Author: Cheryl Headford
Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing
Genre: M/M Contemporary
Summary: Shade has been kept in the dark for eight long years. Now he’s facing a world that terrifies him. A world that seems to hold no place for him.
When the authorities are unable to find a home for Shade, Penny reluctantly accepts him into the secure school she manages, despite thinking it’s the wrong place for him. Penny fears for his safety among the other troubled children. In an attempt to forestall the disaster she predicts will happen she appoints one of them as his champion.
Dory, an engaging seventeen year old with mental health issues, is proud to be chosen as Shade’s champion and throws his heart and soul into the job. In doing so he is forced to face the thing he fears most – his own emotions.
An unexpected friendship begins to grow into something more, until a spiteful act tears them apart and leaves them broken.
When Dory falls ill, Shade is forced to face his demons and struggles to find the strength and courage he needs to fight for the right to love, and to be there for his champion when he needs him most.
Review: This is hard for me to rate. The story itself is a 4+ heart story and could have been truly heartbreaking in many ways, and there were a couple instances that I teared up. I loved the boy connection and I loved watching Shade open up to Dory. Surprisingly, the saddest moments occurred when Dory was having a breakdown or an episode as opposed to Shade, which is not what I would have expected. There are two main things that dragged my rating down. The first is the writing and dialogue itself. The second, related to the writing, is the often times preachy and info-dumpy way things were presented.
I had a very hard time picturing the boys as 16. It’s hard to describe exactly but something about Dory’s train of thought ramblings easily brought to mind a precocious child between the ages of 9 an 11. I get that the setting necessitated adult support and assistance, but the way everyone talked to them and the way they were treated just did not make them feel like teenagers to me. So I finally gave up trying and just allowed myself to picture them in whatever way felt natural, since they never do more than kiss this didn’t prove a big hinderance to the story.
Along those same lines, everyone was prone to long-winded and preachy speeches that are often info-dump statements and just don’t ring true in the way the people naturally converse. I could be wrong, but I would guess that this is a somewhat new author. The story and talent are there, but it just needs some tweaking. I think there was so much she wanted to say, about the way children are handled in the social service system as well as with mental health care in general, that it was often ‘tell’ instead of ‘show’. She needed to present the information of an MD who overmedicates without having Richard give a 5 minute long speech regarding the rampant pharmaceutical use on treating mental health, and instead let us draw our own conclusions. She needed to present two boys who are healing each other, despite every adult knowing ideally people should heal themselves before attempting a romantic relationship, without the psychiatrist going on and on about negative attachments. She needed to presents the adults realizing the damage they had caused by the separation, instead of having Dory’s mom rant about how poorly the situation was handled.
I liked that fact that despite Shade having been through a horrible experience, and therefore assumed to be the more ‘broken’ one, he helped Dory just as much if not more. Dory did help him, but he also helped him by being broken himself and allowing Shade to rise to the challenge of protector and champion as well. My only problem with this is that Shade seems to heal a little too quickly. It’s great that he opened up to Dory, and that he developed a close relationship with him, but given what he had been through, it all seems just a wee bit too easy.
But either way, I liked this story. The premise is interesting and the boys were sweet. I was hoping for a little more given the high ratings I’ve seen, but I think the potential is there and I’ll keep an eye out for other things by this author.