Author ~ Nic Starr
Published ~ 26th February 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Tyler Samuels had his reasons for leaving the country town where he grew up. He moved to the city, established a home and a career, and found love. Now Ty is in his early thirties, and as his life takes another tragic turn, he finds himself returning to the place he first ran from.
Mac McGrath has lived in Armidale all his life. He loves his family and his job as an electrician, running the family business. The only thing missing in his life is a relationship. When Ty, his teenage crush, arrives back in town, maybe he has found someone to love at last.
What starts as friends with benefits quickly turns to more for Mac, but Ty will need to let go of his memories if he is to learn to love again. But can Mac wait that long?
This is the second book in Ms. Starr’s “Rustic Series”. Placed in the author’s native Australia, the series (at least so far) revolves around a pub in a middling college town Down Under. In the first installment, two young men, both lost, both dealing with family responsibilities, find each other and a life on the Northern Australia coast, opening a resort restaurant destined for great success. “Rustic Memory”, the second book in the series, starts out as the happy couple packs their last bags in their car and drive off to their destiny. Left behind is the new owner of the Pub, Tyler Samuels (Ty). Ty bought the pub rather quickly, anxious to get started. He’s coming back to his home town after notable success in Melbourne. But he’s coming home alone, trying to recover from the death of his beloved partner. He’s sold everything he owned in Melbourne, and invested it in his new pub.
Ty desperately needs a new start – not even a second act, but a third one. Talk about gun-shy; he is determined never to love again, and with good reason. Both the loves of his life died way too young, leaving this poor young man bereft, and convinced he carries some kind of curse, as everyone he’s ever loved has been taken from him. He needs to heal, and returns to the comfortable, familiar land of his youth to do it.
The Pub is in much better shape than Joey and Adam, the previous owners, faced when they teamed up to resurrect the aging establishment. The Central Hotel is more than just a pub. It’s also got a lovely little bistro that serves excellent food and several rooms to let upstairs, though Ty is the only resident at the moment. Ty has big plans for the pub. His predecessors made major changes to the business, adding live performers on the weekends, Karaoke nights and other entertainments. It may be located in a small, rural town, but it’s also a college town and the boys targeted the young people in a remarkably successful effort at making The Central Hotel profitable. Ty bought a going business, and isn’t about to tinker with a successful formula, but he is determined to plow profits back into the building and fixtures. The place is historic and has lots of atmosphere, but it’s also gotten a bit ragged over the years without the money to reinvest in the premises.
His first order of business is to upgrade the lighting and fixtures. Fortunately, the next man Ty sees coming into the pub is an expert electrician:
“The guy was gorgeous. Big—at least six foot four inches. And broad. He stood in the doorway, the width of his shoulders taking up nearly all the space and blocking half the light. The sun at his back put his face in shadow, but the face was the last thing Tyler was thinking about. The silhouette was enough to get his blood pumping—the perfect triangle created by those broad shoulders tapering to a narrow waist and set atop sturdy legs encased in dark fabric.”
The young “sparky” looks at Ty with bemusement. Ty clearly doesn’t recognize him. Of course, the last time Ty saw him, he was only fourteen years old, the annoying kid brother of Ty’s best friend, Lachlan. Robbie was with him the day his high-school lover died. Ty didn’t have a clue that little Robbie had an intense crush on him, even back then - more than fifteen years ago. Of course, Robbie grew up. He’s now Mac, and he’s the amazing man silhouetted against the light pouring into the pub from the street behind him.
I don’t want to give away the whole plot, but the inevitability of the two young men falling for each other is telegraphed from the earliest pages in the first chapters. It’s no surprise. The problem is that the two need to learn each other as grown men, men with responsibilities and baggage, and Ty needs to somehow overcome his fear of losing yet another beautiful man, should he fall in love.
The obstacles are quite realistic, and overcoming them is the true beauty of this book - and “Rustic Memory” is nothing, if not a beautiful book. Ms. Starr has a real way with words, as so many Australian gay fiction writers seem to, lately. She never takes the easy way out, never compromises, never goes for the emotional cheap shot. Her characters are believable, authentic, their pain and passions as intense as they are moving. If anything, this second book in the “Rustic” series is even better than the first. The emotions run deeper, the fear is palpable, the love is the rekindling of long-simmering relationships spanning many years. If the rest of the series continues growing like “Rustic Memory”, Ms. Starr will be a force to reckon with.
My only disappointment has nothing to do with this talented author’s writing, but with the nation she writes about. Though more than 70% of the Aussie electorate supports Marriage Equality, its politicians have managed, up until this writing, to betray the mandate of their voters. Just a few weeks ago, a UK citizen, whose legal husband died while the two were in Australia was denied access to his remains, his estate and to all decisions following his death. This cruelty means that, at this point in time, due to the gutless politicians who run the country (and the church who seems to have bought them), there is no true happy ending for any Australian gay couple, no official family, no recognition of their love. And that’s a terrible shame, because Ms. Starr’s couples deserve better.
I don’t mean to end this on a negative note, because the books in this series are lovely, their characters triumph over their obstacles, and love openly (even if not legally). They’re well-worth the read. You’ll smile for the young men, you’ll feel their pain, you’ll shed an occasional tear, and celebrate the triumph of their love.
I recommend Ms. Starr and “Rustic Memory” without reservation. Read this well-written, gentle and lovely book. You won’t be disappointed.
Adam Chambers has never seen eye-to-eye with his father and is reluctant to take over the family’s property-development company. To clear his head and work out what he wants to do with the rest of his life, Adam leaves his responsibilities in the city and heads out to see the country.
He isn’t much closer to deciding what to do with his life when he arrives at one of Australia’s largest events, the Tamworth Country Music Festival, and meets Joey Callaway.
Since Joey’s father’s tragic death left Joey the family’s debt-ridden pub, Joey has struggled, desperate to turn the business around and give his mum the life she deserves. A break away from the pressures of running the pub is just what he needs, and a hook-up with Adam is the perfect way to forget about his troubles.
The one-night stand might just be an opening act. If Adam and Joey can follow the music in their hearts, perhaps they can heal each other and create a melody that will last a lifetime.