Pushed into a job he never wanted by his overbearing family, Cory had a nervous breakdown; his depression was so bad that he couldn’t even get out of bed. After time spent in therapy, learning coping mechanisms and the importance of saying no, Cory is on the long road to recovery. When he is asked by his therapist about the one thing he could do to make himself happy, Corey decides to pluck up the courage to reconnect with his childhood best friend, Asher.
The men last saw each other when they were fifteen and have had no contact for sixteen years, but when Cory tentatively walks into the bar Asher now owns and listens to Asher singing a self-penned song about a boy with cinnamon eyes, he hopes that maybe Asher might return the love that Cory has always felt for him.
I chose Cinnamon Eyes for New To Me Author Week for our Reading Challenge Month based entirely on the book’s blurb and I was not disappointed. Simply, Cinnamon Eyes is a sweet, but beautifully written, second-chance romance. This is exactly the book I was looking to escape into and escape I did, happily reading the book from cover to cover – not once, but twice!
I was particularly impressed by Nell Iris’ understanding of Cory’s depression. I am a firm believer of characters’ experiences being a close to real life as possible and as someone who has struggled with depression for much of my life, I could really identify with Cory. From the outset of the story, Iris makes her reader conscious of the fact that Cory’s positive mood is not a lasting one and that his recovery journey is not complete. I think it is really important that Iris recognizes that individuals attempting to get well have different ways of coping when their emotions become overwhelming. For me, it was the snap of an elastic band around my wrist, whereas for Cory it is a pinch of his ear,
I has to squeeze my eyes shut to prevent hot tears from spilling down my cheeks. Even if I’d passed the days of constant crying, this was too much.
How could it be gone?
My hand shot to my earlobe, and I pulled on it. When the tears refused to back off, I pinched. Hard. Pain flashed through my skull, and I whimpered. The pinch had the desired effect. When I was certain I’d regained control of my runaway emotions, I opened my eyes.
Despite Cory’s vulnerability, I found myself welcoming his relationship with Asher wholeheartedly. This is because Asher does not ask more of Cory than he can give and Asher accepts Cory no matter what. Asher re-introduces Cory to so many things that had once made him happy, like music, cookery, and more significantly, the feeling of belonging to a family.
Although I loved Cory and Asher as characters, both separately and as a couple, I must admit that I adored Mr. Cross. I do not think it was a coincidence on Iris’ part that Asher’s father has cancer. The correlation between Mr. Cross and Cory reminded me how some people dismiss depression, just as Cory’s family does. However, the understanding that the older man and Cory have is touching and gives them both hope. There is also a warm humor to their exchanges, as well as Cory gaining confidence as he communicates further with Asher’s father, and the sense of family Iris builds gave me all the right feels.
Cinnamon Eyes is a romance that will melt readers’ hearts, without being saccharin sweet because of the real-life issues that Iris handles with such sensitivity. This may be the first book I have read by Iris, but it won’t be the last! A full five-star recommendation.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for New to Me Author Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a fabulous prize from Riptide Publishing. One winner will win a set of Advanced Review Copies before the books are released (or if it is a non-U.S. winner, an electronic copy of the books upon release). Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on New to Me Author Week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more details about the awesome prizes!