Author ~ Mia Kerick
Published ~ 1st March 2017
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Matthew North waited ten years to heal from the devastating wounds inflicted by the man who abducted and abused him as a child. Living reclusively on a tropical island—with no company but his four cats—he merely avoids the lingering pain.
Wearing twisted ropes of mutilated skin on his back, Matt struggles with a profound hindrance—the scars that deaden his soul. However, on the night he meets lively Vedie Wilson, a local restaurant busboy who expresses his gender by wearing lipgloss and eyeliner along with his three-day beard, things change.
Gradually, Vedie and Matt unite in friendship. Through a series of awkward encounters, the pair learns each other’s secrets. Vedie learns that an angelic face can front for a scarred soul. Matthew learns that the line between one’s masculine and feminine sides is blurred. Can they embrace the painful stories behind each other’s scars if they’re to find everlasting love? Or will surrendered love come to be yet another blemish on their souls?
This is essentially a story of survivors. Two deeply flawed and broken characters, so expertly written I may add, that it is eventually what they see reflected in each other, their humanity, that lets them begin to heal and move forward with their lives. It deals with heavy emotional and physical issues and so it’s not an easy, fuzzy warm feeling book, however it is hopeful and lets you see two people move on from an abusive past to a more accepting and loving future together. I loved it and read it in one sitting, there’s just something so intriguing to me about characters so emotionally damaged and how they manage to move past this in their lives.
Matt North was abducted at seven years old and held captive, abused, raped and neglected for the following eight years of his life. Half of the story is told from Mateo’s pov and is expanded upon with past journal entries so we can see exactly where Mateo was in his own head with the thoughts, feelings and emotions that he was struggling with at various points in his past. He has removed himself from family, home and essentially society at large, preferring to sequester himself away on the Island of Placida with only his cats for company for the last decade. The only human interaction he does have is to eat out at The Only Tiki Hut a few times a week. It is here that he is hit on by the new busboy Vedie. The other half of the book is from Vedie’s pov and we know that he is running from his past too, but in a completely different way to Mateo and for very different reasons. I love the way Vedie spoke and the more we get to know him as a person we find out he is gender fluid. This seemed such a natural, flowing state for Vedie, he was very open about this on the island. He is a sweetheart of a character and I loved that he was able to just know when he felt softer and more sensitive and he would wear pretty, feminine clothes and makeup and when he needed or wanted to feel stronger and more masculine he would dress more that way. Occasionally he felt neither way and so would remain naked. This felt so organic and authentic to me, the author has clearly done a great job writing this side of Vedie.
The relationship between them is tentative and stuttering as they continue to struggle with their pasts, Mateo more so as he still suffers with dissociative episodes, trust issues, social anxiety and more. He remains aloof, always seeking distance, which is hard for Vedie as he is much more open about his feelings and slightly braver in how he is living now. He just wants approval and acceptance, something he has sadly been lacking most of his life and this is where his issues stem from. The shifts in their relationship are very well explained and it is mostly one step forward, two steps back, until they are forced to confront certain issues (heart stopping moments for me) and make deliberate moves to further their relationship. There is no magic fix, just a gradual acceptance of both men to make a life together. They ultimately save each other.
A very well written account of abuse survival and of acceptance to be who you authentically are. If you are a fan of damaged men, surviving and finding their love and place in the world, then this is the book for you. I loved it!