Release Date: July 23, 2018
Received From: Review copy from the author as part of his ARC team
A ring of braided grass. A promise. Ten years of separation.
And memories of an innocent love with the power to last through time.
When Luca Ward was five years old, he swore he would love Imre Claybourne forever. Years later, that promise holds true—and when Luca finds himself shipped off to Imre’s North Yorkshire goat farm in disgrace, long-buried feelings flare back to life when he finds, in Imre, the same patiently stoic gentle giant he’d loved as a boy. The lines around Imre’s eyes may be deeper, the once-black night of his hair silvered to steel and stone…but he’s still the same slow-moving mountain of a man whose quiet-spoken warmth, gentle hands, and deep ties to his Roma heritage have always, to Luca, meant home.
Imre is more than twice Luca’s age.
And Luca’s father’s best friend.
Yet if Imre is everything Luca remembered, for Imre this hot-eyed, fey young man is nothing of the boy he knew. Gone is the child, replaced by a vivid man whose fettered spirit is spinning, searching for north, his heart a thing of wild sweet pure emotion that draws Imre into the compelling fire of Luca’s frustrated passions. That fragile heart means everything to Imre—and he’ll do anything to protect it.
Even if it means distancing himself, when the years between them are a chasm Imre doesn’t know how to cross.
But can he resist the allure in cat-green eyes when Luca places his trembling heart in Imre’s hands…and begs for his love, over and over again?
SEXUALITY: homosexual, demisexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: homoromantic, demiromantic
TROPES: age gap, forced proximity, gentle giant, parent’s best friend, height difference, slow burn, mutual pining, snowed in
TAGS: adult, contemporary, romance, queer romance, queer characters, Romani character, POC character, Black author, Asian author, Native author, POC author
WARNINGS: self-harm (through neglect), sick animals, needles, ableism, slurs, physical injury, aphobia/arophobic/acephobia, homophobia
It’s taken me nearly a week since finishing this book to be able to write the review for it. Mostly because I don’t know what to say, what words can do this book justice.
As ever, Cole McCade presents his reader with characters who are both lovable and relatable, so strong while broken in other ways. Characters you can read about and think, “Wow that’s me right there” and feel seen. Even in their flaws, these characters are amazingly relatable, and without fail, McCade presents them as pieces of the person that just are. They’re not something to be ridiculed or disdained, but they’re explicit acknowledgement that people are amazing and beautiful, flaws included.
Another thing McCade is really wonderful at is creating a feeling of home. Whether that’s shown in the form of a place, person, thing, etc, that seems to be an overarching feel to all his work. And I really loved how he showed this sense of home in two different ways within this novel. First is through Lohere, Imre’s farm and the home away from home Luca was forced to leave behind when his family moved away when he was a child. The moment Luca is back on the farm, there is an immediate sense of coming home for him, as he’s finally come back to the one place that features in all his happiest memories. The second way is through Luca himself. There’s multiple instances where Imre reflects that warmth and happiness have finally been returned to Lohere since Luca’s return, because for Imre, home is found in his loved ones. First in his parents, then in Luca’s family, and then again once Luca himself returns. It’s just really comforting to see a book that is so focused on home and being happy and finding a place where you belong.
I know that for many, the “parent’s best friend” trope can be difficult to read, especially when the older character has known the younger one since the latter was a child, but I personally think McCade did a great job of writing the development of Imre and Luca’s relationship. Which ties into another aspect of the novel that I adored, and one I felt really seen by: Imre’s demisexuality and demiromanticism. While Luca has been in love with Imre since he was a little boy, it hasn’t always been that way for Imre. (And thank goodness, because that’s broaching creepy territory.) Throughout the novel, we get to see Imre slowly begin to see Luca as an adult, and with as long as the book is (it’s massive y’all!), we literally get to see Imre falling in love with him page by page. It’s a beautiful journey that is, understandably, fraught with concern and confusion, but nothing ever really overshadows the deep love that Imre and Luca hold for each other, in all ways.
In true Cole McCade fashion, this book delivers a wonderful love story (the slowest of burns!) among the most lush, uniquely descriptive language. The book made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me want to throw my phone–basically, it runs the whole gamut of the emotional spectrum, and every word, page, chapter is so worth the read.
Slender. Angry. (Part) Asian.
Yeah, that about sums me up.
Hi. I’m Cole. Xen. Whatever you want to call me; both are true, and both are lies. My pen names are multitudes, my nicknames legion. Tall, bi/queer, introverted author of a brown-ish persuasion made up of various flavors of Black, Asian, and Native American. I’m cuter than Hello Kitty, more bitter than the blackest coffee, and able to trip over cats in a single half-asleep lurch; I’m what happens when a Broody Antihero and a Manic Pixie Dream Boy fight to the death, and someone builds a person from the scraps left behind. Beardless, I look like the uke in every yaoi manga in existence; bearded or not, I sound like Barry White. About half my time is spent as a corporate writer, and the other half riding a train of WTFery that sometimes results in a finished book. Romance, erotica, sci-fi, horror, paranormal; LGBTQIA and cishet; diverse settings and diverse characters from a diverse author.
Sometimes I shout about things on the internet. Usually intersectional feminism and marginalized voices, and whomever’s punching down in those directions today. Sometimes human sociology, the psychology of sex and gender, and my own gender non-conforming arse (he/him, by the way). Sometimes I get really mad at Stephen Hawking and nerd out all over the place about hairy black holes, and believe it or not, that’s not a terrible pun or even worse innuendo.
That’s it. I’m a huge dork. My humor’s so dry it could empty oceans. I’m a native Southerner from the New Orleans area with zero Southern accent; I’m a mess of multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-lingual influences; I have two cats. I wake up at daft hours of the morning to go running. I crochet terrible, lumpy things that never really turn into anything. I’m older than you think I look. I’m much more shy than my fury makes me sound (signifying gods only know what, but probably nothing). Recently I decided, at 36, that I needed to restart my life and move cross-country, so I tossed 75% of my possessions in the trash and randomly trucked it to Seattle. I’m in love with books and music and technology, and they war with each other for dominance and sometimes come together in a beautiful confluence. Most of the physical books I own are strange, obscure, out of print, overseas imports, or any combination of the four. Most of the physical books I used to own were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, and have been replaced with the infinite library on my Nook. My wallet has a dangerous attraction to anything with pages; it flirts and teases and gives its all, until there’s nothing left but emptiness and ruin.
There will always be things you don’t know, and I won’t tell.
But ask me late at night over live music in a seedy bar, and you might just get an honest answer.
…or you can poke me via:
* Email: email@example.com
* Twitter: @thisblackmagic
* Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/xen.cole
* Website & Blog: http://www.blackmagicblues.com
* Tumblr: http://thisblackmagic.tumblr.com/
* And there’s my Xen Sanders SFF / Horror profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show…