Rating: 5 stars
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Adam Craig is burned out in his life as the front man of rock band Black Varon. He grew up as a theater kid and never expected his rock career to be long term. He is tired of the demands of the job, especially being forced to stay in the closet. Although he can official be out as “bi,” Adam must never actually be seen with a man and must keep up appearances by dating women.
One night after too many drugs and too much partying, Adam takes a cab out of Chicago on a whim and by luck happens to drive by the now closed Indian Lake Resort, home to many of Adam’s good childhood memories. He wanders onto the resort grounds, stumbles upon a cabin, and promptly falls asleep on the porch.
Miles Caldwell has lived as a recluse at his family’s closed resort for the past 10 years. After an accident that changed his life, Miles just wants to live a quiet life by the lake, working on his art and enjoying the company of his African Grey Parrot, Grace. When Miles finds Adam asleep on his porch, all he wants at first is for the man to go away. But as Adam waits for someone to come pick him up, the men begin to get to know one another, even acting on their sexual attraction.
Miles figures that will be the end of things between them. He can’t imagine that as messed up as his is, that Adam will want anything to do with him. But Adam is clear he wants to see Miles again, and when Miles finally works up the nerve to ask him back, Adam ends up coming for a two-week visit before he is due back in the studio. The men connect in so many ways, having a passionate and emotional affair. Adam is totally patient with the cranky and complicated Miles. And he loves the quiet and peace of life at the resort. And Miles finally finds someone he can trust and let down some of his guard with, someone who is willing to fight to be with him.
When Adam’s vacation ends, he is determined to keep things up with Miles, promising to return soon. But as the distance begins to separate the men, Miles’ demons return, making him question whether Adam really wants to be with him and building up walls to keep Miles out. And Miles gets sucked back into his life in the rock world, having to fake a girlfriend and be seen at numerous parties. He wants to come back to Miles, but Miles isn’t sure he is brave enough to see Adam again. These men both love and care for one another, but the time and distance and their internal demons may get in the way of them being together.
Sigh. Oh, this was just so good! I love Rowan Speedwell’s writing and I think this may be my favorite book of hers. Adam and Miles are just so completely lovable. I love a good broken hero and Miles is a bit of a mess. He hasn’t left the resort property in years in the aftermath of a horrific accident and relies on his sister to handle most of his contact with the outside world. He is cranky and sort of absent minded and very socially awkward. At the same time, he is a gifted artist with the ability to bring manuscripts to life with his beautiful designs. He is a loving brother, a good friend to those few people in his life, and a doting pet parent to Grace. When he is finally able to let go with Adam and allow himself to step outside his anxieties, Miles is a warm, fun, and sexy guy.
Adam has his own issues, and I appreciated seeing that the conflicts here are not all one sided. Adam loves making music, but has been finding his life with the band less and less fulfilling. But he knows they rely on him and is therefore forced to stay closeted. However the hiding really takes its toll, and Adam fills the void with parties and sometimes too many drugs to keep himself moving along through the public spotlight. You can just see the peace he gets when he is with Miles, both the quiet of the resort and the ease of being with someone who doesn’t care that Adam is world famous. Adam just wants to be with Miles, and you can feel the pain as he deals with Miles’ apprehension and anxieties. At the same time, he totally gets Miles, and is so patient and loving with him. These guys are such an amazing couple. Their connection is so strong right from the start, and they are both sweet and incredibly sexy together. (As a side note, I’ll mention that this book is definitely high on the hotness scale. The scene where Adam sends Miles a sexy video when they are apart. Just OMG.)
Speedwell also gives us some lovely side characters. First, Miles’ sister Lisa is really just fascinating. This is a women who lost both parents in an accident. But more than that, she also lost a brother, or at least the brother she once knew, as Miles is a totally changed person. It is just devastating and horrible, and yet she sticks with Miles, helping him navigate the world and looking after him through challenging circumstances. I also liked Adam’s friend Evie. At first I thought she was just going to be a skinny bitch model/actress, but Speedwell nicely avoids the stereotype. Although Evie is a rich party girl, it is clear that she truly cares about Adam. She helps him keep his secret by being his public girlfriend. She stands by him and supports him 100% and is really the only one he can be truly open with as he struggles with Miles’ potential rejection. And of course Grace, who is a character unto herself!
I also really enjoyed the depth and detail of the descriptions of the art in the story. Miles works “illuminating” manuscripts by creating artwork to go along with the text. He uses techniques from centuries ago, making his own paints and creating detailed masterpieces. Speedwell gives us a fascinating inside look into his creations.
This really is just a lovely book. There is so much complexity and depth to the story and these characters, I know I am hardly doing it justice. It’s sweet, romantic, and totally sexy. I just loved Illumination and highly recommend it.
Cover Review: I like this one a lot. The design mirrors Miles’ artwork and shows so much of the intricacy and detail of his work. The cover model doesn’t really feel like Adam (too dark), but I still think it is really lovely.