It’s been six years since Rory has seen the sun. A horrific incident shattered his life and his sense of safety and he lives in darkness. Rory exists with Heliophobia and even artificial light is too much for him. His existence is filled with darkness, but the darkest place is inside of his mind. Rory has learned to live within the darkness and knows there is no other way for him. His best friend finally persuades him to seek help and the 24-hour counseling center may be his only hope.
Adrian is just starting his job at the counseling center. He has just finished his undergraduate studies and he can’t wait to work with patients. Adrian is great in the classroom, but he worries about his lack of social skills when he comes face to face with his first client. Rory, who was at first reluctant, takes an instant liking to Adrian. The men discover they have less than pleasant experiences in common and this helps them form an unexpected bond. The attraction is there, but while Adrian has no experience with intimacy, Rory is a client and it’s a line Adrian doesn’t want to cross. Adrian also has his own issues as he is constantly dodging the bullying from his roommates and the demands of his parents. Rory knows he wants Adrian, but he thinks he has little to give the man, however Adrian may be the one to help Rory slowly step back into the light.
I have read several books by Nicky James this year and they all have impressed me. Shades of Darkness is no different and it’s a well-constructed, if not harrowing tale for both MCs. The book is dual first person POV, which is my happy place, and it really works to get us inside the minds of both Rory and Adrian.
Rory suffers in silence. He works from home and has little contact with the outside world. He has one friend, Krew, that he has confided in. That has been a double-edged sword as while he has someone to lean on, Krew runs basic errands for Rory, which has the unexpected side effect of further facilitating his isolation. Rory was bullied his entire life and he trusts no one (except Krew), and the pace of the story is well done and realistic as he slowly tries to trust Adrian and reluctantly get himself help.
Adrian has his own issues. While he’s smart and successful in school, he’s also been bullied his entire life. He left his hometown after high school to get away from it, but college is no better and his roommates torment him. His parents offer no support and the torment he lives through escalates daily.
There is a lot going on here, but it all comes together exceptionally well. There are two threads running parallel, with Rory and his phobia and Adrian and his roommates and then how they come together. The writing is intense torture as James keeps the emotions high as the layers of Rory’s phobia are revealed, along with the psychological and physical effects that accompany it. Then there is Adrian’s bullying and the tension thrums through the entire book as you just know the blows are going to keep coming and the final act is humiliating and devastating. I was on edge throughout the entire story waiting for what had to be coming and that was due to the skill of the writing. But the one issue for me was the roommates themselves. Adrian was afraid to stand up for himself not wanting to let his tormentors see they were getting to him. These guys were 24 and while the cumulative effect of the bullying was disastrous, most of the acts on their own were juvenile. It made me hesitate that not one person in the roommates’ seemingly large group of friends thought to put a stop to any of this or said anything; not one?
The love story between Rory and Adrian runs through the heart of the book as they form a bond that is unshakable as they both need to heal. The tension was kept high throughout the entire story waiting for the reveal from Rory and for the culmination of Adrian’s storyline and it’s the type of book you simultaneously want to keep reading and put down as you cringe for what will come next.
I read a lot of self-published books and one by Nicky James was perfect for this week’s challenge. The book was well edited, well-paced, and well done. The book is also well researched, but the information is presented with a natural flow and there are gems of information to be gleaned regarding Rory’s condition. While Shades of Darkness is listed as book two in the Trials of Fear series, the books are connected by the characters having severe phobias and the location they live in and this one can be read as a standalone. The MC for the next book, Ireland, was briefly introduced in book one and I look forward to picking up another book by this talented author.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Self-Published Book Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of the great prize packs of self-published books donated by some very generous authors. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a Kindle Fire filled with Dreamspun Desires/Beyond books, plus a 3-month subscription!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Self-Published Book Week here, including a list of all the books in this week’s prize.