Months ago, Corin was involved in a car accident that killed his boyfriend and left him with prosopagnosia, or face blindness. Adapting to the change has been difficult for him and those around him; Corin especially feels pressure to pass, to act and behave as though nothing were different. With so much internal and external expectation, he decides a fresh start is in order and moves to Glastonbury. There, he meets handsome tattoo artist, Adam Merchant. In some ways, Corin is pleased with the prospect of getting to know Adam. If nothing else, he’ll be making a new friend. And maybe there is something to the frisson of attraction he feels for the man. But Corin still cannot find the words to explain his disability; he is just learning to accept that prosopagnosia is a disability himself. It causes some friction between the two at the worst times, none of which is helped by the idea that someone is following Corin and he has no way of identifying who that person is…if they’re even a person, because the clothes they wear look identical to the last thing Corin saw his dead boyfriend wearing.
Adam and his mother had a huge falling out years ago over her neglectful-seeming behavior. It drove him from Glastonbury to London where he grew from troubled teenager to trained tattoo artist. Still, his Glastonbury roots eventually called him home. For months, Adam meant visit his mother to try to mend fences, but he never got the chance when she passed away suddenly. If Adam was unprepared for her death, he was absolutely flummoxed to learn she’d left everything to him. What he didn’t realize is that “everything” seems to include occasional apparitions of her ghost and murmured words in the house. Unsettled by the idea he’s seeing his mother’s ghost, Adam wants to turn to his two best friends, but they’ve been talking about him behind his back. So, when he meets Corin, Adam is hoping to finally make a real connection. As friends, for sure…and maybe something more. As much as he likes Corin, there’s something slightly off a little too aloof about the man, however. That is, until he learns Corin was in an accident and cannot recognize faces. Things are wonderful…at least until their different experiences with ghostly happenings push them in opposite directions. Can they figure out what’s happening before it’s too late?
Face Blind is a contemporary get-together romance from author J.L. Merrow. It takes place in Glastonbury, England around the end of October. I thought the timing helped the mood of the book and tempered the skepticism of our two MCs. First, I loved the association between fall time and spooky time. Second, I thought the atmosphere surrounding the upcoming Samhain celebrations help the two MCs more readily believe they are being contacted by the dead. Third, I enjoyed the light tension created by Adam being convinced his “haunting” was a positive one (his mother trying to tell him goodbye) and Corin being convinced his “haunting” was a negative one (his boyfriend out to terrorize him because Corin survived and the boyfriend didn’t).
In fact, I found Corin’s and Adam’s ghost experiences to be, respectively, the best and the least good parts of the book. Merrow did a fantastic job meting out details about the car accident that left Corin face blind and his boyfriend dead. From the start, it was clear Corin suffered from survivor’s guilt and the details about what transpired immediately before the wreck made that guilt all the more tragic, I thought. I loved how this guilt and, to a lesser extent, the proximity to Samhain had Corin seeing the ghost of his dead boyfriend. Even the scene where Corin gets to confront this terror was great; it serves as a way to show Corin is coming to terms with what happened to him and his deceased boyfriend. All in all, it felt like Corin was being woven together as a complete character.
Conversely, Adam feels like a fraying rope. His ghost experience felt just as prominently placed on page as Corin’s, but seemed to lack any structure. There are two discrete instances where he seems to experience his mother trying to contact him from the beyond. Then, as the story starts to build, we learn more of Adam’s history. He spent his childhood with mom and teenage years to adulthood with dad; we learn that he has an affinity with some Welsh folklore. The ghost and his relationships with his parents have huge impacts on Adam, especially when he uncovers more about his past. On top of that, the folklore infatuation is framed as something very dear to him. Taken all together, it feels like this is just a brief introduction to Adam. Yet in this book, I didn’t feel like these threads came together to bind Adam into a coherent character. He coasts mostly on his attraction to Corin.
Even with so many questions swirling around about Adam, I thought the romance aspect of the book was pretty sweet. There is plenty of tension at the beginning as Corin tries to fake not having face blindness, which causes strife for him and Adam. Both characters are very attracted to one another, but wary of seeming too eager…then the find out they’ve basically been pining for each other. I just liked that these two were being so hopeful, yet so wary without need. I thought it was interesting that both Corin and Adam are experiencing possible paranormal events, but they never discuss it with each other. This set them up for a classic misunderstanding where Adam is chomping at the bit to make contact with the dead and Corin is terrified of the same. They are guilty of that classic blunder where simply talking to each other could have prevented all the hurt feelings, but then, it also generates a bit of hurt/comfort. I liked that both sides got to reevaluate how they responded and both apologized, too.
Overall, I thought this was a pretty good story. I enjoyed the mood and that it feels like it gets spookier as the events lead up to a Samhain celebration. Corin was a delightful main character, a man trying to learn how to live with his disability while still having a pretty able-bodied mindset about it. The way his history gets doled out on page really kept my interest in him high, and the resolution was bittersweet. Adam also has an amazing background, but it just felt like there were so many elements of his past brought up and not addressed that he felt kind of unfinished to me. That was the major reason I didn’t rate this higher. Still, I think this story is still strong enough to be a satisfying get-together romance. If you’re looking for something with spooky elements for the season and like MCs who have a lot of emotional trauma and/or disabilities, you’ll probably enjoy this.