For Alex Cox, the run down little beach cottage on the coast of New Zealand is a chance to find peace. Since a photography assignment in Laos ended with the death of two colleagues, Alex has lived like a shadow, lacking purpose. The cottage offers him a chance to find a sanctuary and a chance to start over. It doesn’t hurt that when his realtor shows him the house, he finds a handsome Kiwi sleeping in the sunroom.
Joe Taylor is a talented artist, but he is painfully shy and tends to associate only among his own small circle of artists. Alex is a stranger, but Joe is strangely compelled to learn more about the man. With Joe’s help, Alex begins to live again and finds joy in photography once more. But it will take a series of bad decisions to make both men realize the bond between them is worth keeping.
Mended with Gold was sweet and simple and that was enough to make it memorable. We are given a short novella about two men who need one another more than they realize. It’s not perfect, but it has more good than bad to offer. Firstly, the pacing is excellent. The author does a wonderful job of packing a lot of story into a shorter length. This really never felt like a novella to me, which is huge because shorter works often leave me struggling to connect. But the characters here are given a strong sense of purpose that fits the plot and never feels off balance. There is a smoothness to the writing that allows readers to place themselves on the New Zealand coast and to feel apart of the action. This is another reason the pacing works so well — the author has taken the protagonists, the plot, and the location and blended them perfectly.
The only time that Mended with Gold doesn’t work is towards the end. There appears, as if from thin air, a rather contrived antagonist who fails to add anything of value to the story. This character sticks out so badly it becomes glaring. Also the moment of danger suggested to Joe as a result of several poor choices is really nothing more than a shrug. It felt slightly forced and while the actions weren’t necessarily out of character for Joe and Alex, neither did it have the same syncopation as the rest of the plot. This section of Mended with Gold doesn’t last long and it doesn’t detract from the story as a whole.
Mended with Gold has just enough sweetness and strong writing to make this novella an enjoyable read that never tips over into the saccharine. It staggers at the end just a tad, but is ultimately good enough to weather the rougher parts. Consider this one recommended to anyone who enjoys vivid locations and well-paced plots.