Review: Without a Compass by Helen Juliet

Without a CompassRating: 3 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Riley has always been close to his family, but he’s always felt different. His family accepts that he is gay, even if they don’t really understand him. Riley reluctantly went camping with them as a child, but since he’s now on his own, he strives for a little more luxury in his vacations. That is until his father announces that he’d like a family camping trip for his birthday.

When Riley arrives at the camp site, he is immediately greeted by Kai, his brother Brendon’s best friend, and the subject of more than one of Riley’s teenage fantasies. It’s been years since Riley has seen Kai, but it only takes one look to reignite the attraction that has always been there. But since Kai is straight, Riley knows he truly has no chance.

A week in a remote location with his family, an unobtainable Kai, and a rival family with ulterior motives is not at all Riley’s idea of a good time. But when Riley and Kai wind up spending lots of time together, a long held friendship may just bloom into something more.

The premise of this book interested me with the brother’s best friend scenario, as well as the friend having never been with a man before. That was there, but the style and overall storyline for this one never really took off for me.

Riley was interesting as we first meet him as he’s driving to the camp site. He has brought along many comfort items to make his stay bearable, even if he knows he will get teased by his family. He wasn’t expecting Kai to be there and his old crush comes roaring back to life.

Kai has known Riley since he was a kid. He wasn’t that close to him since Riley was a shy kid that kept to himself, but Kai’s protective instincts kick in once he sees Riley again. He also starts noticing things about Riley that he begins to question as he has never noticed any of these things on a man before.

There is a lot of detail in the book, but much of it was not exactly the type of detail that held my attention and compelled me to read on. The beginning is slow. In the first quarter of the book, not much happens. We get Riley and Kai’s backgrounds, which was helpful, but then the family arrives at the camp site. There is lots of detail of them setting up and then there is a rival family that was described in a stereotypical manner. They have history with Riley, but what exactly happened isn’t explored upfront and it wasn’t the type of storyline that intrigued me. Then they are playing a game and almost an entire chapter is devoted to this with detail of each character’s turn. It didn’t make for the most compelling read for me.

Mixed in are little scenes of Kai noticing Riley, but the way he thought about and spoke to Riley at times didn’t sit well with me. In a scene with Brendon and Riley, Kai thinks:

He loved mucking around with Brendon; they were always on each other’s wave length. Plus, he thought it was kind of cool they could fool around like that in front of Riley and show him how normal his being gay was.

And then when Kai is talking directly to Riley he says things like:

“I guess it’s a gay thing, isn’t it?” Kai mused as he set off walking. “I bet most of you are pretty good at creative stuff. It’s in your genes.”

Now, Kai meant well toward Riley, but thoughts like this had me pausing.

The men wind up spending more time together than they thought, but there was a distinctive lack of spark between them that did not transfer off of the page. Neither guy had a voice for me. While they are described as having fairly opposite personalities, they both sounded the same to me without having that spark that makes a character three dimensional and they were cliché and flat.

This one didn’t ultimately hold my interest, but if you are familiar with this author and already know that you like their work this could be one to try.

michelle signature

Comments

  1. Thanks for a thoughtful review, Michelle. I admit that the statement Kai made would also give me pause.

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