After a massive anxiety attack, Sam Atkins left his high-powered job in the City and committed himself to life on the road in a small van. Six months in, he’s running out of savings and coming to the conclusion that he might have to go home to his emotionally abusive family.
Needing time to think, he takes a walk through a copse by the Cornish roadside, only to stumble upon the body of a ritualistically killed sheep. As he’s trying to work out what the symbols around the animal mean, the sheep’s owner, Jennifer, and her nephew, Ruan Gwynn, come upon him.
Ruan is a kind-hearted young man with a large supportive clan, and since he and Sam feel almost instant attraction, he doesn’t want to believe Sam is a sheep-killing cultist. In fact, the moment he lays eyes on Sam’s miserable solitary life, he wants to rescue the man. But as the killings escalate, he and Sam need to stop whoever is actually to blame before they can concentrate on saving each other.
*I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley
This book is a solid 4/5 stars.
Alex Beecroft is a new to me author, as is this series of books (which are standalone novels by different authors that take place in the same seaside town). I requested this one based on the blurb alone: how on earth was this plot going to be pulled off? Ritualistic sheep killings, massive character anxiety, small town boy….that’s a whole lot to fit into one novel without falling back on or into cliches.
This book was managed beautifully. Believe it or not, the author managed to put even more surprising plot twists than the blurb contains — I don’t want to spoil you — and they all worked so well for me. There’s mystery and suspense and small-town big stories happening here.
It took me a minute to connect with Sam. Perhaps because I do not do being cold and wet and from the get-go Sam seems to be living a rather cold life (as in, he’s super economical with his van and heat situation). All jokes aside, understanding the shape of his anxiety and complex and toxic family relations took a bit.
Ruan, on the other hand, endeared himself to me immediately. It was insta-love for us. He’s sweet and open; in many ways utterly straightforward in his sweetness. I really appreciate stories in which characters have large families that they just fit into seamlessly; support systems that they trust completely so that they form a wonderful backdrop for the story and the character development with ease. There are moments when Ruan is so sure of his world in a particular way that he gets himself into dangerous situations. Watching him have his “oh shit wtf have I done’ moments was rather enjoyable as a reader (I am a terrible human apparently) if only because we got to watch his character development without being told about it.
While we did get to know Sam better throughout, I don’t know that I connected with him 100%, and I’m still not sure why. I did feel that when the story ended, there was so much more of him and his story and development I wanted. Yes, part of this was selfish wishing that the book wouldn’t end. But the other was a feeling of in-completion regarding Sam.
I thought these two had lovely chemistry. Sex happens off page; their chemistry on page is delicious and wonderful. I wouldn’t have minded a touch more heat on page, but it worked really well as was. Readers who want low heat romance — this one is for you. I don’t mind instalove as a rule — I think it can be done to great effect and very believably. I wouldn’t give this one full marks for this, but Beecroft did a good job.
My favourite thing about this book was the prose. I am a staunch believer that over-the-top purple prose is a no-no for writing/craft reasons. Lyrical and lovely prose that is skirting the purple prose territory (or even dipping a toe in): yes. Give it all to me. I am a sucker for beautifully used and deployed language. Beecroft uses lovely craft and writing skill to support this story and the characters, the scenery and the town.
Mild warning: the description of the sheep that are killed is a little graphic. They can be skipped over, in my opinion, for squeamish readers.
Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother who began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”. Jude began writing long-form fiction by tackling her first National Novel Writing Month project in 2007.
Jude is currently working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary queer romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her most recent novel A Tiny Piece of Something Greater was released in May of 2018. Shadows you Left, a co-written novel with Taylor Brooke will arrive spring of 2019 from Entangled Press.