Nichol Seacliff has returned to his grandfather’s farm in on the Isle of Arran Scotland to help out after the tragic deaths of Nichol’s mother and brother. Nichol was in the middle of his Ph.D. studies in Edinburgh, but gave it all up to return to his family farm, knowing there was no way he could let his grandfather lose his land and family history. But despite Nichol’s best efforts, things are still precarious on the farm. Financial problems forced them to let go their hired hands, machinery is breaking, animals are getting injured, and winter is taking its toll both physically and mentally on Nichol as he struggles with exhaustion in the dreary and frigid 18-hour work days.
One night, Nichol encounters what he assumes is a burglar who has broken into their barn. With the economy so bad, thefts of scrap metal and equipment are on the rise in the area. Rather than a thief, Nichol finds a young man seeking shelter from the storm, on the run from some sort of trouble. Something about this man calls to Nichol, and he lets Cam stay the night in the barn. He is surprised the next morning to find Cam still there, and even more surprised to realize he doesn’t want him to leave. On impulse, Nichol tells his grandfather that Cam is an agriculture student and gets him a position volunteering on the farm in return for room and board.
Having Cam around changes so many things for Nichol. The extra pair of hands makes his workload much more manageable, curbing the constant exhaustion he has been suffering from for months. Cam is also highly skilled with accounting and begins to sort out the farm’s financial problems, consolidating loans and getting grants, and putting them back on more solid financial footing. With Cam has somehow come the spring, the weather warming and brightening and finally putting a stop to the endless winter. And the two men grow incredibly close, becoming fast friends and easing some of Nichol’s loneliness.
Soon that friendship grows into more, and Nichol finds himself falling in love with Cam. And it is clear that Cam has feelings for Nichol as well, although Cam’s past haunts him and makes him feel unworthy of Nichol’s love. The sexual tension between the men as they both want each other but aren’t able to act on it is wonderfully done. Things are complicated by the renewed interest from Nichol’s ex Archie, who is now a police officer, and whose presence terrifies Cam. Nichol wants to put Cam’s past behind them and spend their future together, but the past will not stay hidden, and when trouble comes the men must fight for their chance to be together.
Oh, this was such a wonderful book and I really loved it. Harper Fox writes such great stories full of quiet love and lots of emotion. Nichol and Cam are both such good men, each trying to reconcile their past and their future. Nichol has given up the life he had always planned to return to the family farm. The deaths of his brother and mother were so shocking, he never fully grieved for them or the life he had to put behind him. Yet Nichol never regrets returning to the farm, knowing he couldn’t let his grandfather lose something so important to him. Nichol is so good and patient with Cam, even knowing that it could be forever before the man is ready to let himself enjoy a relationship. But once Nichol falls in love, he knows Cam is the only one he wants. And Cam is such as sweet guy haunted by his past. He works hard, cares for Nichol’s grandfather, and is clearly deeply in love as well. The guys are so sweet and loving together, you can’t help but root for them to make their relationship work and be able to reach that future together.
Fox descriptions of life on Arran and on the farm as so richly detailed that I felt like I was really there. From the language, to farming life, to the beautiful scenery, the food, the locals, everything is painted so colorfully. I could imagine the cold winter as they struggled with lambing, the beautiful waterfall where the men first make love, and the slowly decaying farmhouse and equipment. The book totally immerses the reader in the setting, the tone and the pacing matching flow of life on the remote and insulated island.
I really enjoyed the dynamic between Cam, Nichol, and Harry, and the way Cam’s presence affects the relationship between grandfather and grandson. Harry and Nichol are really struggling before Cam comes along, both financially and physically with the farm, and emotionally with one another. Nichol has always known that his brother was his grandfather’s favorite. Alistair had the farm life in his blood and was made to take over for Harry one day. When Nichol moved away to take on an academic life, he never imagined one day he’d be back trying to fill his brother’s considerable shoes. Neither Harry nor Nichol every truly grieved for their lost family and they don’t really know how to relate to one another. Harry clearly loves Nichol, but he is a gruff, hard man with little patience for emotion or weakness. Cam’s appearance softens the relationship between Nichol and Harry. Cam is able to interact with Harry in a way that Nichol can’t, and helps the men find ways to better relate to one another. And Cam bring such great happiness to Nichol, helping him finally deal with his grief and look at life in a new and better way.
I also loved the contrasts between the two men and their histories. Although Nichol never anticipated or wanted life on the farm, it is clear that the farm and Arran itself are such a part of him. It is a small community where everyone knows one another. You can feel that the history of the farm and the community and how interconnected they all are. They provide ties to Nichol, even when he doesn’t really want them, binding him to the people and the place. In comparison, Cam comes to Seacliff with a past he has keeps hidden and no real connections. Over the course of his time on the farm, he slowly becomes a part of it as well, until he too is rooted to the farm, the island, and the community.
If I had any criticism with the book it would be that things dragged a bit in the middle for me. But overall I think this was a wonderful story. Great romance with heroes that I could really root for. Beautiful and rich descriptions of the people, the island, and culture. Sweetly romantic combined with just the right amount of excitement and a bit of intrigue. Definitely highly recommended.