Shane Boyle and Chris Anderson meet one night in a pub in Dublin. After a few drinks and a quick hook-up, both men are left feeling they have a connection, but sure they will never meet again. Until the next day when Chris walks into VikInk, helping out at the short-staffed tattoo shop as a favor for his boss. Shane also works at VikInk, but is wary of Chris after realizing that it is Chris’ boss who Shane let down in a big way when he left Dublin for America months previously.
Chris is warned that Shane is arrogant and self-centered, but still something attracts him to the man, despite the fact that he hasn’t wanted to be in a relationship for years. Yet, Shane has changed. He has been forced to grow up and accept responsibility – not only for his past actions, but guardianship for his five-year-old nephew, Danny. When Shane is left heartbroken after the death of his sister, Chris steps in as a friend, but Shane just wants to push him away, convinced that he has to sacrifice his own happiness for that of Danny.
Recently, I have been in a reading slump, left feeling unsatisfied by books I have finished. For me, there was a sense of excitement about beginning Renewal, knowing that Helena Stone’s stories never disappoint me, though Renewal surpassed all my expectations.
Renewal is the third book in Stone’s Dublin Virtues series. I have hugely enjoyed the previous two novels with Patience leaving me feeling warm and fuzzy and Equality filling me with pride and positivity. Renewal just ripped my heart into shreds and then rebuilt it, with hope.
To me, Renewal was much more than just words on a page. Stone taps into the emotions of her reader and I cocooned myself in Shane and Chris’ world, reacting to events without shame and yes, this included uncontrollable sobbing.
One thing I love most about this story is Shane. This is not to say I prefer him over Chris because Chris is warm, genuine, and wonderful, but Shane is a character whom we have known about since the beginning of book #1, Patience. Shane is someone we have disliked, knowing the effects of his selfish actions on both Troy and Xander. However, in Renewal, Stone shows us that it is possible for people to change although the reasons for this, in Shane’s case, are uneviable. I also think Stone has been thoughtful in her portrayal of Shane, giving Troy and Xander a part within the plot and allowing them to express their concerns for Chris, but also giving Shane the opportunity for redemption.
The main reason Renewal is such an emotional story is due to Stone’s attentive storytelling. Not only did I find myself attached to Chris and Shane because of their qualities, but I thought Shane’s visits to his sister in the hospice were really important. Grief is a universal feeling and I was transported back to final moments with my own family members. Stone is sensitive, but the conversations between Shane and Ann remind us of the sad reality of the situation and the fact that there is a five-year-old child involved only invokes our emotions further.
The connection between Chris and Shane is intense, but made more genuine by Stone, in my opinion, because it is not just about sex. Instead, in Renewal, sex is an accumulated expression of everything they share. I think this makes the sex scenes Stone writes hotter because their passion is palpable.
Renewal offers everything I hope for when reading a gay contemporary romance novel and the Dublin Virtues series has gained Stone a new fan; I can’t wait to read more of her books. Renewal is a must read but don’t forget to keep some tissues nearby!