving relationships is more about nuance and adjustment, and Van Swelm creates a poignant dance between these two young men as they feel their way forward together away from the darkness.
Van Swelm is confident in her handling of dialogue and character. She has a great sense of place without labored description or a reliance on unnecessary detail. Part of me hopes she has plans for a second book that will focus on Charlie and his story, which gets so unceremoniously dumped in favor of Sin’s tale. But that’s a minor disappointment, because there is a lot to like in this book.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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