Is there room for love in a heart full of secrets?
One year ago, before Fate took a wrecking ball to his life, Nichol was happily working on his doctorate in linguistics. Now he’s hip deep in sheep, mud and collies. His late brother and mother had been well suited to life on Seacliff Farm. Nichol? Not so much.
As lambing season progresses in the teeth of an icy north wind, the last straw is the intruder Nichol catches in the barn. He says his name is Cam, and he’s on the run from a Glasgow gang. Something about the young man’s tired resignation touches Nichol deeply, and instead of giving him the business end of a shotgun, he offers Cam a blanket and a place to stay.
Somehow, Cam quickly charms his way through Nichol’s defenses and into his heart. Even his grandfather takes to the cheeky city boy, whose hard work and good head for figures help set the farm back on its feet.
As the cold Scottish springtime melts into summer, Nichol finds himself falling in love. When tragedy strikes, Cam’s resolutely held secret is finally revealed and Nichol must face the truth. He’s given his heart away, and it’s time to pay the price.
Contains explicit M/M sex and the disruption of a quiet Scottish town by a fistfight and some tight designer jeans.
Ever since I read the Men Under the Mistletoe anthology, I’ve been leery to pick up another Harper Fox book. So many people love her work and I feel like the outcast for eyeing suspiciously her writing. Then, finally, I started Scrap Metal and thought maybe I’d made a mistake. Unfortunately, the feeling didn’t last.
On the Isle of Arran west of Scotland, Nichol has been trying to cope with the loss of his brother and mother while struggling to help his grandfather to keep their farm going. It’s been a dark year and Nichol has a lot of dark thoughts. Only when he saves an intruder from being eaten by his lambs things start to change.
There’s nothing wrong with introspective, slow, character centric novels. There’s nothing wrong in long monologues of things that have happened, do happen, and might happen to affect the narrator and spark a change in him. There’s nothing wrong with this book, in theory. Execution, however, I found lacking.
I liked the start of the book and I liked observing Nichol go through the motions. I like that some changes were catalysed by simple actions and moments of self-discovery. I didn’t like the author’s reliance on superstitious signs when Nichol’s own progress was still too slight to be noted. I usually like the stories about animals bringing luck to a place or the imagined presence of loved ones passed over, but I found it grating here. It took me a long time to understand why.
It seemed like all the changes in Nichol, all the events in this book were driven by superficial deus ex machinas. He’d grieved over a year but he never really faced that grief. He was paralysed by his loss until he wasn’t. Maybe this could be explained by the distraction Cameron offered him, but then there’s the fact that Nichol’s infatuation with the stranger suddenly turned into a true love without proper development. I blame all this on the author’s stubborn insistence on keeping everything about Cameron’s past secret. Whatever titbits or lies Cameron shared, didn’t actually feature in any discussion meant to show the two men growing closer together. Knowing facts about someone isn’t the same as knowing who they are.
All this, I could have overlooked and label the book a decent three star read, but then the, er, lapse in judgement happened. There’s an accident that Nichol uses as an excuse to talk Cameron out of facing his past, which is what Cameron really wants to do. Instead of having them talk about it rationally like adults, decide to face the consequences of their individual actions together and build a shared future even if it might be delayed, Fox puts all the characters through a ridiculous would-be dangerous situation. I’m not saying there couldn’t have been that “threat” in the book, I’m saying it could have been written a hell of a lot better.
All in all, that’s my problem with Fox. While her writing is technically good and emotionally evocative, it’s also purple and utterly depthless. It’s telling instead of showing. It’s the path of minimum effort. I expect more than that from a four star (or above) rating average.