shelter the seaRating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novel

Emmet and Jeremey are happily partnered and living together in The Roosevelt, an independent living facility. The Roosevelt is a great place for people like them, as Emmet is autistic and Jeremy has depression and anxiety, and The Roosevelt allows them to have lots of independence, but also assistance when they need it. They know it is a luxury not everyone can afford, and many people end up in substandard facilities, like their friend Darren. Even worse, changes in the state mental health system mean many places are losing their government funding, and so The Roosevelt and other quality facilities are in jeopardy.

Emmet is determined to help Darren, to help protect The Roosevelt, and to try to work towards the best possible care for others. Even though he doesn’t feel comfortable in the spotlight, Emmet begins to take part in a grassroots effort to fight the government and special interests who seek to privatize care. Along with Jeremey, Darren, and their friend David, the young men begin an effort to raise awareness about people with disabilities and special needs, and the importance of quality facilities.

The men face an uphill battle as they fight to save The Roosevelt and facilities like it. It is not easy for any of them to be in the spotlight, but the men are determined to do everything it takes to fight for their home and the rights of others with disabilities.

Shelter the Sea is the second book in Heidi Cullinan’s excellent The Roosevelt series, following the fabulous Carry the Ocean. I fell in love with Emmet and Jeremey in that first book and was really excited to find them getting another story (originally David was up next). I loved reconnecting with them here and seeing how their relationship has deepened. These guys are such a wonderful source of support to one another and we can see how their love has really grown. Early on in the story, Jeremey is struggling harder than normal with his depression and anxiety, and we can see how Emmet is determined to be there for him, even as he knows he can’t necessarily solve Jeremey’s problems. At the same time, we see how much of a fighter Emmet is, and when he thinks he has something to help Jeremey, he is determined to make it happen. I don’t want to spoil anything by giving out details, but I loved this part of the story and seeing how Emmet’s surprise really makes such a positive change for Jeremey. There is such a beautiful bond between these men and Cullinan does a wonderful job showing us the love between them in large and small ways.

The other focus of the story is on the advocacy efforts. While all four guys are involved in the action, Emmet is really the lead here as he does most of the public speaking. Also, a lot of the support for their efforts comes from Emmet’s job, so he is in the center of things there. Cullinan gets into detail here on the politics involved and we learn a lot about the fight these guys face and the issues affecting those with disabilities. I loved that we see these men work to put themselves out there, even though it is often a struggle for them, because they are determined to help others and to save their home. I’ll admit that early on I found things a tiny bit slow here, as there is a lot of set up before we got to the action. But by the end of the story, I was totally caught up in their efforts. Cullinan does a really nice job finding the balance between giving us realism about the situation they face and their individual challenges, but also giving us the uplifting and positive feelings as we watch them succeed. At times I thought some things were a bit idealized — Emmet’s company and co-workers seem almost nirvana — but the story does give us some reality while still providing the happy ending we want in a romance novel. I found myself cry-reading through the last ten minutes and the story just left me happy and filled with joy for these men and the life they have built for themselves and the way they have grown over the two books.

So Shelter the Sea was a moving, romantic story that I really loved. It was a great chance to reconnect with Jeremey and Emmet and the Roosevelt gang and I am really looking forward to the continuation of the series.

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