Author ~ Ryan Wood
Published ~ 7th November 2015
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
"Relationships are broken by the secrets they keep."
Ty, ex-soldier turned surgeon
He's only ever been with one guy - his current boyfriend, Sam, and that's what he wants. Ty has been given the opportunity of a lifetime, to train with some of the best surgeons in the country. But with his ex-girlfriend in the operating room, and secrets from the past flooding back, it's going to take more than a good doctor to cure his relationship.
Sam, he thinks he's got everything
Sam's got a brand new business, a to-die-for body, Ty. But with Ty across the country and a stunning new business associate on the scene, will he be able to keep all from crumbling down?
Warning: This steamy romance contains passion, comedy, surgery, and devastating secrets...
Mr. Ryan is a fine writer – or at least he will be. He shows great promise, a certain brilliance with characterization, a true flair for realistic dialogue, and a deep authenticity when he exposes the human heart in all its fears, hopes and dreams.
Still, this is a first novel, and Mr. Ryan would have benefitted from a first-rate editor, something new authors are, unfortunately, not always able to manage. In fact, I’ve seen some books recently, by more accomplished and renowned writers, which were in even greater need of first-rate editing, so he is in austere company.
Unfortunately, I found the questionable editing more than a bit distracting in places, breaking me out of the story to discern the author’s intent.
“Secrets They Keep” is a love story between two deep men, smart men, navigating what is, for them, their very first serious relationship. Fortunately, by the time you get to the end of the book, it looks very much like it might well be the one that lasts a lifetime.
Both men attended High School together. Sam was the studious and somewhat fey one, out even then. Ty is the athlete. He’s not just tall; he’s huge, with the body of a god, strong, intense smart and big-hearted. They become best friends when an overweight and obnoxious football defenseman is about to bash in “the faggot’s” head with a baseball bat. Ty steps in and leaves Richard flat on the floor gasping for breath. From that moment on, the two boys were friends for life. Ty went into the military and, after mustering out, went on to Med school, which is exactly where Sam already was. Ty had a gorgeous girlfriend, Lisa, Sam had his occasional one-night-stands, but not much more. Even though Sam dropped out of Med School to found a successful gym, the two men remained best friends and roommates – until they became lovers.
As it turns out, Ty had been having “those feelings” for years. He’d tried to bury them, tried to hide them, but it was Sam who really did it for him, and no one else. Once they “break the ice”, Ty is fine with being out. He holds hands with Sam in public. He kisses him when the spirit moves him. They have become a serious domestic couple, with one exception: Ty is doing his post-MD work to qualify as a surgeon, and this year, he is forced to spend most of his time away from Sam. It’s a long-distance relationship with all its challenges and potholes.
This is where I started to get lost. Where are they? Where do they live? Ty is doing rotations in Utah, Arizona, Colorado and Washington State, which means that he is going for an American Surgical Board Certification. Yet the two men talk in a sometimes-incomprehensible combination of Aussie slang and Southern American drawl. Are the two boys from two different continents? If they are, then how could they have attended high-school together? We also get a glimpse of the house Ty was raised in, on the way to the ski resort at Whistler, which is in British Columbia, Canada. The author does note that it’s only a short flight from their house to Seattle, so they’re either in Southwestern Canada or the Northwestern United States. Honestly, I have no idea.
They even translate their slang for sales clerks:
“How many people buy bathers from you… …I mean, how many people buy swimsuits from you?”
I must admit that I was seriously confused, even after I finished the book. Another issue threw me for a loop – Ty was doing his surgical residency (internship?) in a different state every few weeks or months. That may be how they do it in Australia, but in both Canada and the U. S., internships put new doctors through “rotations” in all the various services in the local affiliated hospital; residencies are also done at a single hospital, where the surgical student spends the next 4-5 years, not gallivanting around from hospital to hospital every three weeks.
Another out-of-place discussion that would be meaningless to those without UK backgrounds, was one in which Sam comments that Ty would no longer be “Dr.” after his completes his surgical specialty, but “Mr.” That is true in Australia and Great Britain, but in both the U. S. and Canada, surgeons are both addressed as “Dr.” So the question is, where the hell are we? Unfortunately, I still don’t have a clue.
Mr. Wood is a native Australian, now living in Switzerland, and I fear that a lot of what bothered me as errors are not, in fact, errors, but Mr. Wood’s own native language running amok. No one in the U. S. and few writers in Canada use such “Britishisms” as “learnt” (for “learned”)and “leant” (for “leaned”) or ”motorbike”, for “motorcycle”. Those non-North-American words and spellings seem jarringly out of place for two men in either the U. S. or British Columbia. To confuse things further, Mr. Wood writes, at one point: “His voice took on a Southern draw.” First, that is definitely a typo, as the word is “drawl”, but more important, how does someone who speaks “Aussie” have a “Southern drawl” - South Australia?
I always assumed it was a foregone conclusion that every author must establish who the characters are, where they’re from, and where they’re located at the very beginning of a book - and without ambiguity. Otherwise, they risk leaving the reader stranded and lost. If Mr. Wood intends to publish other books that are set in the U. S. or Canada, it behooves him to find an editor with a deep knowledge of the location, culture, and language of the locale in which the book is set. Without that expertise, the author might conceivably end up with a book about Oxford University, in which all the students and professors speak with a Russian accent.
Plus, editing just counts. There are a wealth of misspellings, inappropriate apostrophes, missing hyphens and commas, incorrect prepositions, mixed tenses, and the like, throughout the book. Nothing ruins a good story faster than a book that reads like a draft manuscript. Mr. Wood owes it to both his readers and his own talent to deliver the most complete and polished book possible.
There’s one other beginner issue. I’m not sure that the author could decide whether “Secrets They Keep” would be a Romance or Erotica. Perhaps he just couldn’t decide because he’s so good at both. But I found this book a bit schizophrenic. For the first 65% of the book, each chapter was an extended (endless) sex scene, begun or ended with a page or so of plot or dialogue. In real life, long drawn-out sex is great. In a book however, the sex scenes run the risk of devolving into boring, repetitious porn, no matter how hot they are. And Mr. Wood is really good at writing hot sex. However, by the eighth or tenth relentless sex scene in a row, it did become a bit much for me, and I started to flip through them - just a bit.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with erotica. If his aim was to write erotica, the whole book should have been focused in that direction. But for some reason, the last 35% of the book became a first-rate romance novel, centered entirely on the relationship between the two men and the strains their separations were causing. What Mr. Wood needs, and I’m sure he will get there, is a better, subtler balance between sex and plot.
I am writing so much about what bothered me in this book only because I’m so impressed with this neophyte author. His characters were real live people – vivid, believable and empathetic. The things that threatened to tear them apart were all too human. Their friends (and those who threatened their relationship because they wanted to be more than friends) were written subtly and deeply. There are some scenes with children that were beyond charming. And I particularly loved how he brought back Richard, the obnoxious gay-basher back at the end, for a repeat appearance. That was really clever - and unexpected.
Mr. Wood has a real way with words and characters. If he can get over his editing hurdles, he likely will have a long and successful career to look forward to. But please, find a good editor.
Despite all my criticism (believe me, intended constructively), I do recommend this book. If you’re forewarned that there may be some confusion and perhaps a bit too much sex, you should be able to get beyond it and enjoy a truly beautiful love story. And talent like this needs to be encouraged. So read it, and enjoy!