Title ~ Finding Forgiveness (Forgiveness Series #4)
Author ~ Sloane Kennedy
Published ~ 24th January 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
He was only there for a business deal...
A couple of days...that was all it was supposed to take for property developer Roman Blackwell to decide if the strip of land just south of Dare, Montana would be the perfect spot for his next luxury resort. He wasn't interested in repairing his frayed relationship with his half-brother who'd moved to the small town a few months earlier and he definitely wasn't interested in doing anything more than scratching an itch when he checked out the gay club near his hotel. But when his plans for a quick hook-up are waylaid after he steps in to save a young man being brutalized, Roman finds himself building an emotional connection he never saw coming.
One bad decision changed everything...
College student Hunter Greene has spent 18 months trying to forget the one night he gave in to temptation and made a decision to hide one lie by telling another. But the guilt of knowing he shattered another young man's life to protect his own secret shame is slowly destroying him and he knows that soon even his spiral into a dangerous pattern of self-destructive behavior won't be enough to keep his entire world from imploding. But the last thing he's looking for is someone to save him.
But fate works in mysterious ways...
Forced to return to the town he grew up in, the last person Hunter expects to run into is the mysterious savior who changed everything with one soul shattering kiss. While he can't deny his attraction to Roman, Hunter knows that he'll never be free to act on it and once Roman discovers the terrible secret he's hiding, it won't matter anyway.
Because some things just can't be forgiven...
**Full length novel (70k words)
Trigger Warning: This book does contain multiple possible triggers for some readers. Specifics can be found by utilizing the "Look Inside" feature or downloading a sample and scrolling to the page right before the table of contents. Please note that reading what triggers are included may cause spoilers.
Note: This book contains M/M sexual content and is intended for mature audiences
***This is Book 4 in the series, but can be read as a stand-alone story - no cliffhangers.***
More enjoyment can be gained by reading the series in the following order:
Book 1 - Finding Home (M/M/M)
Book 2 - Finding Trust (M/M)
Book 3 - Finding Peace (M/M)
Book 4 - Finding Forgiveness (M/M)
I have decidedly mixed feelings about “Finding Forgiveness”. I love this series and I’ve given Ms. Kennedy, its talented author, rave reviews in the past. She’s a stellar writer. She handles the language beautifully, paints vivid, realistic and engaging characters and settings, and never fails to move the reader. The previous book in her “Finding” series was “Finding Peace”, which I found nearly flawless. She is so good that I hesitate to admit that I didn’t feel quite the same way about “Finding Forgiveness”. But I also want to be careful to caution that the reasons I felt a bit let down are very personal to me, my taste and my preferences, and you may feel entirely different, and love this book in a way that I just couldn’t.
“Finding Forgiveness” picks up where “Finding Peace” ends. Several of the characters who populated the earlier books in the series are back as longtime residents of the picturesque rural town of Dare, Montana. Gray Hawthorne, the main character in “Finding Peace” has returned to live in his elegant “cabin”. He’s an internationally famous best-selling author who hid out from his agent, film studio and paparazzi at this cabin in Dare. In that same book, we were briefly introduced to his half-brother, Roman. Roman is the son of the boys’ father and his mistress. When Roman’s mother died, his father moved this crushed little boy into his home, under the same roof as the frigid wife his father cheated on. He was treated like garbage by the family that was too embarrassed to admit he existed and soil the reputation of his stepmother, the unfeeling woman who cares only about her social status. Neither her son nor stepson matters to her at all – in fact, they rarely even cross her mind.
Oddly enough, on their own, both brothers have become enormously successful, Clay as a celebrated author, Roman as a wealthy real-estate developer. But the relationship between them has been a disaster. Roman is still deeply angered that his older brother, Clay, the only one in his family who gave a damn about him, grew distant as he struggled to deal with his own issues and then left, leaving Roman alone at the mercy of his uncaring and dismissive parents. It’s simply time for the brothers to work out their differences and build a new, mutually-supportive relationship. Though Roman is loath to admit it, he still loves and misses his big brother. Maybe now that they’re both in the same town…
In addition to the characters carried over from the previous books in the “Finding” series, the author introduces a whole new family. This family is so dysfunctional that it makes Gray and Roman’s family look nearly perfect. There is the young, closeted son, Hunter. He’s a college student, a beautiful boy with huge problems. First among them is his father, the Mayor of Dare, the owner of the local real estate office, and a power across the state. He is also a long-term abuser of both his wife and son. This out-of-control homophobic bigot would kill Hunter if he turned out to be openly gay. Hunter’s mother provides little solace and no support. She is so beaten down, she has so bought into her own physical and mental abuse, that she’s become a Stepford wife, an automaton, brainlessly supporting her abuser, refusing to protect even her own son.
Roman is in town to look at a big chunk of property that just came on the market as the possible site for a new, very private, high-end resort for extremely rich people. Hunter is assigned to show him the property, and he shows Roman a lot more than that – his heart, his vulnerability, a glimpse of what lurks inside his broken soul and what lies beneath the scars his father dealt out throughout his childhood, and continues to deal out, even as he becomes a young man. Roman is the key to Hunter’s freedom. Hunter is the key to Roman’s long-shut-down heart.
All of which is fine. It’s definitely a worthy story, and in Ms. Kennedy’s hands, it’s believable and heartbreaking. What bothered me was the sex.
Sometimes there’s a fine line between romance and erotica, and I’m not entirely sure that Ms. Kennedy got it quite right this time. “Finding Peace” was a deeply-probing story, a revealing glimpse of the characters of two men who fall in love. Sex doesn’t even enter into the picture until two-thirds of the way through, after the characters, their motivations, their desires and fears have been clearly established. There’s ample room for characters to grow and reveal themselves. I didn’t get that feeling with “Finding Forgiveness”, which starts out with a brutal gang-rape at the beginning of the first chapter, and the sex never lets up until the book is done. I didn’t appreciate the gang-rape and it was only tenuously explained or justified later in the book. I suspect the opening scene tainted the rest of the book, at least a bit, for me.
Though the sex became more consensual and less suicidal as “Finding Forgiveness” moved along, it never seemed to stop. To my eyes (and this is a only personal observation), Ms. Kennedy didn’t leave quite enough territory between the many long, detailed sex scenes to fully and deeply reveal the inner-workings of her main characters, which leaves the reader with a bit too much “telling” and not enough “showing”. Too many characters were saddled with too many abrupt and convenient changes of heart, without the buildup that would normally make them feel both authentic and inevitable.
That disappointed me. I love what this talented author does with characters, the subtle and believable way they fall for each other and run from each other, the motives and experiences that drive them, their subtle interactions. Though I was, indeed, caught up in the main characters in “Finding Forgiveness”, rooted for them, worried about them, they never became fully three-dimensional for me because the author chose to reveal them through the bedroom, not through words, thoughts or actions that exposed their hearts – patiently and lovingly removing layers of scar tissue, page-by-page, as this talented author has done so brilliantly in the past.
Please keep in mind that many people appreciate erotica a lot more than I do. For me, sex in a book can be a very good thing, but it’s always secondary to the story and the characters’ hearts. Others like to be aroused by their fiction, and that’s fine. They will, undoubtedly, enjoy this book a great deal more than I did, and more power to them and to Ms. Kennedy for providing it.