Adam Ahmadi has recently come into a generous sum of money and has chosen to spend it on horses. Six race horses, to be exact, and a trainer to go with them. Brendan Matthews came highly recommended and is a known as a gentle trainer, a man willing to wait for the horse to be ready to race.
Upon their first meeting there’s an instant, if rather physical connection between the two men. Ben invites Adam to stay for dinner, Adam invites Ben to his home in London, and it’s not long before the two men are living together, enjoying each other’s company.
For Brendan, it’s perfect. For Adam, the perfection of the present only shines light on the shadows of his past and the darkness that keeps him from being truly happy with Brendan. It isn’t long before the nightmares return and Adam has to make a choice: keep lying to Brendan or tell him the truth. The whole truth; the unpleasant truth. The truth that might cost him Brendan’s love.
I will say the truths in this book were, in fact, unexpected. And a trifle unbelievable. I had some small issues about so much of this book, and yet, there were good parts, too. So, we’ll start with the good parts.
The writing is proficient, clean, and very easy to read. The author manages to seamlessly take us between the racing stables and London, while making both feel real. Even the description of the food — so much food! — was natural and organic and only added depth to the story.
The relationship between Adam and Brendan was a quiet and a little bland. They’re both polite, undramatic people who are more interested in staying home with one another than going out. While the early stages of the relationship feel rushed, it can be explained in part by Brendan’s celibacy for the past 15 years and Adam’s own solitude and self-imposed isolation from the world. They’re both desperate for another person’s company, for someone to hold and love and just… be with. And they find that in each other. It’s sweet and charming and would be an interesting story on its own.
Unfortunately, the book goes in another direction. While much of the story takes place in a racing stables, that’s merely background scenery to add flavor to the book. It has no real effect upon the plot or the characters, which is a shame. I thought the author did well enough in creating Brendan’s world that I would have loved to have seen more of the work he did and its outcomes, and how it affected him as a person. We never even got to know if Brendan was a good trainer. While several races take place off stage, there’s no emotional impact to them, no sense of urgency. I don’t even get the impression that Brendan cares.
Then there’s Adam’s side plot. After their first true night together celebrating Christmas, Adam vanishes. Not a text, not a letter, nothing. Brendan has no idea where he is. When Adam is reported missing — by whom, we’re never told — Brendan is contacted by the police. It’s only some time after that Brendan finds out where Adam is. Brendan eventually accepts Adam’s apologies and life continues for the two of them. Until Adam vanishes. Again. This time there’s no note, no text, no one to act as a go-between. We learn about Adam’s secret and why he has to keep it from Brendan. And it all feels fake and unrealistic and forced into the story.
The book couldn’t decide between being a romance between two men, a story about a trainer and the man who pays him to train his horses, or an adventure novel revolving around Adam’s secret. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough of book one, two, or three, instead opting for a middle ground that weakened all of them. I was left uninterested in the story and the characters. I also thought it was rather unbelievable how quickly Brendan accepted Adam back, though I could see, based on how he’d behaved given the story so far, why he did.
The one good point in this book, and its strength, is the sincerity and stability of its characters. Never once did Brendan act in an unbelievable fashion. He was always and ever Brendan. Adam was suffering from PTSD, which might explain some of his actions, but I think his backstory was weak and lessened the character.
It’s still a decent book, well-written and well researched. I just wish it had been a little more decisive in what book it wanted to be, and that Adam’s story had been as believable as Brendan’s.