Rating: 3 stars
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Length: Novella

Cody loves his family and his small portside town in Mystic, Connecticut. It is a beautiful village and he loves to dress in period costume and be a guide for visiting tourists. But as much as he enjoys being close to his family, Cody’s spirit chafes at being tied down and he is always searching for that elusive something or someone who can make him feel settled and safe. He never imagines that one day his job as guide will bring him in contact with the very man who may finally be the safe harbor he has been looking for all along.

Aaron was living a nightmare. Stuck in a job that was killing his soul, forced to see his ex happily shopping for wedding rings with another guy, and continually feeling a sense of panic over the simplest of decisions, Aaron was not the kind of man to take chances. So why he has suddenly put his condo up for sale, flown across country to apply for a teaching position, and thrown all sense of caution to the wind not only overwhelms him to the point of panic but befuddles his senses as well. When he stumbles upon the delightfully free spirited tourist guide in the tiny seaport of Mystic, Aaron isn’t sure whether to run into the man’s arms or far, far away from him.

Mystic Man by E.J. Russell was a bit of a mixed bag for me. While I enjoyed the two main characters, particularly Cody, I had some real concerns with the all too easy and rather abrupt ending, plus what felt like a deliberate avoidance of any real discussion or resolution of Aaron’s many triggers that resulted in his fairly crippling panic attacks. It was obvious in the way in which Aaron’s character was written that he had huge abandonment issues and a predilection toward viewing many situations, even those from the past, with a rather dower, gloom and doom approach. His penchant for dwelling on the negative certainly gave any relationship he might have desired a very small chance of survival. Yet, in just a few weeks, he seemed to not only overcome the very things that drove him away from Cody, but fully embrace a more positive and brighter outlook on life, in general. For someone who was so weighed down by his past and his dark, negative thoughts, this complete personality reversal just didn’t ring true at all.

I did appreciate what I felt the author was trying to do with the positive—grab all the gusto you can, live in the moment, Cody character. He was young and vibrant and was willing to fight for the man who had finally felt like a home to him—his port in the storm so to speak. Cody, for me, was the more honest character in that he was always in search of something to satisfy his wandering spirit—an anchor, if you will, and Aaron fit that bill. When his attraction for Aaron blossoms so immediately even the insta-love idea fit his personality. He exhibited a maturity beyond his years and there was such a genuine feel to how the author created this man that I bought into it hook line and sinker. Together the two were a cute couple that complimented each other.

I do wish Mystic Man had given us a bit more backstory on Aaron. We did get a thumbnail sketch, but more examples of his past would have lent more credibility to his paralyzing fears of losing those he loves and his abandonment issues. In the end, the story was okay but lacking in depth and the bigger issues that drove the two men apart initially were skimmed over and too easily resolved.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

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Joyfully Jay