Erik is grieving the death of his beloved father, an adventurous man who’d relished traveling to Pamplona every year to run with the bulls. As a reclusive writer who suffers anxiety, Erik has struggled with crowds and intimacy. When his grief is at its zenith, he makes an impromptu pilgrimage to the land his father loved: Spain. This unplanned adventure leaves Erik isolated abroad with no maps, no guide, no knowledge of the language, and only the barest idea how difficult this experience will be.
Meeting David in the Pamplona tourism office is a boon. David is young and attractive, a native who speaks fluent English due to his education and habit of online gaming. David catches Erik at a time of great vulnerability—he’d just suffered a panic attack after learning the hotels are booked solid and his alternative is sleeping in the town square. Genial and compassionate, David offers a spare bedroom to Erik, who’s reticent but desperate for the help. They get to know one another over the next couple of days, as David shares his home and culture with Erik, for no reason but generosity…and maybe a bit of attraction. This is a quiet and chaste (mainly) romance; Erik’s hesitant to make anything physical because he’s not a “fling” kind of guy. Still, their interactions become emotionally intimate (with a dash of heat) and they make plans to keep in touch.
This is a book in the Dreamspinner Press World of Love collection and features what becomes an intercontinental romance. Erik is laughably naïve about his travel and plans in Pamplona. I chalk this up to his introvert personality and his grief, and it suited him. He’s certainly frustrated with himself for his quirks, which made him more endearing. David is a treasure, and I enjoyed spending time with him. I rather wished we had a bit more of his culture present, and I’ve got me a hankering for true Spanish omelet now, too. The book wraps with a happy ending, which includes the only other characters in the book: Erik’s agent and David’s online gaming friend. That seemed a bit perfunctory, mostly because the book was pretty much “meet and fall in love”—-“happy ending.” There’s a long time and a lot of work that lay between those experiences for David and Erik. While I loved how Erik broke through his emotional barriers, I just wished I’d seen more of it happen in real time.
P.S. One good thing: aside from the riff on the classic Hemingway title, the Spanish locale and the presence of bulls, this book bears no resemblance to the drunken train wreck that is The Sun Also Rises.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.