Buy Link: Wight Mischief
Author: J.L. Merrow
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Will Golding is taking a break from London, joining his long-time friend (and friend-with- benefits) Baz on a trip to the Isle of Wight so Baz can research a book on the island’s ghosts. One night while walking along the beach, Will sees what he thinks is a ghost out in the water. However, it turns out to be reclusive author Marcus Devereux, who lives in an old fort on top of the cliffs.
Marcus is shy and nervous around people. He is self-conscious about his appearance and wary of the notoriety from his parent’s murder/suicide years when he was 14. When Will stumbles upon him during a midnight swim, Marcus is terrified the man is seeking to expose him in some way or to dig into his past.
As Baz and Will travel around the island interviewing people about the ghost stories, it is increasingly clear more is going on than Baz is sharing. Questions keep leading back to Marcus and his family and his mysterious guardian. They ultimately meet Marcus, and while he is initially wary of both men, eventually he and Will become friends and develop a relationship once he is assured Will means him no harm.
However, someone out there definitely means Will and Baz harm as a series of unexplained accidents nearly cost them their lives. And Marcus’ guardian Leif is clearly hiding something, along with attempting to manipulate and control Marcus and chase away Baz and Will.
Ok, that is all I can tell you about the plot without totally spoiling the suspense here, but it is beautifully done. Merrow feeds the reader just enough information to progress the mystery without ruining the suspense of the story. I was totally caught up in unraveling the motivations of both Baz and Leif, and trying to figure out what was really going on with Marcus’ past.
There are so many other things done well here too. The descriptions of the Isle of Wight, from its scenery, to its landmarks, to the inhabitants, are so richly detailed I could completely visualize them in my mind. Merrow does a wonderful job evoking a place that is probably unfamiliar to most readers. The island is almost a character unto itself and I loved hearing the stories of smugglers and soldiers and all their ghostly haunts.
I also loved Will and Marcus together. The two fumble around each other rather adorably. They each are lacking confidence and not sure how to proceed, but their attraction to one another is strong. On the surface, the two men are quite different. Will is big and strong, outdoorsy and full of life. He is comfortable with people and generally with himself. Marcus is much more shy and reserved. He is small, socially awkward, and extremely self-conscious about his appearance. But they connect together so well. They share a love for the island and the wide open spaces. They both feel stifled in London and want to live someplace with fresh air and room to move. They are both sensitive and kind (Marcus’ first impression not withstanding) and both know what it is like to be hampered by a physical limitation. My only small issue with the story is that I wanted more Marcus and Will time. They are the thread that carries the book along, but they actually share very little time together (especially compared to Will and Baz). It makes sense in the story that they have trouble being together a lot, but as a romance lover, I wanted to have their personal relationship explored more (and ok, maybe their physical one too).
There were lots of great secondary characters in the book. Baz plays a major role as Will’s best friend and guide throughout their time at the island. He was an interesting guy. I could never really decide if I liked him or not. Baz is arrogant, a bit selfish, and definitely gets a lot more “benefits” from their friends-with-benefits relationship than Will does. But he also staunchly defends Will from criticism and it is clear that he cares about his friend. His arrogance is fairly harmless, more oblivious than mean spirited. And it is pretty clear that he is a good guy underneath.
The one who clearly isn’t a good guy though is Marcus’ guardian Leif. This guy is pure evil and I just wanted to pummel him every time he was mean to poor sweet Marcus! But he is not an over the top, mustache twirling villan. Instead he is manipulative, cold, and controlling as he seeks to hide his secrets and keep Marcus on a tight leash. I also liked Karen, the friend of Baz’s beach hook up, and enjoyed her time with Will as she encouraged him with his relationship with Marcus.
One other small niggle. We do ultimately learn what is really going on with Leif, Marcus, and his family. However, I would have liked a little more detail and clarity here, just to fill in some of the gaps, especially regarding Baz his motivations.
Overall I thought this was a wonderful story – exciting, suspenseful, romantic, beautiful setting, and unusual plot. Definitely a recommended read.
P.S. For those of you who are Pricks and Pragmatism lovers, the Isle of Wight is Russell’s childhood home
** J.L. Merrow will be visiting Joyfully Jay on November 14th to talk about the lengths she’ll go to research a story. She also has a great Isle of Wight giveaway. Be sure to stop back and check it out! **