October 18, 2011

Review: Driftwood by Harper Fox


Intense is the first word that comes to mind after reading this book. It was my first time reading Fox’s work and it pretty much lived up to the expectations that so many good reviews had created. However, I have mixed feelings about it and in the end I was left with a bittersweet aftertaste. 

Dr. Tom Penrose is back from Afghanistan after serving his last tour of duty which ended in a terrible way. One day while walking his dog he saves the life of a daredevil surfer. The surfer’s name is Flynn Summers and just like Tom he is going through some serious issues. Neither of them is in the right state of mind to become emotionally involved, but the attraction is impossible to fight and now they must deal with the consequences. 

These are two really screwed up characters. Tom is an alcoholic dealing with depression and PTSD, who lives alone and isolated from everything and everyone. Flynn is borderline suicidal dealing with survivor’s guilt and trapped in an abusive relationship. As you can see I wasn't kidding when I said the book was intense. This is not a happy contemporary romance, is the story of two wounded souls trying to survive and heal. 

The author conveys the character’s feelings perfectly and the setting of the book matches its tone. When I was reading the book I felt compelled by the town and its atmosphere, but it also gave me an almost claustrophobic sensation, I felt like I was trapped in this painful existence just as much as the characters were. It was beautifully written and the descriptions were as real as they get, but it wasn’t a comfortable read. Even though I had nothing in common with the leads, I could relate to them and this was in part due to the way in which it was written. Kudos to the author for not making it easy on the readers. 

Tom and Flynn were flawed characters that I could easily root for and I was happy to see them overcome their issues in order to just be happy. But I had a problem with the way they actually achieved their happily ever after. There’s a secondary character named Robert that plays a critical role in the story. Robert is Flynn’s boyfriend and the one doing the abusing, they have an intense and complex relationship that makes everything even more complicated. Flynn stays with Robert as atonement for the guilt he’s feeling and Robert stays with Flynn for several reasons, the main one being that he is a controlling person hiding some serious self-worth issues. Up until this point everything was fine and interesting, there weren’t any bad guys or good guys in the story, and even the one character that might pass as a villain was multilayered, or so it seemed. I don't want to give a spoiler but the book suddenly becomes a romantic suspense, and Robert- who until that point was a sympathetic character- magically becomes a cartoonish villain. Flynn and Tom resolve their issues because external elements force their hands and not because they truly work it out. 

I have mixed feelings about this book, the characters are deep and compelling, the setting is beautiful and the writing is flawless, but the ending was not up to par. This book could do without the suspense subplot, it had enough drama and there was no need to add external conflict, especially if that external conflict was meant to suddenly make everything ok. Is not that Flynn and Tom didn’t work on their problems and weren’t on a healing path, but for once I want to read a book where the characters come to their senses without any help. 

Overall this was a good book. It isn’t a happy read, the tone is dark and somber, so you might want to think twice before starting it. It is a short book but it feels longer because the pacing is slow, the characters are jaded and in pain, but it's worth reading and the first thing I did after finishing it was buy the author’s backlist. If you are a fan of drama and romances where the characters have to put some effort into getting their happy ending, then this is the one for you. 

Review by Brie 
Grade: 4 
Sensuality: McSteamy 

Synopsis: 

What the tide washes in, the past can sweep away. All Dr. Tom Penrose wants is his old life back. He’s home in Cornwall after a hellish tour of duty in Afghanistan, but while the village is the same, he isn’t. His grip on his control is fragile, and it slips dangerously when Flynn Summers explodes into his life. The vision in tight neoprene nearly wipes them both out in a surfing mishap—and shatters Tom’s lonely peace.  
Flynn is a crash-and-burn in progress, one of only two survivors of a devastating rescue helicopter crash that killed his crew. His carefree charm is merely a cover for the messed-up soul within. The sparks between him and Tom are the first light he’s seen in a long, dark tunnel of self-recrimination, which includes living in sexual thrall to fellow crash survivor and former co-pilot, Robert.  
As their attraction burns through spring and into summer, Tom must confront not only his own shadows, but Flynn’s—before the past rises up to swallow his lover whole. 
Warning: Contains explicit m/m sex, hot helicopter pilots and skin-tight wetsuits. Also, in true British tradition, a tiny bit of joystick innuendo. 

Samhain Publishing. July 5, 2011.

5 comments:

  1. Even with the wonky ending - I definitely want to try this one. I love intense, angsty, dark books.

    I've read so many books where the end is somewhat ruined by a suspense sub-plot. I wonder why authors feel the need to add that in?

    I've read a few of Fox's other short stories and have quite enjoyed.

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  2. Great review. I think you captured a lot of my feelings about the book as well, although I don't think I liked Robert much, even before the ending.

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  3. @Mandi: I wonder the same thing. Maybe they feel that the drama that comes from within the characters isn’t enough to make the book interesting. I also hate it when the characters need to go through a near-death experience in order to realize that they love each other (that's not exactly the case here though).

    If you read it let me know how you like it!

    @jayhay: Is not that Robert was likeable but he was sympathetic, when you read about his story you can tell that he is as damaged as Flynn and that his assholish ways came from having so much issues. Of course then I got to the last part of the book and I realized that I shouldn’t have bothered trying to understand the character because he ends up being a crazy sociopathic jerk…

    I’m glad you liked the review and I can’t wait to see your thoughts on The Salisbury Key!

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  4. It seems many of the Guy and Guy stories you review always have very damaged characters. I wonder why that is such a reocurring theme in these books. These type books aren't really my cup of tea anymore, but I know whose blog to come to for a suggestion if I ever decide to start reading them again.

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  5. You’re right! I keep reviewing books with damaged characters, I don’t know if that’s a reflection on the genre or on me… Maybe both, there are a lot of m/m romances where the leads have issues but I also gravitate towards these books because I do love an unhappy, brooding hero ;-D. But if I ever get a shrink I’m not letting him near this blog.

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The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.