Marc reviews ‘The Companion’ by Lloyd A. Meeker. This book was published by Dreamspinner Press on July 22nd, 2014 and is about 220 pages long.
Why I read this book:
I was thinking about reading this book for a while now (ever since seeing the beautiful cover), but didn’t really know what to make of the book. The reviews were either very positive or very negative, but I wasn’t quite able to pin the book down and know what to expect. After meeting the very charming author at UK Meet, I decided to finally take the plunge and read the book. I was very curious and tried to go in with no expectations and an open mind. I was not prepared for the book to affect me as much as it did and join my favorites list.
2015 Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Gay Romance
Shepherd Bucknam hasn’t had a lover in more than a decade and doesn’t need one. As a Daka, he coaches men in the sacred art and mystery of sexual ecstasy all the time, and he loves his work. It’s his calling. In fact, he’s perfectly content—except for the terrors of his recurring nightmare and the ominous blood-red birthmarks on his neck. He’s convinced that together they foretell his early and violent death.
When Shepherd’s young protégé is murdered, LAPD Detective Marco Fidanza gets the case. The two men are worlds apart: Marco has fought hard for everything he’s accomplished, in sharp contrast to the apparent ease of Shepherd’s inherited wealth—but their mutual attraction is too hot for either of them to ignore.
Shepherd swears he’ll help find his protégé’s killer, but Marco warns him to stay out of it. When an influential politician is implicated, the police investigation grinds to a halt. Shepherd hires his own investigator. Marco calls it dangerous meddling. As their volatile relationship deepens, Shepherd discovers his nightmares might not relate to the future, but to the deadly legacy of a past life—a life he may have to revisit before he can fully live and love in this one.
The cover is beautiful. Not just because there is a lot of naked skin. That is sexy,sure, but the cover models also look very intimate and vulnerable and that made this cover different from most and stand out in the crowd.
I must admit that the title did not really help me to figure out what to expect from the book. After reading the story, it makes sense to me, though. It can refer to the main character’s profession (spending time with men and celebrating their body and inner beauty through intimate sexual exploration) or on a more spiritual level to souls that are connected.
This is one of those books that feel truly special. A celebration of love and intimacy between two men, a very personal murder mystery that had me at the edge of my seat and a spiritual journey in beautifully poetic words. There are many different aspects to this book, but they all connect in a very effective way and left me teary eyed and deeply touched. It is a story I won’t forget and it has joined my favorite books.
I must admit, I love reading reviews after I read a certain book to see how others reacted to it. Especially with a book that left such an impression and moved me. I had seen the ratings that were either very high or extremely low before reading it, but today I took the time to go through several friend and community reviews. I must say I am shocked and I had no idea how controversial this book seems to be.
The main character was abused by his uncle when he was a child and he spent many years of therapy with many different therapists to learn to live with what happened. This is mentioned early in the book, when he is working with his therapist on other issues he has and while abuse like that will obviously always affect a person, it is something the character has confronted and dealt with in a way that freed him. There is a twist in the story when the past is unburied, however and he tells his boyfriend about what happened to him. I agree with other reviewers that the remembered sexual abuse as child should have warrented a warning by the publisher, even if it does not take up a lot of space in the book and the character already dealt with it. The memory is vivid enough that it might be a trigger for some readers.
However, there are quotes floating around that have been taken out of context and led several reviewers, who have not read the book, to mark it as featuring consentual incest with a child or that the book would portray incest with a child as okay. Even Goodreads friends of mine. As a reviewer, I firmly believe everyone has a right to their own opinion and the scene made me very uncomfortable myself. Still, I strongly believe that those reviewers would not be able to say those things, had they actually read the book. The main character is a Daka, a sort of spiritual sex therapist. Even when he was a child, he was able to sense what his uncle wanted and tried to please him and give it to him. I think it is natural for a child to want to please an adult, especially someone from their own family and it is terrible when an adult uses that authority they have to abuse an innocent child. The fact that the character needed years of very intense therapy, mentions several times how wrong the actions of his uncle were and was glad that his uncle died, especially since he did not have anyone who kept him safe, show that neither the story no the character condone what happened to Shepherd. Personally, I’m glad that the boy or the man after years of therapy found a way to not see himself as victim and not feel shame for what happened to him. I don’t think I would ever be able to forgive such abuse, had it happened to me, even knowing the man was sick. I absolutely understand if someone does not want to read a story where child abuse is even mentioned, but calling the abuse that is remembered in this book ‘consensual incest’ is very problematic to me. The scene was hard to read, but it made sense in the context of the book, was portrayed as something terrible that happened to the character and gave me a bigger understanding of what Shepherd went through and how he became the person readers meet in the book. Just because he found a way to survive the continued sexual abuse by going along with it and felt compassion for the sick fucker who abused him, does not make what happened consensual in any way.
I am sorry for taking so much time to talk about this small, but important insight into the main character (and the author, since parts of this book, including the abuse as child are semi-autobiographical), but I felt it was important to show why I had a very different perception of the book, including the controversial scene. Quotes taken out of context can never tell the whole story.
Shepherd is beautiful and rich and his work as Daka enables him to help other men to find their inner beauty and embrace their sexuality and body.He has good friends and even though his job is something most people would not approve of, he seems content. However, while he openly shares his body with other men to help them and experiences mutual pleasure with them, he separates himself from the act. None of the guys he sleeps with ever become boyfriends or partners. And while he has friends, he still feels lonely.
He may be rich, but he grew up without a father, his mother was drunk and treated him like a beautiful pet to show off and his uncle abused him as child. He had a dark past and still has to work on issues like his strong reaction to any sort of violence. Frankly, I found it amazing that the man was as positive and open for life, even with everything that happened to him.
His strength, confidence and spirituality amazed me and I was distraught about the personal loss he suffers early in the book. There is a terrible murder and at first Shepherd is the main suspect, as he knew the victim well. This is where his journey of self-discovery and his search for justice starts. The spiritual journey went in directions I had not anticipated, but it fit well with the character. The mystery was handled realistically and maintained tension and a constant level of danger throughout the book.
Most interestingly, though, is his constantly changing relationship to the police detective who first believes him to be a murderer. There is instant and mutual attraction, but also a lot of doubt and suspicion both men have to move beyond. Shepherd and Marco are also opposites in many ways. Not just because one is a detective and the other one has sex with men who book an appointment with him. Shepherd is very spiritual and open-minded, Marco is very grounded and suspicious. Shepherd grew up ‘alone’ in a cold house and has no family left and Marco is part of a huge, close family that is extremely important to him.
Their mutual attraction is much stronger than their differences, though. They have hot sex, but the focus is always on the shared intimacy, the honesty and trust that develops between them. Somehow they really click, even though external circumstances always seem to test their relationship.
This story really resonated with me and I won’t soon forget these characters, their journeys or the beautiful, almost poetic way this book was written. ‘The Companion’ is like nothing I ever read before and I can highly recommend it.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended). Compares to 5/5 Stars.
LLOYD A. MEEKER
Amongst other things, I’ve been a minister, a janitor, a drinker, and a software developer on my way to becoming a writer. I’m a psychic empath still learning how to live in the world just the way it is. The thing is, the world is so much more than what seems generally accepted. That’s the challenge.
I’ve often thought that black holes were the intake end of stars shining into another dimension, just as the smallest voice in the heart of something familiar can call to me — an adventure waiting to pull me into wonder.
My husband and I have been together twelve years. Between us we have four children and four grandchildren. We’re based in south Florida, and work hard to keep up with the astonishing life we’ve created for ourselves.