Tai and Ollie met as kids and bonded over the Hawaiian surf. They became the best of friends and were always together. Now in their early 20s, they are family. They live together in a run-down house seconds away from the ocean in a pulled together family that includes two other friends and Ollie’s younger brother. While they all have jobs, they are always concerned about rent and bills, but the waves will always call to them. In fact, the waves are everything. Ollie always dreamed of making a career as a professional surfer until a minor injury set him back and he pushed that dream aside. Now, he not only has a second chance at surfing, but a chance to make Tai more than his friend.
Tai came out in his teens and his easy nature affords him plenty of hookups. He knows Ollie is beautiful, but Tai has completely shut down any feelings he has for Ollie as their family comes first. Ollie had never thought of Tai that way, he’s actually never thought of anyone that way, but Tai grounds him and then arouses him like no one else. When Tai accompanies Ollie on a surfing world tour, their close proximity has them crossing over the lines of friendship. But neither can speak their truth as their entire life becomes carefully balanced as their relationship shifts. If Tai and Ollie can risk it all and say the words, all of their long held dreams may finally come true.
Into the Blue is the debut book from author Pene Henson so it was a good fit for this week’s New-to-Me Author Challenge. It’s also published by Interlude Press and their books have rarely let me down. I also chose this book as it’s based in Hawaii and the allure of a slower paced and scenic book was calling to me. Henson excelled not only in creating a well written debut book, but also in showcasing the characters’ love for their island home.
When we meet Tai and Ollie, they are already intertwined. It’s interesting here in that there are minimal flashbacks to their early friendship, yet their bond is strongly felt. Tai is the outgoing one and everyone knows him or wants to know him. He’s the central point in his friends’ lives, the friends who are his family and are everything to Tai. Ollie is way more reserved than Tai. He has few friends by choice and he doesn’t do well in crowds. He also has never had a romantic relationship. It’s presented as something that has almost never occurred to him as he’s just not comfortable with most people. He’s comfortable with Tai and when it’s just the two of them many miles from home, Ollie starts to see Tai differently.
Tai has been in love with Ollie for a long time, except he hasn’t admitted it even to himself. Their friendship is everything and Tai would never risk that so he keeps the thought of a romantic relationship with Ollie locked down tight. The guys know each other so well to the point that while surfing they can move around each other without thinking as they are each extensions of the other. It’s only on rare instances that Tai will let himself acknowledge how amazingly beautiful he thinks Ollie is until Ollie asks for more and Tai wants all of Ollie. Tai and Ollie are at once older than their years, but simultaneously in over their heads as they try to navigate the change in their relationship, but there is a certain beauty in the way they discover each other.
There were just a few areas where I was looking for more. While there are small details offered regarding Ollie’s sexuality, he mostly deals with it within his own head and then arrives at a conclusion. It all feels natural for him and the tone of his character is in keeping with the rhythm of the book, but I would have liked if the author had included the reader just a bit more on the finer details. The book is also told in third person and for me, in certain cases, this style keeps some of the emotion at a distance. I also really could have used a scene or two more with Tai and Ollie at the end as from my perspective it would have balanced out all that had transpired between them.
The book is set to island time and it’s poetic with a gauzy feeling at times. The pace of the book is also slower and quieter, much like the setting itself. The landscape is vivid as the scenes of surfing show the passion the characters have for it and by extension each other. Into the Blue is a sweet and soft story that beautifully captures Tai and Ollie and their journey from friends to lovers.
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!