When a deadly fire breaks out in the national park near where Ethan Hosking is staying, he sees it as a chance to escape. Part of Ethan is ready to just let go and let the fire consume him; the abuse he suffers at the hands of his boyfriend, Anton, has nearly taken everything out of him. But part of Ethan can still fight, so he takes the opportunity to escape and let Anton think him dead. He walks into the fire as Ethan, and out as Aubrey Hobbs.
Aubrey’s grandfather taught him a love of the stars and he follows the Southern Cross south until he can’t go any further. He ends up in a tiny town called Hadley Cove where he meets Patrick Carney, the lighthouse keeper. Patrick has his own difficult past, having lost his lover to the ocean. Although it has been four years, emotionally Patrick is still raw. When he meets Aubrey, however, he is drawn to the man. The two strike up a friendship, and Aubrey shares his love of the stars while Patrick shares his love of the ocean. The men take things slowly, as neither is fully ready to jump into a new relationship. Yet they cannot deny the connection that is between them.
Patrick respects Aubrey’s need to keep secrets about his past and where he has come from. Yet Aubrey knows that he won’t be able to outrun his past forever. For the first time in a very long time, Patrick and Aubrey are happy. They are falling hard for one another and the quiet strength they provide each other is helping them both to heal. Now they must hope that they can build a new future together, and that Aubrey’s past doesn’t destroy it all.
Galaxies and Oceans is a warm, deeply romantic story that just drew me and made me so happy. N.R. Walker creates such engaging and well developed characters in Aubrey and Patrick that I wanted to just sink into their story. Despite the dramatic premise and start to the book, this is actually quite a quiet story and very focused on these two men finding their way. The gentle, tender way they interact and the sweet moments between them are so moving and lovely that I was just swept up in this story.
One thing I particularly liked here is that Walker doesn’t let the story rest fully on the eventual conflict with Aubrey’s past with Anton. It is clear that this is going to come back around one way or another, but I appreciated that it isn’t just a sword hanging there throughout the book while everything else moves along happily with not much going on, as often happens in this type of story. Instead, the book focuses on Aubrey and Patrick slowly building their relationship and working through Patrick’s fears about moving on and coming to terms with finding a new love after Scott. So this kept the story moving along and kept me from just feeling like we were waiting for something to happen.
Related to that, I’ll note that while Aubrey’s physical abuse is not detailed on page, nor do we see scenes of him being hurt, it is clear that he has suffered horrifically, both physically and emotionally. There are also scenes where we are told specifics of some of Aubrey’s injuries. So be aware if this is a trigger for you.
As I said, this is a quiet story mostly focused on Aubrey and Patrick, but the setting adds so much to the book. Hadley is a teeny little town, remote and in a challenging environment. Walker helps the town come to life with engaging citizens who manage to evoke that closeness of people who know pretty much everything about each other, without resorting to the caricatures we can sometimes get in small town stories. I liked how the remote ruggedness of the town plays off the men’s interests in the stars and the oceans. It is not just the quiet moments where they watch the stars, or see the penguins come in from the ocean. But it is also the way the rugged, difficult environment requires strength and fortitude, something that reflects the characters of both of these men.
Overall I just loved this book. It is a bit mushier than Walker’s normal fare, but it totally worked for me. I completely fell under Aubrey and Patrick’s spell and was totally drawn into their story. So if you are looking for a quiet book that has a lot of depth an emotion, check out Galaxies and Oceans.