When I saw the category of New-to-Me Author Week come up on our Reading Challenge Month, I was pretty excited. Although I have been reviewing for a few years, there are so many authors in this genre whom I have never read and the possibilities were endless. Then I heard about Samantha Wayland and her novel Home and Away and my choice was made—and I could not be happier with it!
Rupert Smythe appears as uptight a Brit as is possible. Not only that, but it looks as though a stiff wind could blow him over despite his height. Perhaps it was his calm, somewhat icy reserve that gave off that rigid vibe or maybe it was the near naked fear that rose in his eyes whenever he was in proximity with big burly men, particularly hockey players, but surely that couldn’t be it since Rupert is also part owner and business manager of a professional hockey team…or could it? For underneath that standoffish appearance beat the heart of a man who had borne the brunt of serious bullying that most certainly ruined his former career and nearly his life. But all that is kept hidden away by Rupert, as is his heart, for he learned early on that to keep himself from the painful past meant to keep a lock on his present emotions. All that was well and good until Callum Morrison came to town for the summer.
Callum is used to the spotlight—he doesn’t like it, but he endures it as one more thing he must do in order to play the game he loves—hockey. On the ice and off, Callum is a force of nature. When he gets the opportunity to be a part of shaping the team he also partly owns as well as goalies for, Callum jumps at it—assuming he will be able to fit in easily and get his feet under him over time. But Rupert has other ideas. He almost resents Callum’s interference, even though he grudgingly agrees that the team is in desperate need of additional help. Still, the last thing Rupert intends to give Callum is an easy time taking over. Now the two men must force themselves to get along for the good of the company and when Rupert’s life takes a huge shift and he finds himself with custody of his younger brother, Callum becomes more valuable than he ever imagined. What neither man bargained for was the growing attraction to each other—especially not Callum who was most decidedly straight…or so the public was led to believe.
There are so many reasons to fall in love with Home and Away by Samantha Wayland. The first is the two men the novel revolves around. The subtle humor that is part of Callum’s stream of consciousness to which we are constantly privy is just golden. He has the proverbial “open mouth, insert foot” syndrome when it comes to being around Rupert and for a long time their every exchange is one more grimacing moment after another—and yet each time it is made incredibly sweet due to Callum quietly exposing his underbelly to the reading audience. Rupert’s desperate attempt to gain the upper hand over Callum fails repeatedly and when the chips are down and he is finally given the chance to save his little brother from the clutches of a real bitch of a mother, it is Callum who holds Rupert together—and teaches him how to open his heart to the young boy.
The chemistry between these two men is palpable and yet this is a slow building, tension filled relationship. Callum’s twisted thoughts on how he must deny himself happiness—remain firmly in his locked closet, or lose everything that is precious to him is challenged left and right. It is not just Rupert’s quiet patience and compassionate response to finding out Callum is a virgin that breaks down the goalie’s wall, it is also the immediate connection Callum has with Oliver—Rupert’s brother who just captured his heart and never let go. A word about the kiddy factor here—I happen to believe that if a novel is going to focus on family as this one does we need to interact on the page with said family. While some may feel there was too much of that, particularly later in the story when a teen enters the dynamic, I felt it was spot on given the trajectory of the book. Callum was all about family and when Rupert becomes surrogate dad/brother to Oliver, it made complete sense for Callum to fall right into that fold.
Yes there were a lot of convenient things and people who fell into place rather easily in this novel. One could nitpick and say that the number of gay men alone who seemed to appear at just the right moment in order to help Rupert and Callum was a bit over the top, but there is no denying that the support cast of characters made this book just that much better. Cleverly written, tender and emotional, Home and Away is just the best “feel-good” story I have read in a long time. This will not be the last Samantha Wayland novel for me. I look forward to reading more of her work. In the meanwhile I highly recommend
This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for New-to-Me Author Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a fabulous prize from Interlude Press. One lucky winner will receive a selection of signed print books, as well as a variety of ebooks by authors new to Interlude Press this year. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on New-to-Me Author Week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!