Luke has satisfied the emptiness inside himself with the bottle for much too long. As his business became successful and the partying never seemed to stop, Luke finally recognized that he had been spiraling downward with drugs and alcohol. Luke took his best friend and business manager’s advice and got help—not long term or too intensive, but enough to get off the drugs and onto an antidepressant that kept the allure of trying to off himself at bay. But the booze is more difficult to resist. So when Will finds Luke coming off yet another bender and reluctant to return to the company he owns, he suggests Luke consider a change of scenery. His solution is for Luke to go help one of Will’s former college friends who had suffered a debilitating disease and was recovering. Luke grudgingly acknowledges he should get away from London and figure out what he wants to do with his life.
Stephen had been a healthy, happy gardener when he was struck down with a rare disease that left him nearly paralyzed and unable to do the simplest of activities. Thankfully, it was not permanent, but the recovery is slow and painful. Now, able to care for himself, but unable to do more than the easiest of household tasks, Stephen knows he needs help but is loathe to admit it. He feels like a failure—broken, alone, and a bit lost. His boyfriend left him, his parents are deceased, and he rambles around the family home he’s inherited like a ghost.
However, the most painful thing is looking out over the garden that had once been beautifully and lovingly tended by his parents and himself and seeing it overgrown with decaying plants and painful neglect. He might need some help, but his garden needs it more. When the offer comes from Will to have someone stay with him and do simple chores and gardening, Stephen grudgingly agrees to give the guy a trial run. What happens next is something neither Luke nor Stephen ever imagined and something that will either be the salvation or ruin of them both.
Jay Northcote has released a wonderful new novel of healing and love called Where Love Grows. Most of this novel is focused on just two men and the baggage they both carry from their pasts that influence how they view themselves and how that view shapes their self-worth. Needless to say, both Luke and Stephen are in need of a serious shaking and head slapping, for neither of them knew their own value. Honestly, they had become their own worst enemy and neither of them could really see it. For Luke, it was the guilt over his mother’s death and her relentless pursuit of drugs and alcohol that made her the worst kid of neglectful parent. Luke never really come to terms with that and it ate at him years later.
Stephen also had lost his parents and the circumstances surrounding their deaths was something that still left him physically ill and panicked. Not to mention the onset of a disease that he would recover from, but that left him a shell of his former self, physically and emotionally. This is where we find these men at the beginning of this novel and I will tell you that the author takes his time unfolding this story and slowly patching back together both his main characters and it is really lovely to read.
From the slow thawing toward one another and Stephen finally able to see how he is truly worthy of being loved and not just some broken failure, the book carefully develops their tentative relationship into one that blossoms much like the old garden does. One might think that an entire novel basically devoted to this slow healing process would be boring or overworked, but not this story; it was so well constructed and kept me interested to the very end.
I think the only problem I had with this story was the ending. I can’t go into any real details as it would spoil the book for the next reader, but suffice it to say that I felt Luke should have demanded Stephen really come clean near the end and confess the inner turmoil he had that prompted the decision he’d made in the heat of the moment. The author did have Stephen think through his flawed reasoning and acknowledge where he had messed up, but that never got said aloud to Luke, which I really felt was needed.
Other than that small issue, I felt this novel was really wonderful. I love it when you can watch an author grow in their craft and the quality of their stories reflects that rite of passage. Jay Northcote has really come into his own as a marvelous storyteller and gifted writer and I look forward to the next story he creates.