Brent McKay lost his wife two years ago in a horrible battle against cancer and he hasn’t been interested in sex ever since. Every time he even thinks of intimacy with someone else, he can’t help remember how his wife suffered during her last days. Brent knows he is in need of help, so he goes to Expanded Horizons sex clinic for some counseling. There his therapist suggests that Brent try working with a sex surrogate to see if that can help him move past his pain and rediscover his joy in sex. Even though Brent has never been interested in men, he finds himself drawn to a gorgeous male surrogate and decides to give it a shot.
River Larsen follows his own spiritual path, which has taken him around the world and led him to study Reiki healing and Tantra, among other practices. He grew up on a commune and has always let fate and intuition guide his travels. River rarely stays in one place for long, and now he is a few months away from the end of his time in Seattle where he is houseboat sitting and working as a surrogate for Expanded Horizons. When he meets Brent, River can feel how blocked Brent’s energy is and he is impressed at how quickly Brent takes to River’s Reiki healing methods. Soon, Brent has regained his sex drive, but he is also realizing an attraction to River, something he knows can never go anywhere. But River has given Brent back something he thought was long lost, and even as their work together is over, Brent finds he has a new energy and outlook on life.
In a strange twist of fate, the two men end up reconnecting, this time in one of the coffee shops Brent owns. River shares some thoughts for ways to improve the shop, and soon Brent is inspired with an entirely new cafe idea. River agrees to come on board as a consultant and help Brent develop the cafe. For a while, it is strictly business between them, even though Brent’s interest in River never wanes. But as the two travel to India for research, they find that the attraction between them is too hard to deny. As River teaches Brent more about building Tantric connections, the men find their relationship moves deeper than either expected. Soon Brent and River are falling for one another, and Brent would like nothing more than to make it permanent. But River never stays in once place long, and his time in Seattle is ending soon. Now River must decide if he is going to move on as usual, or if he has found a place he wants to plant his roots.
The Redemption of River is the fourth book in Eli Easton’s Sex and Seattle series, but it stands alone just fine. The only one I have read is The Mating of Michael (a book I first read years ago and still love) and I had no problems following along here. Easton finished the original trilogy around six years ago, and has recently re-released the first three books before publishing this new installment. I was really excited to see a new book in the series, particularly since, like Michael, this story features a sex surrogate and I find the therapy really fascinating. In this case, in addition to the general concept of surrogacy, River is also a healer with a background in Reiki and Tantra. I am not familiar with either of the practices and I found it interesting to learn more through this story. There is a real depth of intimacy here and just an overall sensual tone to the book that I think fits well with these healing practices. Not only do we get to learn a lot about them, but they are nicely reflected by the characters, particularly with River. His internal thoughts often reflect the principles he has learned through these practices, making them feel not just like window dressing to make an interesting story, but a real part of the character and his life.
I really like the connection between River and Brent here. Right from the start, Brent finds himself taking to the Reiki practice, and I enjoyed seeing him move forward and find himself again after so long being depressed and unhappy. I appreciated how Brent is so open, both to his surprising attraction to River, and also to these new practices. The guys never cross any lines when they are healer/patient and it is just a coincidence that they reconnect. The men have great chemistry and there is just a mellow sexiness and sweet connection between them that I really liked. They are very different men, with Brent being a driven, successful businessman who has spent most of his life in the same area, and River as someone who follows a spiritual path wherever life leads him. But their connection is so clear and strong, I could completely believe in their feelings for one another and the strength of their bond.
The conflict here comes when it is time for River to leave, and he must decide whether to settle down or move on. I don’t think River is so much against putting down roots as that he has always been led to feel like that life is not for him. Even as he falls for Brent, there is a part of him that thinks that is a life that doesn’t belong to him. I think Easton does a nice job helping us understand River’s character and why he is so torn. I do think at times there is a bit of an implication that River’s desire to follow his own spiritual journey where life takes him is wrong. Even the title — Redemption — suggests he is doing something wrong. But overall, I think this works well and it is nice to see River figure out a way to be himself and also have the relationship that he wants.
As I have indicated, much of the book focuses on the concepts of Tantra and Reiki. I think Easton does a great job making it accessible and easy to understand, even for someone like me who isn’t that familiar with them. We get a lot of information, but I never felt like it was overload, and much comes to us through River as he teaches Brent. I appreciated that Easton also shows how River has really taken these practices into his life, studying, traveling to India to learn, and living their principles. The men also travel to India together to learn more for their cafe, including talking to a cafe owner there to get guidance. I appreciated that we see the men have a true and deep appreciation for these practices and take the time to learn more about them at a deeper level.
Overall, I really enjoyed this newest installment in the series. I found this one quite interesting and I liked seeing the way that River and Brent build their relationship. It is sweet and sexy and really nice to see both of these men find their happiness together.