When his foster mother dies, Calvin Wade receives a letter asking him to come home to Neverwood and, along with two of his foster brothers, take care of things. Cal hardly knows Devon and Danny at all, but he’s determined to restore the house and continue Audrey’s legacy. But he’s faced with a real complication—if he can’t get the house up to code, or at least begin the renovations, then a conglomerate is going to foreclose on the house and tear it down.
The last thing Cal expects is to see his high school boyfriend, Will, show up at his door as the contractor. Old feelings resurface quickly, but things ended badly between them, and Cal has much more important things to worry about. They dance around each other, and Will goes out of his way to help Cal, but it takes them a long while to get to the point where they can act on their attraction.
When Cal finally talks to his brothers, they are able to move forward and work on the house. They aren’t out of the woods yet, but they have a great start. And finally, Cal has faced his demons. With Will at his side, he can move forward too.
To say that I have mixed feelings about this book might be an understatement. Lindsey has a poetic and lyrical style that swept me up and painted vivid pictures with words. Cal’s emotions were clear, and since it’s emotion that drives this book, that’s a good thing. But the story, for me, felt a bit disjointed, certain aspects weren’t as fleshed out as they needed to be, and those things combined left me wanting.
This is Cal’s story, and he’s the only narrator we get. He’s a very analytical, thoughtful man, who doesn’t jump into anything without thinking it through three times first. He’s practical. He’s also very bottled up and doesn’t trust easily. He doesn’t show the emotions he feels. Cal is a bit of an unreliable narrator, which isn’t a bad thing. I felt his pain, his wariness, his desperation, and his need to make things right. I was right there with him for much of the story. However, because he was unwilling or unable to share so much, it left me feeling like I was missing key elements.
It took a very long time to find out exactly what went wrong between him and Will all those years ago. As a result, I had nothing to connect their awkwardness with each other to. On top of that, their chemistry was great, but we hardly saw them together. Then all of a sudden, the last quarter of the book, they were finally taking the next step and moving their relationship forward. This didn’t work for me, again because I didn’t have anything to connect it to. There was little lead up, and it felt abrupt. I will say that when they finally do move forward, have the conversation, and are together, their chemistry worked so well that I was almost willing to forgive the suddenness. Almost. I would have loved to see much more of that in the first two thirds of the book.
Another fairly large problem for me was the fact that for over half the book, no one talked to each other. Cal was shouldering a lot of responsibility, and he had his foster brother’s there with him, but instead of discussing anything with them, he made assumptions. While I understand it was hard for Cal to trust anyone, let alone two men he barely knows, this didn’t jibe with the practical person he was purported to be. More than that, it was wholly frustrating as the reader to go that long with no more than a few conversations that consisted of only a few sentences. It bogged down the story, drawing things out unnecessarily. And then with one argument, things turned around. I give the author credit in that the characters’ problems weren’t magically fixed after that, but it was still much too long in the making. The frustration caused me to separate further from the story.
I will also say that there were sections of the book during which Cal spoke with Audrey, and she spoke back. These were couched as dreamlike sequences and were in present tense. Some were like memories, which were easier for me to deal with, but then there were a few that were presented as current conversations, which just didn’t work as well for me. It felt a little off to me, and I had trouble connecting with these sections.
So all in all, this one is a mixed bag for me. The author’s writing style was lovely and lyrical, but the plot didn’t work as well for me. I really enjoyed the premise of this book, and the Secrets of Neverwood series, and I feel like this one didn’t quite live up to the promise. While certain parts worked really well, and I felt whole heartedly for the characters, other sections left much to be desired.