Author: John Wiltshire
Publisher: MLR Press
Cover Artist: Deana Jamroz
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars and
Rating: 5* of 5*
Ben usually overlooks Nikolas’s occasionally jarring dissonance. Not this time. A deep rift, a terrible lie, separates them. Eleven thousand miles from Nikolas, in New Zealand, it’s bitter winter as Ben films the tragic story of a post-apocalyptic gladiator, a victim of his own personal darkness. But on receiving a death threat, Ben suspects the truth of actor Oliver Whitestone’s suicide. Someone doesn’t want this movie made. It’s fortunate for Ben, therefore, that dissonance is a state of unrest, a longing for completion. As if Nikolas would stay at home in disgrace while Ben Rider-Mikkelsen becomes the target of a crazed stalker…
Chapter one: I’ve already gotten some of the things I love about Nik and Ben, about this series, about John Wiltshire’s writing.
Sometimes his decision to entirely corral and control Nikolas was subverted by the fathomless depths of the love he held for him.
As if I could forget! But it’s looooooovely to be reminded. These two have known and, yeah, loved each other for nearly a decade now, and yet, they and Wiltshire continue to surprise and gut me. Even better, experiencing their teasing and cleverness and inability to do anything less than love each other, it all made me sigh in deep contentment.
This pretty much sets up the entire book.
Sidebar: a fellow reader friend and I discussing these two guys…
Her: “They’re a hot mess, no?”
Me: Always were, still are, forever they’ll be.
A few chapters in and I had already laughed out loud a number of times.
Ultimately, these two men can’t seem to get out of their own way. For as well as they do know each other, there is so much they do not. Or rather, that they choose not to yet see and acknowledge. This is the journey they’re on in this story. They’re the focus, their love is the focus, their fears and needs and questionable decisions and, not just willingness but, proof that they’ll each do anything for the other if it keeps them safe and alive. On the flipside, this bone deep love they feel is their very savior, protector, and righter of the proverbial ship at every turn.
Ben sighed and levered himself up onto Nikolas, lying lower down so his ear was over Nikolas’s heart. They often slept like this, despite Ben being so heavy, so it wasn’t that unusual, but to Nikolas then it felt as if Ben lay like his protector, his shield against the world. For was that not, when you got right down to the fundamentals, what all this was about? Photographs, ex-wives, dead babies – they were the real world – his life before dream time. Before Ben.
My continued trust in John Wiltshire as a storyteller is bolstered once again. No matter through what he puts all of these characters, it feels honest, which means I can and do buy into it. All of it.
If there was ever a doubt that Ben and Nik share a bottomless pit of passion, the idea is tossed over the cliff’s edge, forever banished. Physical and emotional passion. Sometimes the battle between the two is amusing, frustrating, and heart rending. Sometimes all three at once, in a single moment. Their love is needful, complete, and inescapable. Epic. Epic!
He patted Nikolas’s hand. “Did I mention recently that I love you?”
“No, you have been too busy being clever and disagreeable.”
“Because I want you to live a long life? Because I love you enough to die if you die coughing your lungs up? That kind of disagreeable?”
Nikolas quirked his lip. “Yes. Exactly that kind.”
There’s more to this passage but I’m not giving anything away. 😉
There are what appear to be some grammatical and sentence structure mistakes. The grammar I can handle because it fits the characters, in both their internal and external dialogues. The missing or one-too many words were more obvious. They were minor blips and were no match for the emotion and excitement and tension rolling off this book.
It’s not as pronounced in this story as it is in the earlier books in this series, but the mystery is intriguing. It was smartly used as a way to introduce some new characters and a means to affecting some originals. It’s also the thing I kept giving the side-eye, waiting for the other shoe to drop. This author likes to drop many a shoe, and unexpectedly, at that.
Squeezy! I do heart him so. No one gives him the credit he deserves. Then again, he doesn’t really care and just does what’s needed, smiling and smirking all the way. He and the other supporting characters don’t play as large a role in this story, keeping in tune with the heavy focus on Ben and Nik and their relationship.
This relationship. It’s such an epic love story but unusual in some of its components. They sometimes take the much more difficult road in the attempt to fix and protect, and express that love. It’s all so worth it. It shows how well Wiltshire knows Nikolas Mikkelsen and Ben Rider-Mikkelsen. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll describe it this way: they make me feel vulnerable, open, in danger of being emotionally wrecked, wary of it, wanting it, knowing and demonstrably stating that I want more.
Nik and Ben were made for each other. Destined to be paired. The universe has gotten its way, bringing these two together and giving them their opportunity to prove this truth in the life they share.
I had to fight the chin tremble at the end. Speaking of, some aspects of it did feel a bit rushed. I only hope that the next book digs deeply into those same aspects, giving us even more to chew on.
The title of the next book? I’ll even allow you to discover that for yourself, as well. 😉
I love that BJ and I are reviewing this together!
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
I came to John Wiltshire a lot later than ‘Lirtle’, but as of today I have read all of his books. I have been catching up on the series we are discussing here whilst I have been poorly, which for me means I have to be careful what I read, as I get down in the dumps quite easily.
You would think that a book that has two such complex characters, as Nikolas and Ben – especially Nikolas who has memories and regrets in his head that no one would wish for – would be a bad choice for an invalid. However, John Wiltshire knows how to write in a way that requires you to keep reading no matter what. He can make you laugh and grin in one line then near to tears in the next. Considering that this series is firmly based in the story of two men – whose passion for each other is ‘epic’ – the plotlines are so involved and well written it never bores. There are secondary characters and they are presented so that you care for them, but they do not overshadow the main protagonists, except for their totally adorable dog, Radulf.
The Bruise Black Sky is deeply emotional and I like how the author always divides the books up into parts with the last always at home. Initially, I thought the first of the series Love is a Stranger (thinks of Eurythmics lyrics and suspects so did John Wiltshire) contained too much sex, but although sex carries through the books in large amounts eventually the reader realises why, as they learn more about the characters. This book sees the action move to Scotland, North East England, New Zealand, The States and of course home. The plots are increasingly relevant to larger stories in the real world today. Neither ‘Lirtle’ or I can give too much of the plot-lines away or we will spoil the read, as surprise and plot twists are intrinsic to this series.
I will cover one aspect that ‘Lirtle’ has not in this, or her previous reviews I think – possibly because it is a very English aspect. One of the sub-plots that arcs throughout is Nikolas’ marriage of convenience to a minor Royal, Philipa. The marriage a smokescreen, so Philipa can carry on a long term affair with a very important member of the royal family. The whole plotline is cheeky, irreverent and very funny. He even has the scruffy, blind, adorable Radulf being helped into a car by the Queen. I do not know how far he will go with this, but even if you are not English, and I replace the name ‘Philipa’ with Camilla Parker-Bowles and give the heir’s ‘young wife’ – who has given him two sons – the name Diana… Google will supply the rest I am sure. It’s intriguing when Nikolas is asked by Philipa if anyone else knows a particular fact, he is reticent to name names as he fears the ‘Department’ will take care of them…our Royal Family often refer to themselves as ‘The Firm’…Conspiracies abound.
I am champing at the bit for the next book, but the title makes me wonder if I’m going to need a hanky. Do not hesitate to start reading this series.
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
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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