Rating: 5 Stars

Publisher: Self Published

Genre:  Gay Romance

Tags: Mental Health Disorder/Condition, Neurodiversity, Hurt-Comfort, 

Length: 271 Pages

Reviewer: Kazza

Purchase At: amazon


When was the right time to tell someone that silver flames were shooting from their hair? And that your own tranquil green desired nothing more than to tangle with them, if only it could escape a malevolent orange flare hounding your every move?

Over-stressed businessman Charles Heyer is not like most people. With a rare medical condition that scrambles the senses, he experiences emotions as flashes of colour, giving them the power to disrupt, dismay, or delight. Alone in his over-vivid world, a devastating bereavement leaves him mentally scarred and recuperating on the picturesque French island of Ré where, through a chance encounter and a good deed, he is introduced to Florian, a flirty local salt farmer.

What with trying to protect the island salt cooperative from a corporate takeover and keeping a watchful eye on his errant grandfather, handsome Florian is not as carefree as he appears. Falling in love with this odd Englishman is as unexpected as it is welcome. Both exploring new feelings, the lazy days of summer stretch out for miles until a visitor from Charles’s London life throws their peaceful idyll into a kaleidoscope of chaos. And, all of a sudden, the island’s glorious palette of colour turns several shades darker.


Florian, who is in his mid twenties, is a salt harvester. His octogenarian grandfather, or Papi, has worked salt tiles in Loix, Île de Ré,  for fifty years. He initially set up and also ran the local co-op for fellow harvesters. Now, it’s Florian who rakes and lovingly tends their salt marshes. He also gives tours during the summer season, and they have a salt honesty box. In my opinion, they have an idyllic business.

Florian and a local policeman, Julien, are the only gay men in what is a smallish French town. Florian likes it when the tourist season comes to Loix. He has seasonal flirtations, then everyone moves on and he keeps working the tiles. He has two best friends, Jerome, who also works salt tiles and has an ongoing, sometimes tumultuous, relationship with his girlfriend, Lea, and Nico, an oyster fisherman, who the ladies seem to love but we never see any evidence of. I believe Nico’s book is next. We’ll see what happens in Oyster. The friends get together at a local bar, L’Escale, regularly. So, it’s manual work, a few drinks with friends, some sex with tourists when they’re there, but life is mostly quiet, with some fun thrown in, alongside hard, passionate work.

Thirty-nine-year-old Charles Heyer is a synaesthete, like his mother before him. He’s staying in Loix when he helps an older gentleman who seems lost. Maybe dementia? Of course this is Florian’s Papi and this is how their lives intersect. Charles couldn’t lead a more different life. He’s a London venture capitalist, currently on leave, who runs a very successful business in conjunction with his friend Marcus. His mother died 9 months, 1 week and 4 days ago, as of the beginning of Charles meeting Florian. He had a breakdown after her death, and the way she died. Charles was an only child and his father has already passed. Charles is a complex man. His synaesthesia aside, he has a major depressive disorder. Has experienced psychosis and been sectioned to a psychiatric facility, including receiving ECT,  before coming to Loix.


“I haven’t always been this way. You need to know that. My… my… mother’s death changed me.” Demolished me, razed me to the ground then stamped me into the rubble.

Because Florian has an easy going personality, is flirty, and is very easy on the eye, the tourists lap it up. Outside of having salt coursing through his veins, he has a burgeoning responsibility looming with his Papi’s dementia, add to that, a large corporation, Selco, is vying to take over the local co-op. They have a website that makes them sound like the best thing since sliced bread, but the documentation they’ve handed over is heavy going for most, let alone men who farm in time-honoured ways. They’re promising to (potentially) pay the men in the co-op a lot of money for their holdings, then the men can work for Selco. Less worries, more money. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is, but there are local men who see a nice payday.

After Florian and Charles meet, Florian is attracted to the older Englishman who has a too-formal bad French accent that intrigues him. Is he straight? Is he gay. Maybe bi? Hopefully one of the latter so Florian can play a little. Nothing more than his usual fun. But Charles is elegant and awkward, an interesting mix. He has a sad undercurrent that alerts Florian to the fact that Charles is complex as well. Also something that’s intriguing. Florian does ask and Charles does let Florian know, once trust has built, what has happened to him. But it’s hard to fully describe. So, Florian and Charles’ orbits collide in beautiful, colourful – green and silvery – intimate, complicated ways. Florian realises that this time he’s fallen. It’s not just a fling. Even after he experiences Charles’ night terrors, his somatic hallucinations. And Charles only just allows the fluid attraction of his youth to come out again. So, this is new, and he feels they might just live in two different worlds. It isn’t something that will last.

Florian doesn’t want Selco to take over something his grandfather’s generation loved, that he loves, that future generations may also love. He doesn’t like the idea of the “devil’s machines” processing his fine product, but he needs to hear what they have to say because of the strong community opinions about taking the offer. Anyway, Florian says a few words at one co-op meeting and ends up shoved into researching Selco for the co-op. He then has to address everyone concerned in a few months about what they should do, and a few loud voices already want the payday. With his Papi unwell, a business to run, and dissenting voices, Charles in the mix as well, this is a big load.

I’m not spoiling anything in saying that Charles’s skillset was always going to become handy for Florian. It’s easy to work out and that was nice.

Reading this book gave me a great appreciation for people working salt tiles. I now look at salt in a new way. Hill gives the reader information of what’s involved in working with your hands and your soul in Salt, often by intertwining sensuous moments between Florian and Charles, giving them dual POV. The sensuality of Florian and Charles’ growing intimacy is gloriously intertwined with the salt work – the colours and their comfort. Also chaos when it occurs. The beauty of the setting of Loix and Florian and Charles in it. The potential turmoil of the business side juxtaposed against the romance. It’s so, so clever.

“The fleur de sel is the purest of all the salts,” Florian murmured, his seductive low accent sending playful silver sparks fluttering across my shuttered eyelids.

I very much liked Charles. I could identify with him, not because I’m a synaesthete, but I understood the depths of his dissociation, his fears, his major depression and mood. Professionally, personally, I knew what Charles was experiencing. This was a hard read for me right now, to be completely honest. I had to take some very deep breaths to continue. It is an emotional book that plumbs the depths of a soul-deep depression. Hill doesn’t allow anything to linger for too long but the emotion is real. Charles made a decision that some might not be okay with (it’s not another person) but it’s hard to understand how someone just wants, needs, to be ‘well’, to do what they consider to be the ‘everyday’, when they aren’t ready. The mind is a tricky place, social constructs conflicting and ideas often inculcated.

What I loved:

Hill’s characterisations. It’s something that I’ve come to value and expect in her books.

The writing. The gentle moments. The darker moments. The flow of the storytelling. The emotions I experienced.

I always learn something new. I like to be educated and I find certain romance writers do just that. Hill is one of them.

Florian: I was unsure at first but he turned out to be not just a young man who likes to work, have fun, and enjoy seasonal sex. He’s so much more. He’s wonderful. Gentle. Kind. Loyal. Supportive. Compassionate. Patient. Has inner strength. For his Papi. For Charles. Even for himself. The best kind of man.

Charles: For being brave enough and strong enough to get through. It’s hard to keep on slogging sometimes. For gaining the ability to know what’s important and when he had to listen to his mind telling his body, his body telling his mind, what was best for him. Really, it felt like a work in progress by book’s end.


I’m in awe of Fearne Hill’s ability to entertain and educate and look at all walks of life and all kinds of strengths. The writing here is, once again, gorgeous. It’s romantic and lush. I love her storytelling just like I loved Florian and Charles. They are neither too little nor too much. I enjoy a hard won relationship, because long lasting relationships are a series of harmony, disharmony, and repair. That’s life. I love seeing manly qualities described and written about in ways that aren’t about alpha macho men but men who value sensitivity and support. They’re allowed to be vulnerable. Hill gives her men vulnerability. It’s important. That isn’t to say there weren’t men in the village who were difficult, because sometimes they were.

Salt is now a new favourite of mine. I hope Florian and Charles pop up throughout this series, just like Lucien and Jay in the Rossingley books. Green and silver all the way, along with good memories of buttery yellow. 5 Stars!