Dana and Erryn review The Wilderness (Lavender Shores Book 8) by Rosalind Abel (Published by Wings of Ink Publications, May 30, 2018, ? pages) A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
- To read the review for The Palisade (Lavender Shores Book 1) click here.
- To read the review for The Garden (Lavender Shores Book 2) click here.
- To read the review of The Veranda (Lavender Shores Book 3) click here.
- To read the review for The Shipwreck (Lavender Shores Book 4) click here.
- To read the review of The Hideaway (Lavender Shores Book 5) click here.
- To read the review of The Glasshouse (Lavender Shores Book 6) click here.
- To read the review of The Alcove (Lavender Shores Book 7) click here.
- To read the review for The Garden Audiobook (Lavender Shores Book 2) click here.
- To read the review of The Veranda Audiobook (Lavender Shores Book 3) click here
- To read the review of The Shipwreck Audiobook (Lavender Shores Book 4) click here
Will Epstein had it all—playboy good looks, wealth and prestige, and a gorgeous fiancé to costar with him on a reality television show. But that was years ago, before he was abandoned at the altar on national television. In the aftermath, Will’s world crumbled, leaving him humiliated and lost.
Andre Rivera married his first love and lived a dream life until tragedy stepped in. His wife’s sudden death left him devastated and struggling to build a life for his young daughter. Being a pilot offers Andre a sense of freedom from Lavender Shores, but he feels trapped and unable to move forward.
A shared sense of loss fosters a surprising friendship between Will and Andre, giving them both the salvation they need. But when feelings cross the lines of friendship and secrets are revealed, Will and Andre have to confront their own fears.
Amid the gold of a Lavender Shores autumn, Will and Andre must grasp their chance at love… before it slips away.
Whenever I start a review for this series, there is always so much I want to say about what I loved, but I don’t want to go on all day. So sometimes, I miss discussing one or two things. As I looked at the title for this book, it occurred to me how much I love the titles; how they are simply a place, but one that means so much to the main characters. The Wilderness, whether it be the area around Lavender Shores, the woods in Alaska, or Washington, is a place for Andre and Will to escape. They need to escape the prying eyes, the pitying, the gossip that can happen in their small town. And sometimes they need to escape one of my favorite things about Lavender Shores – the founding families.
We met Andre’s parents in The Glasshouse, when Andre’s twin fell in love. We also met the Epsteins in The Veranda, when Will’s sister’s ex-husband fell in love with their half-brother. (Needless to say there is a bit of drama in Lavender Shores.) Most of the books, though, have been about the Bryants and the Kellys, two of the families in Lavender Shores I would love to be a part of. They might have a little craziness going on especially Robert Kelly, whose appearance in each book makes me smile. But they also have so much love. All the founding families do have some expectations of their offspring but the Epsteins and the Riveras take it to a whole new level.
Since Andre’s wife died, and after a respectable waiting time, Andre’s mother has been pushing him to fall in love and find happiness again. She probably has good intentions but her refusal to listen to what her kids really want and accept those wants makes her intimidating and not really likable. But Andre has good friends like Will and Seth to talk to, he has his daughter who he wants to be his best self for, and he has his twin who can sympathize with him when their parents drive them crazy.
Will undergoes so much character development from the first time we met him. He was a diva, at first. He thought being an Epstein made him superior but he came by that from hearing his parents saying it all the time. Years of living up to his father’s expectations have really taken root in Will, even as he yearns to be free. His humiliation of being left at the alter is something he can’t get past especially when his father won’t let him. It does take some time and forgiving Harrison and Adrian isn’t easy even as Will slowly changes. He becomes a little more humble, and he finds good friendship with Andre and Seth. His friendship with Andre is especially important until it isn’t enough anymore.
It isn’t an easy path for Will and Andre. Andre is bisexual though Will doesn’t know it. He is also not looking to fall in love again, because he doesn’t want to risk his heart. Will thinks he has no chance, and the truth is Andre did place him in the friend zone. When they are open about their feelings, Will’s love and Andre’s reluctance, things crumble and both are hurting when one of them leaves Lavender Shores. It takes a funeral for them to see each other, and then they have to work on rebuilding trust before they can form a relationship. I didn’t expect it, but these two have become one of my favorite couples of the series.
At the end of the book, I still loved Lavender Shores, but I could see a downside to the town. While there are some wonderful people in Lavender Shores there are a few judgmental busybodies who made me shake my head. I love discovering each new couple and each new place so much though, that I would probably overlook those people to still live there. There are so many possible couples I want to read about from previous books, and in this book a character really made me want a story. Will’s brother Nick left Lavender Shores and the pressures from his father to live a somewhat lonely life in Alaska. I don’t know if it’s possible he will ever come back to live in Lavender Shores, and at the risk of being a busybody with this fictional character, I need him to find his happy and I don’t think it’s him living alone.
Do I need to tell you how much I recommend this book or this series? Probably not, but I will. This is a must read series! While it’s not necessary to read the books in order, I think it can only add to the experience by starting with the first book. The audios are also great, so what are you waiting for? 🙂 Hope you enjoy.
9/10 Pots of Gold – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
I usually start my Lavender Shore reviews talking about how much I love the LGBT-friendly town. How the picturesque and welcoming fictional village not far from San Francisco is somewhere I would love to live. And all that is true. But there is another side to the town, one that I’ve only vaguely noticed until now.
There are five founding families who created the town about a hundred years ago. Their lineage can be traced down to the current residents (a family tree is included in the book), so there are certain expectations of those families. I don’t come from that type of world – there were things I was provided, but most of what I accomplished is because of who I am, not what my last name is. And, thank goodness, it isn’t Kardashian. Or Kennedy. Or Rockefeller.
I have no idea what it’s like to live under that scrutiny—to have the microscope, or in this case, camera, focused on me. Will’s disastrous almost-marriage made him a YouTube sensation, and instead of trying to move on, he has obsessed over the footage of both the calamitous event and the two sex tapes his ex-fiancé partook in. Will left town as soon as possible after the fiasco, but sometimes being an Epstein requires that he return. After a particularly trying evening, he heads down to Seth’s bar. When he spots Adrian, the man he believes stole his fiancé (although the couple only got together after the abandonment at the altar) he strikes out. Only to discover he’s made a mistake.
Andre turned back. “It’s okay. I… just thought… maybe I wouldn’t drink alone tonight.”
Andre’s wife had died a little less than a year before. Though he’d done the brotherly duty by showing up at events here and there for his twin, the man had been a recluse since Meghan’s death, nearly as much as I’d become.
Shame washed over me as he continued to rub his jaw.
Swearing and sleeping with anything that moved weren’t the only new aspects of my personality. I’d never punched anyone before. And up until my world fell apart, I wasn’t the type of guy who screamed and cursed at people either. And there I was, drunk and messy, screaming at a man… hitting a man… who not only hadn’t done anything wrong but had experienced a loss greater than my own.
“No. I’m sorry. I thought…” Well it was clear what I thought. I motioned to the bar. “Sit. Please.”
Andre shook his head. “No, I don’t want to intrude. I know that I’m… that my face is the last thing you want to see right now.”
I couldn’t hold back my laugh. “Like it matters. I see your face all the time. If not in my mind, then on my fucking phone. Might as well see it in person.”
Still he hesitated.
I swatted at Seth. “Dude, pour the three of us a round of Dalmore.”
That night is the beginning of a great friendship – all three single men being good companions – but it is Andre and Will who develop a close relationship. Not romantic or sexual, but the meeting of two men who have both experienced losses. Although losing a fiance might not be equal to losing a beloved wife both men have to face going out every day in Lavender Shores and being recognized and – worst of all – pitied. Both men have also had a strong desire to leave. Will actually does, but Andre doesn’t have that option.
“Dad? You okay?”
I smiled at her but didn’t stop moving. “We’re together, right, my little ocelote? As long as that’s true, I’ll always be okay.”
Andre’s daughter, Katniss, is everything to him. After Meghan’s tragic and sudden death, their daughter became his entire world. Katniss has cousins, an aunt and uncle, and adoring grandparents in Lavender Shores. Her entire support network is there, and Andre, especially in the early days, relied heavily on them. But he desires to strike out and be seen as something other than the widower with a young daughter. And his mother… Oh, she believes he will only be happy if he marries again. She parades a bevvy of Latinas before Andre, trying to entice him into marrying again. In fact, she says to Katniss, “Tell your father, sweetheart. You don’t want him to be alone. Maybe you’d even want a little brother or sister for your next birthday.”
Wow, I growled at the woman. Wanting your widower son to find love again is one thing. Manipulating his daughter to coerce him? Lord help me.
But Andre isn’t the only one who struggles in dealing with the expectations of founding family parents. While his mother is horrified at his twin Adrian’s choice to be a farmer, she was vaguely mollified by Andre joining the military and learning to fly. That segued nicely into his becoming a private pilot. Although he never needed to be able to escape when Meghan was alive, his ability to leave town and get away is pretty much all that is keeping him sane.
Will understands not meeting expectations. His father is, well, awful. Demanding, he is quick to criticize his children and make sure they never feel good enough. By trying to bend to his father’s dictates, Will has been perceived as “about as interesting as a cardboard paper doll and has a stick up his ass the size of a pine tree, and an arrogant pine tree at that.”
I guffawed at that description because it accurately described the Will who was first introduced in ‘The Glasshouse’. By the end of this book? Well, let’s just say I was impressed. Self-awareness is hard for anyone. Who wants to look inward and find fault? Who wants to face the fact they might never live up to their father’s expectations?
I wondered if Will could make the leap from dependent son to independent man. He is over forty, after all.
“Maybe this makes me weak or arrogant, I don’t know, but some part of me needs the affirmation, confirmation, something. I mean, it’s like out here. You know that weird question people ask, if a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound if no one’s there to hear it?” His voice grew far away. “Will it matter, my life, I mean, if no one else knows about it.”
That Andre sees the real Will is touching.
“Will Epstein, you are the most magnificent man in the world. Come ravish me under the dancing lights of heaven. Allow our spirits to connect through our eyes as you ravage my body…” He lowered his voice deeper yet. “Nay, ravage my soul as you pummel me with your velvet sword of lust.” He tugged again on my cock and then tilted his head as his voice returned to normal. “Sword of lust or velvet fucking hammer? Which do you think indicates the perfect combination of true love and a prostate pounding tool?”
I don’t want to give too much away about the scene, but the wilderness did pay a significant and unusual role in the relationship. This was a relationship that moved from acquaintance to enemy to friend to lover but it took a long time to get there. It isn’t even a slow burn, per se, more of a slow realization. Like something that’s right there and you just don’t see until presented with irrefutable evidence.
As always, the secondary characters added much to the book. That being said, the nexus of the book is the couple. They understand that they need to get their shit together before involving Katniss in whatever their relationship ends up looking like.
I did sniffle a few times (not sobbing like with some of the other books, but definitely a tear or two). Ms. Abel can hit what it feels like to be close to midlife and single. And unhappy. And wanting to make a change but not knowing how to. She imbues these doubts and worries into her characters and I can relate to that. I think most readers can.
There are more books to come and I plan to seize and devour all of them.
10/10 Pots of Gold – Compares to 5/5 Stars
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.