Erryn reviews The Veranda (Lavender Shores Book 2) by Rosalind Abel. The audiobook was released on June 6, 2018. Narrated by Kirt Graves it is 7 hrs and 49 mins. The ebook was published by Wings of Ink Publications, August 25, 2017, 260 pages.
Why I listened to this book: I love Lavender Shores and I wanted to hear Donovan’s story.
Donovan Carlisle helps countless people in Lavender Shores with his skills as a therapist. It seems, however, that his ability to enable others to live their happiest life only works outside of himself. Donovan truly loves his life but isn’t able to find a relationship that satisfies his heart’s craving. Maybe the problem is that the only man he wants is off-limits.
Spencer Epstein came to Lavender Shores to find himself. Instead, he married one of the local town beauties. He’d thought his prayers had finally been answered. Then he met his pregnant fiancée’s brother. It turned out those answered prayers were just cruel twists of fate.
A decade later, after a divorce and the crumbling of all Spencer thought was set in stone, he sees his brother-in-law at a masquerade sex party. He takes full advantage of the anonymity and acts on the desires he’s held at bay all those years.
The problem is those silent and frenzied moments didn’t satiate anything. The fire and heat between the two men only grows as secrets are uncovered, and they must determine if the cost of their passion is too high….
Please do not ever ask me to name which Lavender Shores book is my favourite. How could I ever choose? Lavender Shores, a magical town in California, is the most gay-friendly town in America. As well as being LGBT friendly, the town is truly idyllic – almost too good to be true, but still somewhere I would love to live. It’s close enough to San Francisco for its residents to slip into the anonymity of the larger city when they need to get away from prying eyes. Donovan and Spencer encounter each other at a masque party in San Fran. With the purported anonymity of the masks, the two engage in what could only be described as a very hot encounter. At first it is unclear if the two men recognize each other.
Donovan is a member of one of the founding families of Lavender Shores and Spencer, by marrying Donovan’s half-sister Erica, has also joined the elite. Yes, you read that right. Spencer used to be married to Donovan’s sister. The couple may be divorced, but Spencer and Erica share custody of their beloved children Ethan and Emma. The kids also adore their Uncle Donovan, so if the men acknowledge the hot encounter, how will that impact their friends, families, Erica, and the children?
As a psychologist, Donovan has helped anyone in Lavender Shores with emotional problems. In fact, without any churches and with no religious confessors in sight, Donovan is the keeper of all secrets in the small town. Donovan lives a fairly staid and dull life, with only the squirrel who visits outside his window every day or so as true company. He has his favourite patients like Gilbert Bryant (from The Garden), his ex-boyfriend Paulie in San Francisco who hosts wild sex parties, and his cherished niece and nephew.
Relationships? He doesn’t have the intimate or romantic kind. When he decided to stay in Lavender Shores, he accepted that his emotional fulfillment would come from his patients and his family. Between Erica’s pregnancy with Emma and the clients who have come to rely on him, Donovan believed the town was the place he was meant to settle, and settle he did. Coming face-to-face with Erica’s fiance changed his life forever.
Spencer, the fiance, was just as poleaxed. He’d convinced himself he could be happy as a straight man, but Donovan’s appearance tossed all those notions right out the window. He decides to suppress his need for his future brother-in-law and be the husband and father he must be.
For ten years, the men suppressed their desires and strove to be as uninterested as possible – sexually. But a strong friendship has formed.
The night in San Francisco changes everything.
What makes a man a man?
Spencer has tried to work through this question his entire life. His father was a bible-thumping preacher who chose to send his effeminate son to reparative (conversion) therapy rather than just loving Spencer for who he was. Yes, Spencer was able to eliminate the girly walk and bulk-up with muscles, but religion couldn’t pray the gay out of him.
I abhor conversion therapy. If you are not familiar with the details, they are available, but suffice it to say, emotional and physical abuse is not going to make someone straight. I believe in biology and that people can be born gay or transgender. ‘Pray away the gay’ horrifies me. So even though Spencer is a fictional character, his story is repeated over and over again by the real-life girls and boys sent to these camps or therapists.
Many states and provinces and even countries are looking at banning the therapy because, at the mildest, it doesn’t work and, at the extreme, young men and women die. For the record, my city, Vancouver, just banned conversion therapy. The ban might be mostly symbolic, but it’s our way of saying we believe in protecting young men and women on the LGBT spectrum.
Donovan empathizes with Spencer’s pain and doesn’t want to increase the ache and shame. In turn, Spencer is tired of hiding his true self. He has loved Donovan all these years and now that he knows it’s reciprocated, he doesn’t want to stay in the closet for one more moment.
I spent most of the book wondering how Erica and the children would take the news. When Spencer said to Donovan, I am ‘sure of you and your love for my children,’ I felt hope.
Okay, so those little things that made the book so special? Donovan’s visit to Spencer’s office high above the San Francisco skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. I will remember that scene vividly for a long time.
I liked that Spencer had to deal with reality versus the pornography he’s seen. I worry that this new generation of teenagers watch porn and believe that this is what should happen – does happen – in the bedroom. Spencer and Donovan make love. This warmed my heart.
This is a Rosalind Abel romance so there’s a happy ending that was hard-won. Ms. Abel always has a deft touch with difficult issues. In contrast, she always provides me with moments of great humour. The opening masque theme is the meshing of two musicals. Be forewarned – if you have a favourite musical or composer, they may not get favourable treatment.
Finally, I wanted to talk about the imagery of the veranda. Each Lavender Shores book has a unique location – the garden, the palisades, the hideaway, the shipwreck, the alcove, and the glasshouse. Each has their own special couple and the veranda suits Donovan and Spencer. It’s a distinctive place where they can greet neighbours, friends, and family, watch over the children when they play, and provide the men with a special place in the world. It suits them. This is an amazing book.
I think Kirt Graves was born to narrate Rosalind Abel books. I enjoy all of his performances, but this was one of the best. I really enjoyed it.
5 stars = 10 pots of gold
Rosalind Abel grew up tending chickens alongside her sweet and faithful Chow, Lord Elgin. While her fantasy of writing novels was born during her teen years, she never would have dreamed she’d one day publish steamy romances about gorgeous men. However, sometimes life turns out better than planned.
In between crafting scorching sex scenes and helping her men find their soul mate, Rosalind enjoys cooking, collecting toys, and making the best damn scrapbooks in the world (this claim hasn’t been proven, but she’s willing to put good money on it).
She adores MM Romance and the power it has to sweep the reader away into worlds filled with passion, steam, and love. Rosalind also enjoys her collection of plot bunnies, and welcomes new fuzzy ones in her home all the time, so feel free to send any adorable ones her way.