It is no secret that I am a great fan of A.M. Arthur’s work and I jumped at the chance to review her newest release, Fractured Hymns. This novel may well not be for everyone for a few reasons. It is incredibly sweet in many ways, a romance that is born out of pain and loss, but is remarkably redemptive as well. But a great deal of the story hinges on faith—the kind that keeps one from despair and the kind that has taken a beating but is restored. For some readers, there may be a sense that this novel is “preachy” or just a bit too good to be believed. I would counter those concerns with the thought that this is a story of redemptive hope and, as such, readers may want to push aside their disbelief and revel in what reliance on a higher power does for those who are so very lost and hurting. Either way, you will ultimately be the judge of this novel and I want to give you my thoughts on the story as a whole.
The story begins with a bang, a tragic work accident leaves Ethan horribly injured and recuperating at his boyhood home after nearly a month in the hospital. Already suffering from PTSD and the mourning the comrades he lost in the war, it is devastating to be the sole survivor of the three-member work crew (also fellow vets) who climbed on the crumbling roof that day and did not survive. Now back at his parent’s horse farm (a place he felt he had to escape in his younger years), Ethan lives in a nightmare of physical pain that includes an inability to eat many foods he formerly enjoyed and now make him physically ill. Along with that, he suffers incredible migraines and vertigo; essentially his life is a living hell. His mom and dad are amazing people, but that has not given him the confidence to come out to his father—only his mother and one sister in law know his truth. Each day that passes brings its own form of fresh hell for Ethan to wade through and it isn’t until he meets the stable hand that much of anything tweaks his interest.
Matthew “Angel” Garrett has come to the farm with more than one secret. While the Shockley parents are aware he is an ex-con, they have held another deeper truth close to their chests and provided a safe haven for the gentle man who cleans their stables. Ethan is quickly informed of Angel’s former incarceration by his brothers, who also work the farm. While they seem to have a benign form of contempt for Angel, they are not openly hostile toward him. That will change when one of their own, their brother Daniel, gets paroled from prison as well—seems his drinking and anger caused him to nearly beat another man to death. The entire farm is not prepared for an unchanged Daniel, one who still blames anyone but himself for his plight in life, in particular, Ethan. It doesn’t help that the daughter Daniel has essentially never seen clings to Ethan for emotional support.
As life on the farm becomes uneasier, Angel and Ethan are drawn to each other. The tentative bond between them deepens and when Angel finally shares his secret with Ethan, he is terrified that it will be the end of their tenuous affections for each other. But Ethan has other ideas, for he recognizes in many ways he and Angel are both fractured. Now they must stand together against a brother hell-bent on tearing them apart.
I do believe this is one of the most heartfelt and magical romances I have ever read. Yes, at times, things seem just a bit too easy and it is hard to imagine that these two, Ethan and Angel, can overcome the many obstacles that their painful pasts have thrown in the way. However, there is something about the way this author writes their growing relationship that is so genuinely sweet and strong it is hard not to be swayed over. At times, the religious overtones felt a bit heavy handed and yet many people in some form of recovery often find such comfort in the idea of a higher being guiding their lives and that is the case here with Angel, in particular. I loved Ethan’s parents; his father was far from perfect and deadly honest when Ethan finally comes out to him. He does not understand, nor does he admit that it would be his choice for his son, but he steadfastly loves him nonetheless. I felt that smacked of a realism rarely seen in similar storylines. And the mother—oh my—I will leave it at this: that plot point was a truly heartbreaking moment, she was just so very lovely.
Fractured Hymns by A.M. Arthur takes two broken men and gives them not only each other, but also the strength and will to survive despite the odds. It has grains of realism within that will make your heart stutter and a dreamy romance that will warm it right back up.