Release Date: September 20, 2018
Received From: A Novel Take PR
Twenty-one years ago, a four-year old child was kidnapped from his front yard. He was never found. Until now.
All Nat Walker wants is to make his late father’s dream of running a father/son woodworking shop come true. And he had the perfect building in mind—until the new guy in town came in and bought the place right out from under him. The fact that the new guy is adorable means nothing. For all Nat cares, he can take his new dance studio and waltz back to New York City.
Professional dancer Quinn Carroll couldn’t be happier that he made the move to the small town of Lakeshore, Oregon. Sure, it’s not New York, but now he’ll be living closer to his adoptive brother. And since his studio will be the only one in the area, he should get enough business to keep him busy. Besides, there’s something about this place that seems familiar…
He doesn’t expect to fall hard for the local, grumpy woodworker who won’t even smile at him.
Or find out that his entire life is a lie.
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: homoromantic
TROPES: family secrets revealed
TAGS: adult, contemporary, romance, queer romance, queer characters
WARNINGS: kidnapping, binary language, child trafficking mention, parental death mention, bimisic language (“bi-curious”), ableism, nightmares, guilt, mental illness (explicit panic attacks), slutshaming (“deserves better than a one night stand”), rape mention (“were you going to take advantage of me while I slept?”), sex trafficking mention, anti-fat language (“Good thing you’re a dancer. Otherwise you’d be the size of a cow.”)
While I was expecting a more fast-paced, romantic suspense type novel based on the blurb, I was pleasantly surprised by how mellow and evenly paced the story was, focusing more on the characters and how they deal with their trauma than the drama of the kidnapping and a subsequent investigation.
Kidnapping is horrifying, and even more so when the child is never returned to their families. In this novel, Quinn, abducted as a boy and now an adult, meets his twin brother by chance, abruptly throwing him and his blood relatives into each other lives after years apart. It was really fascinating to read the different characters and their unique reactions, which I believe Aislin wrote really well. Evan, Quinn’s twin, is overjoyed to find the brother he never thought was dead and is desperately afraid that Quinn will disappear from his life again, resulting in excessive clinging and over excitement that both brothers need to learn to cope with. Court, older brother to Quinn and Evan, is clearly happy to have his brother back, but is much more reserved about it, giving Quinn the space to adapt to his new reality and the family he never really knew about. Then there’s Shay, Quinn’s older brother from the family that adopted him, who was so supportive when Quinn was trying to find his birth family and continues to support his brother whatever the cost, but who also is afraid that this new family will come between them and take Quinn away from him.
And of course, then there’s Quinn, whose grief and emotions were beautifully done. Aislin does a wonderful job of illustrating the complexity of his emotions. He’s happy to find his brothers, but he’s also afraid for what it means for him and Shay, and their parents. He wishes he’d never been kidnapped for how it hurt Evan and Court and their parents, but also recognizes that he wouldn’t change a thing about what happened because it brought him to Shay and their parents. He loves them all but doesn’t want to hurt any of them. The emotional toll it takes on him, in addition to the rest of the cast of characters, is depicted in a such a way that it was incredibly relatable and impossible not to empathize with them all.
Nat, the love interest and main character, faces a different trauma that he struggles to deal with–he blames himself for his father’s death, though no one else does. Throughout the novel, we see him struggle with the reality that he loves his family and friends so deeply, but he’s afraid to let them get close, because if he couldn’t protect or help or save his father, how could he be trusted with anyone else? I expected this to affect the relationship between Nat and Quinn more than it did. Indeed, Nat has some worries about it a time or two before they get together, but after just one conversation with his brother about it, he throws caution to the wind and pursues a relationship with Quinn, which seemed out of character. I was planning to to rate the book a little bit lower because this was really inconsistent with everything that came before, but ultimately changed my mind because of how everything comes to a head in the last portion of the book. Nat’s guilt and worries rear their ugly heads again after his niece gets hurt on his watch, and the only reason it doesn’t affect the relationship between him and Quinn is because Quinn refuses to let him break up with him and ruin what they have.
Despite the inconsistency in Nat’s behavior, I did really enjoy the relationship between him and Quinn. It’s easy and calm, and though they do get into some spats, they’re quickly resolved. Both of them are incredibly supportive of each other and try their best to help the other when possible. It was just really nice to read about a romance where most of the conflict was outside of the main relationship and you get to see the pairing work together.
Over all, I found this book really enjoyable, and I’m looking forward to more from this series!
I started writing on a rainy day in fourth grade when my class was forced to stay inside for recess. Tales of adventures with my classmates quickly morphed into tales of adventures with the characters in my head. Based in the suburbs of Toronto, I’m a marketer at a large environmental non-profit in Toronto by day, and a writer by night. Book enthusiast, animal lover and (very) amateur photographer, my interests are many and varied, including travelling, astronomy, ecology, and baking.
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