Friday, December 04, 2015

Review: Scenes from Adelaide Road by Helena Stone

27247561Title ~ Scenes from Adelaide Road

Author ~ Helena Stone

Publisher ~ Pride Publishing 

Published ~ 1st December 2015

Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance





Can a young man find the courage he never knew he had when faced with losing everything he holds dear?

A few months before his final exams in secondary school, nineteen-year-old Lennart Kelly discovers he’s inherited a house on Adelaide Road in Dublin from a grandfather he never knew. Having been ignored, bullied and abused for as long as he can remember, Lennart can’t wait to leave behind his father and the small town he grew up in. Moving away as soon as he finishes his exams doesn’t cure his deep-rooted insecurities though.

Meeting twenty-three-year-old Aidan Cassidy in a gay club on his second night in Dublin, scares Lennart. Used to being ignored and ridiculed, he doesn’t trust the attention he receives and can’t believe a man like Aidan could possibly be interested in him. It takes infinite patience and understanding from Aidan to slowly coax Lennart out of his shell.

But the past refuses to stay where it belongs and Lennart’s father is determined to take the house in Dublin off his son by whatever means necessary. Just when Lennart is learning to trust and embrace life, a violent attack threatens everything he holds dear. Suddenly Lennart is in danger of losing his house, the man he’s grown to love and maybe even his life. If Lennart wants to protect Aidan and safeguard his future, he’ll have to find the courage he never knew he had.

Alan’s Review

“Scenes from Adelaide Road”, despite the title, has nothing to do with Australia. It’s about a road in Dublin, a road in a high-rent district, and a particular house that sits on that road. It’s the house where Lennart lives, a young man who inherited the house and a tidy sum when his grandfather recently died. He doesn’t remember him; in fact, he thought he‘d been dead for years. And why did his grandfather, a man he never knew, skip over his father and leave everything to him?

Whatever the reason for his inheritance, the house and the money were a godsend. He could finally get away from his terrifying home on the west coast, the prison he’s lived in since his mother died when he was just a kid.

And even better, he could now get away from the father who despises him and the bullies who treat him as a human punching bag. He suspects everyone hates him because he’s gay - his father is certainly among them. He both beat and browbeat him regularly, and on one occasion, refused to get him medical care when a gang attacked him and broke his arm. His father was not happy when he found himself hemming-and-hawing, trying to come up with a believable explanation as to why he had delayed medical treatment for his fifteen-year-old son, whose arm had swollen to three times its size. Lennart recalls his father’s reaction:

“’Don’t make a fool of yourself. Surely by now you’ve figured out people don’t want to be around you. Nobody likes a loser. If you stopped being such a wimp, they’d leave you alone. Fight back. Give them a black eye. That’ll teach them.’ I didn’t think I’d ever be able to forget his voice or the contempt in it.”

But Lennart can’t fight back. He’s been convinced that he’s a despicable, useless, waste of human flesh, whose unfortunate lot in life is to be hated and abused. Why fight back, when he’s getting exactly what he deserves?

The house on Adelaide Road is his only hope. He’s sure he’s always going to be alone, that love, affection and tenderness will never be part of his life, and is happy enough just to live somewhere where no one is lying in wait for him.

Much to his surprise, there came a day when that would no longer be enough - the day he somehow worked up the courage to go out to a nearby gay bar. That’s where he meets the beautiful young man who will change his life. Aidan is tall, gorgeous, kind and instantaneously smitten with Lennart. Hoping against hope, Lennart invites him back to Adelaide Road.

Their time together lasts a great deal longer than one night. Lennart invites him to move into his huge and lonely house. He has plenty of room, and Aidan desperately needs reasonably-priced lodgings after his roommates found out he was gay and evicted him.

The author keeps the reader on the edge of his or her seat, wondering if Aidan is sincere, and falling for Lennart or just taking advantage of the boy with the big house and bank account. But the more Lennart shares about his unfortunate past, the more determined Aidan is to protect him, to show him how special he is, how highly he deserves to be valued. For the first time, through Aidan, the reluctant Lennart has friends, a social life, and begins to dare to believe he might yet have a life, might yet know happiness.

Sadly, his hope is dashed in an all-too-familiar fashion. One night, while dancing with Aidan at the bar, with their now-mutual friends, Lennart goes into full panic mode. The monsters are back to haunt him. The westies who broke his arm, years ago, show up in the bar and they’re gunning for him. When they can’t find him, they pounce on Aidan, instead, and beat him senseless. Lennart sees what’s happening and throws his body over Aidan’s to protect him, which allows these morons to whale on him, and beat him unconscious, too. When Aidan’s and Lennart’s friends come running, the assailants flee.

Lennart retreats into his shell. He won’t tell the police that he knows who his attackers were. They certainly fled back to the west coast, and he’s hoping that if he retreats, if he doesn’t make a stir, they’ll leave him alone. He even tries to break up with Aidan to protect him from the violence and hate that has followed him to Dublin. Aidan is having no part of that.

There are more acts of violence. Lennart will not fight back. He’s learned that only way to avoid the bullies is to be invisible. Even the torture inflicted by his father doesn’t go away with the move to Dublin. He sends Lennart a letter demanding that he turn over his house to him, because he is the rightful heir, and will not be denied.

But Lennart is not giving him the house. While going through his grandfather’s papers to counteract the spurious legal claim his father has filed, he discovers that his grandfather was, at very least, bisexual. After his beloved wife died, he fell in love with a man, and spent his remaining years with his devoted partner. When Lennart found out that his father kept him from seeing his grandfather as punishment for his own father’s “perversion”, he’s distraught. Here is a family member who truly loved him, wanted to see him, and provided for him in his will. Most important, this is a family member who really wanted him. Spending time with his grandfather would have made his life so much better. But his miserable father took even that away from him by telling him that his grandfather was dead. How could he do that?

Eventually, Lennart does fight back, but I’ll let you experience the powerful, heart-stopping climax without hints or spoilers.

“Scenes from Adelaide Road” is an unconventional gay romance. It’s a story about the lasting damage that family can do to children, especially when the child is gay, and the parent both angry, and devoid of either compassion or care. It’s a story of how love and the families we create for ourselves, redeem us, protect us and teach us hope.

The book is very well-written. Ms. Stone is a talented, accomplished author. The descriptions are evocative, dialogue absolutely believable, and the characters both moving and authentic. The pace is brisk and propulsive. At times, it moved me deeply and angered me often. The father was not just a bad parent; he was a bad man, a man who should never have fathered a child, a man who doesn’t deserve a child. He’s also, unfortunately, emblematic of too many parents, particularly Fundamentalist parents, who discard or abandon their child when they discover he or she might be gay.

“Scenes from Adelaide Road” is a first-rate yarn about first-rate characters, and I recommend it most highly.

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