Hi guys! Today I am excited to be welcoming a new reviewer to Joyfully Jay! Zac will be joining us a couple times a month to share his reviews. So please help me give him a big welcome!
Northern Star is a quiet book, with a fairly simple plot.
Deacon and Steve meet in a bar in Michigan at a time when they are both drowning in various aspects of their personal lives. Deacon has just come from a traumatic visit with his alcoholic mother, and Steve is drinking by himself on the anniversary of his coming out. They share an encounter in a hotel room that sparks a connection that, despite dramatic events in between, neither one of them can leave behind.
Fear and apprehension follows as both men struggle with their demons and deal with heartbreaking issues. Steve must confront his guilt over his sexuality and leaving his wife and little girl, while Deacon must face the brutal reality of being dumped by email, and his hideous, fragmented family.
Throughout the book, fate seems to bring these two men together and a few months later, Deacon comes back to Michigan. Their connection reignites like it’s never been gone, and these two broken men begin to heal each other in ways only lovers can, both in and out of the bedroom.
Deacon was my favorite thing about this book. He is young, 27, and he’s endured a lot. I have a weakness for broken young men. I want to wrap them in warm blankets and put them in my pocket, and Deacon was no exception. His backstory was heartbreaking, and his sense of responsibility for his sister very touching. His damaged self-esteem was emotive and gut-wrenching, and overall, Deacon was a superb character.
Steve had an altogether different voice. He had his own issues with guilt and acceptance, and I got a lot from his attempts to rebuild Deacon’s confidence, but he didn’t quite click for me. Though he had a hard time, I kinda wanted him to fall harder…to really hit rock bottom, so the rebuild felt genuine. It didn’t work. His guilty emotions had an endless build, only to be wrapped up and tied in a bow. Realistic, perhaps, as not all situations like his end in bloody murder, but I felt like this part of the story needed more…grit? Oomph? Just…more.
And, actually, I felt the writing style of the book as a whole was a little passive and dry. The way many paragraphs were constructed removed me from the pace of the book. I felt detached, like the action was elsewhere. A stronger technical edit would’ve fixed this, because overall the author’s voice is very good.
I love it when I read a book and get caught up in the lives of alternative characters, and Northern Star had a strong cast of secondary characters. The shining star for me (pardon the pun) was Clarissa, Steve’s ex-wife. I’ve never had a wife, ex or otherwise, but for me the way they are often portrayed in books has become monotonous and predictable. There’s only so many ways a biatch can be written. But not here. In Northern Star, Clarissa is far from the bitchy woman scorned it would’ve been so easy to write, and is instead a warm, insightful woman who made the whole book sing. (And, in my mind, was Steve’s saving grace.) I enjoyed the contrast between Clarissa and Patty, Deacon’s mother. I think these two characters gave the book a balance it desperately needed with the slight blandness that came from Steve.
The only secondary character I didn’t care for was Gale, and not because he was the bad guy, but more because he was just…there. His motives were unclear, and he came across as a plot device more than anything else. He didn’t make sense. His hate was illogical (I know, I know, most haters are, BUT). I felt like his role in the book could’ve been played better by someone else. This might not make much sense, but for those that go on to read the book, I hope it will.
To sum up, Northern Star is a good book, but not without its shortcomings. I enjoyed the ride, but for the most part, I felt like I was reaching for a climax that never came…for a peak of emotions just out of reach. Deacon is a superb character, and if you love broken young men, you’ll love this, but for me Northern Star fell just short of the mark. The sex scenes didn’t really gel with the plot, and there were too many stones left half unturned.
A refugee from Jessewave, and delighted to find a new home at Joyfully Jay, Zac lives and works in central London. He can often be found on the tube quietly sweating over a really good book, or cursing the faults of a bad one. Zac’s reviews are brutal and honest. Woe betide a book that falls way short of the mark, but Good Lord, the world will know it when he stumbles across a belter.
Likes: Angst. Gritty Smexin. Military/Uniforms. Mild to moderate BDSM. Emotive characters.
Dislikes: Sloppy grammar/editing. Bad cover art. Irresponsibly written BDSM. Cardboard tropes