Author: L.J. LaBarthe
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 05/13/2015
Length: Novella (~ 15K-50K)
Genre: Contemporary, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance
A Piece Us Back Together story
After suffering a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, Garrett believes his life is over. Depressed, bereft, in pain, and unable to return to the career he loves as an arborist, he sees no hope or future for himself. But a trip to Havelock Island in India turns his world upside down. He meets Jai, an Indian nurse, and becomes smitten with him. Near the end of his trip, while swimming with an elephant, he tells Jai how he feels.
After Garrett returns to Australia, he wonders if he can ever be healed of all his pain—physical, emotional, and mental—and fears that love and romance will never be his again. But then Jai turns up in Perth and brings with him astonishing news.
This story had great potential. The concept of nature healing your heart and in turn leading to better pain management was a good one. I loved the clinic in India with the elephants and care given to the patients. I loved the idea of two men forming a bond during healing and then crossing major distances to be together. But there was something about the story’s execution that did not work for me.
I had a hard time connecting to Garrett or Jai. Garrett was so inwardly focused on his pain that at times he discounted those around him and did nothing but whine. While I understood where he was coming from, it was a bit too much for such a short story and took away from his character’s potential. I also never really understood much about him. Other than his injury, his past was not explored and he really did not show much development and growth. I just never felt I learned much about him other than he was dealing with pain a lot. It made it hard to connect to him even after his miraculous and self proclaimed epiphanies.
Jai was the same. I never got an understanding of who he really was in relation to himself. He existed only to be supportive to Garrett so I never really cared for him as an individual. I also felt he was too perfect. He always knew the right thing to do or say. And I think the author was trying to show the fact that English was not Jai’s first language, but at times his speech pattern were awkward and made him appear slow and simple minded.
I also didn’t feel their connection. The overall tone of the story was not natural. They way things happened and were laid out felt manufactured and forced. Like the author had an outcome in mind and tailored the character’s actions to fit. I did not feel their connection to the world around them or to each other. I read about it, but I did not feel it. Too often the character’s dialogue was used to explain the emotion, or joke, or epiphany. If you have to tell me you had an epiphany, it just does not have the same impact as using the context clues to demonstrate the epiphany.
There was a too perfect and too easy quality to the story. Even with Garrett constantly complaining about his pain and losses in life, everything seemed to line up as it needed to when it needed to. Garrett lost his job and another perfect one fell into place. He saw a therapist for a few sessions and with just one sentence, everything fell into place and Garrett understood life again. Swimming with the Elephants was a magical and spiritual experience that instantly made everything all right. There were just too many cases where the perfection did not match the complaining that Garrett continued to do. Too often, his changes were orchestrated and not shown. I think this links back to the fact that the characters were not really well developed and the emotions were talked about and not shown.
I think this story had potential. But it needed more for me to truly understand these men and why their relationship worked. It was a pleasant read and the technical aspects were done adequately, but I found myself wishing for more even after the story ended.
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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