Orphaned at a young age, a war vet who served in Vietnam, Jimmy Campbell is hanging on by a thread. Surfing is the only thing that keeps him from walking out into the ocean and never coming back. Surfing and his best friend, Rob. But if Jimmy can win the 1976 International Surfing Festival, he can finally get enough points to go pro, get sponsorships, and quit his dock job to make his living surfing. But then the famous Danny Moore, two time Billabong Pipeline Masters champion, volunteers to go against him in Jimmy in his heat.
Sydney Daniel Moore puts on the persona of Danny Moore when he’s on the surfing circuit — cold, unfeeling, and a complete jerk. It keeps everyone at a distance. Sydney knows what they say about him, and the slurs they sling his way. But Sydney is observant and intelligent, and though he puts on the Danny Moore face, he knows people and the ocean and the surf better than anyone.
James wins the ISF, and finally has the points to go pro, but it’s because Danny wiped out. They get off on the wrong foot, arguing with each other at every turn. But Danny wants James, and their connection sparks from the start. Neither is open about it. They can’t be. But despite the tension between them, they train together while Danny is in California. A near fatal accident tears them apart, but James is determined to see Danny and thank him for saving his life. Together again, their attraction sizzles, and in the quiet paradise of Sydney’s beachfront home, they connect on every level. And Sydney convinces James to surf in the Billabong.
What ensues is a story of bravery and victory, connection and love. Even when they have to separate, James knows he’s left his heart with Sydney in Hawaii. The only choice he has, after some encouragement from Rob, is to go back to Sydney and hope they can find forever.
Y’all. This book. I don’t even know where to start. My personal recommendation fairy suggested this one to me, and I’m so glad I got to read it for TBR Pile Week in our Reading Challenge Month. It sucked me in and engaged me so wholly that even though this book is long (very, very long), I was right there with the characters throughout all 500+ pages.
Let me start with the fact that the majority of this book, apart from a few flashback scenes, is told in third person, present tense. To be honest, I generally loathe third person present, and dislike present tense on the whole. So my gut reaction to reading those first few sentences was disappointment. But immediately, I was so immersed in the story and the outstanding writing that I forgot it was a tense I normally hate. It’s a testament to this author’s ability to make me forget and be so completely entranced with the story.
Sydney and James are broken men. They’ve both faced hardships in their life and have come out the other side. Sydney has himself a bit more together, but he has hurts that run deep and definitely puts on a front for the world to see to keep from hurting more. Underneath, he has a huge, wonderful heart, and he’s so squishy. I loved seeing his persona of the famous Danny Moore crumble with James and for him just to be Sydney, the person he is at his core. He is so intelligent, reads people better than can be imagined, and reads the ocean the same way.
James is more fragile. He lost his mother young, and had to leave the ocean behind for a lot of years. And then the Vietnam War begins, and he enlists in the Navy instead of waiting to be drafted into the Army. He sees the horrors of war and comes out of it scarred, both physically and emotionally. He broke my heart again and again. But he’s so brave, even though he doesn’t see it.
The author weaves a tale with poetic imagery and exquisite detail. I experienced this story not just through words, but within the picture those words painted in my mind. I read it all in one sitting (which to be fair, is how I usually read things), but I literally couldn’t put it down. My one issue, and the reason this is not rated at a full 5 stars, is that it’s a little too long. While every scene needed to be there for the whole experience, there were at least a handful that could have been condensed and the narrative could have been more concise. There were several points where I was ready to move to the next plot point, and I was stuck in, albeit lovely, poetical prose that continued on for multiple pages.
But I loved this book. It’s slow burn romance reflective of the time period, but ends with a beautiful HEA, has lovely and nuanced characters, and is a tale that will sweep you away into the fantastic world of surfing and two men who complete each other.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for TBR Pile Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of two great audiobook bundles from Tantor Audio (you can see the details and full event prize list here)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on TBR Pile Week here.