Drinking was the one thing that helped dull Nicky’s pain. His evenings were spent dancing for a crowd that only wanted to see how far he would take things and Nicky had no idea how to get his life back on track. When his boss sold him out and Nicky was attacked, a man named Lance took Nicky to his secluded home, Thorn Hall. For two years, Nicky lived in the shadows at the house amidst the locked doors and secrets he was too exhausted to unravel. While Lance promised he would keep Nicky safe, Nicky was certainly not expecting Lance to die. Now, Nicky wanders aimlessly in a home with no electricity, with barely any food or clothing, as he’s terrified of the outside world. When everything truly feels like it is closing in on him, Nicky hires a gardener to clear the overgrowth that has taken over the house and the surrounding grounds, but Nicky wasn’t expecting Cai.
Cai has just been released from serving eighteen months in a young offender’s program. He has no money, no job, and is the guardian of his teenage niece he only recently knew existed. The grounds of Thorn Hall are creepy and the owner is mysterious as he communicates through sticky notes, but the cash in hand is real. One glimpse of Nicky is all it takes for Cai’s protective instincts to kick in, but Nicky hasn’t been touched in years. Cai is forever in the wrong place at the wrong time and when he’s blamed for a crime he didn’t commit, the secrets of Thorn Hall threaten to take them all down with one final blow.
I have read just about everything Suki Fleet has published and at this point all it takes is a glance at her name to have me opening her newest offering. Light up the Dark has a little different style from what I have come to expect from this author as the mystery here takes central focus. Fleet’s writing always draws me in and I find myself embracing her prose as I read. The opening of this book is no different as Nicky is describing the landscape that has consumed the house.
He’d grown to hate the summer green suckers the straggly vines had attached to every downstairs window. Grown to despise every leaf that darkened his world. Summer had smothered him with life. And Nicky had long since stopped living.
Nicky is one of the most reluctant heroes I have had the pleasure of encountering as his character is so hidden away and so scared of everything. While he has good reason, it was almost like he wished Fleet would have created any other character but himself as even the act of existing on the page was a monumental effort. But Nicky, with his androgynous looks and his long red braid, was a fragile character truly in need of saving.
That’s not to say that Nicky is magically saved at all. The book starts with Nicky’s attack, but then focuses on what is truly going on with him and the house he is currently residing in. Cai comes into his world, along with a niece and a friend (whose story line didn’t completely work for me or even feel finished at the end), and for the first time in a long time, Nicky feels that he might just be able to exist for a little longer. The mystery is strong in the book and although there are dark themes, it’s not graphic, but the tension remains pulled tight. I’ve said before that I genuinely get Fleet’s writing, so perhaps it was because of this that the broader aspects were never a mystery to me. I caught on right away what was going on and then just rode it out while the characters figured it all out, which did make the book feel slow in some places. But, the finer points of the story could have used a little more tuning and explanation for me as not all of the details pulled together in the end.
Fleet’s books are not usually overly erotic and while mostly this book follows suit, she does put in two of the most sensual scenes between Nicky and Cai here. In one of them the men are barely touching, yet the display and range of emotions she presents on the page was exceptional. Her characters are soulful and engaging and Nicky and Cai together made an amazing pair. Yet, they don’t spend much alone time together and they even state in the ending that their story hasn’t truly started yet. I could really have used another scene or two or three with them spending the time together that they were so frantic and desperate for by the end of the book.
Nicky and Cai were some of the best characters that Fleet has created, but their larger story didn’t all work for me. But if you enjoy this author like I do and are looking for a book with more mystery, you could give this one a try.