Author: Jae Moran
Publisher: JMS Books
[xrr rating= 3.5/5]
Bestselling author and erstwhile musician Harper Ellison started running from his troubled past before he graduated high school. When his sister tracks him down ten years later at the request of his dying mother, Harper hesitantly agrees to visit the family and small North Carolina community that rejected him when he needed them most.
Harper doesn’t do relationships, but he can’t ignore his attraction to Lucas Rhodes, the buff, blond social worker living on his grandparents’ farm. Lucas quickly becomes Harper’s anchor in the maelstrom of his homecoming. Together they wade through the wreckage as Harper confronts the pain he buried six feet deep a few miles from his childhood home.
Accepting that no amount of apology or regret will ever change the past and choosing to forgive are the only ways Harper will ever find peace. But, can he learn that lesson before it’s too late?
Harper Ellison has not been home to North Carolina in a decade, creating a life for himself after leaving home at 17 as he felt he had no other options. However, the past comes calling to his new home in Colorado in the form of his sister and with a certain amount of reservation, he agrees to visit the place that rejected him and is the source of his daily pain.
While the story is primarily told from Harper’s point of view, some of the supporting characters also get a scene or two from their view, such as his Mom, his sister Meg, his bestfriend Pete and his potential friend/love interest Lucas.
This story has a lot going on with it and packs quite the emotional wallop! I was crying before I’d made it through the first chapter! There is a prologue with his Mom finding the note he leaves her to explain why he left and chapter 1 starts 10 years later when Harper has finally built a life for himself as an author, although he tries to avoid all public promotion of his work due to his concern of his past coming back to haunt him.
He grew up in a conservative town, and when he was spectacularly outed in high school, several terrible events led to him making the decision to leave. And for that, while I do not wish to include any spoilers, readers should know there are references to abuse, attempted rape, bullying, gay conversion therapy and suicide throughout the story. Harper’s story at the start is one of survival, though, and with his return to North Carolina, his next chapter may be about healing.
One could say there are too many things going on in this story, however, I felt it was a very true reflection of what life can be, as there is often a domino effect of experiences, and with what triggered his outing and then his running, more than just he was affected. That said, I did feel that there could have been more description about the scenes rather than just dialogue to convey what was going on, since the speaking point of view changed in one section from one character to another and it was not really separated by punctuation or naming the character now speaking, or who just finished. That happened on a couple of occasions, and is the reason why I have rated it 3.5. For the power of the story, and the emotional roller coaster you take with the characters, it is amazing, but when there is that much emotional dialogue, something as simple as explaining a facial expression or body language keeps the reader engaged in the story and not going back to see if they had missed a line or a character change. And there is such a connection between the characters, whether it is something new like Harper and Lucas, or links from the past, like Harper and Mom or any member of the Thornton clan!
I still believe the book is worth taking a chance on if you do like romances about healing and new beginnings, keeping in mind some of the subjects that are referenced – although none of them include overly graphic descriptions, aside from one beating Harper endures.
And the main characters are gay, so there are definitely some hot scenes between Harper and Lucas, and of course, some misunderstandings, but overall, the story is about Harper’s journey, and along the way, the various people of his past.