Nate has returned to his hometown in Australia to take over a doctor’s practice, having spent twelve years in Sydney. Not only does this homecoming to Forster mean he is closer to his sister and her two children, but Nate has a fortuitous encounter with his first love, Damien, who Nate has not seen for at least eight years.
Damien is now the owner of a local bait and tackle shop and has been single for eighteen months. Nate’s sister, Trish, encourages the men to rekindle their friendship, but while Damien is openly gay and accepted for this in Forster, Nate is reluctant to reveal his sexuality, even to his niece and nephew.
When Jackson, Trish’s eldest child, runs away to Sydney, Nate does not hesitate to follow him and Damien volunteers to join Nate in the search. Damien’s loyalty throughout Nate’s family crisis only confuses Nate’s feelings more. When they discover the real reason behind Jackson running away, Nate is forced to question his own actions and confront the effects of his secrets.
Runaway is a sweet and easy to read second-chance novella with two main characters in their forties. I think Damien reveals his maturity, but Nate not so much. Nate hides his sexuality in Forster because he is afraid of the small town narrow-mindedness and being perceived differently by his patients. I think Nic Starr does her best to bring her reader to a point of understanding with Nate, especially in Runaway‘s prologue, but I wanted Nate to be braver. However, I also think that Starr does a good job of raising the issue of sexuality for older men and a need to hide who they are because of prejudice, which is definitely thought provoking.
I really like Jackson’s character and the fact that it is he who challenges Nate. Nate is a father figure to Jackson and his secrecy has inadvertently led to Jackson’s insecurity, although Nate could not prevent the bullying Jackson has been subject to. Ironically, I think I felt more empathy for Jackson and his situation, though in truth his circumstances are very similar to Nate’s own with only age separating them.
One of the most touching scenes in Runaway is when Damien, Nate, and Jackson visit the Sydney gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Starr communicates a real feeling of togetherness amongst the three characters, and the community as a whole, and I love that Starr chose to end the novella with this sense of exhilaration.
Runaway is part of Dreamspinner Press’ World of Love series and obviously takes place in Australia. Starr is clearly passionate about her country and gives the reader a beautiful picture of the story’s setting. We not only have a contrast between the small town of Forster and the city of Sydney, but along with the characters, we visit certain tourist spots like Bondi beach and Manly and Jackson’s enthusiasm for the sea is contagious.
I think that when I start a story featuring older characters, I expect explicit scenes. Yet, there are none of these between Damien and Nate. I like this because, for me, sex between the two men would not have complemented the story.
Runaway is short, but not without emotion or fully thought-out characters and plot. I think Starr’s novella will appeal to a huge range of readers.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.