Rating: 5 “Frankie” Stars

Publisher: NineStar Press

Genre: Gay Mystery & Romance 

Tags: Contemporary, Addiction (Brief Mention), Domestic Abuse, Insta-Love, Mystery, HFN Romance, Interracial Couple, Self-Discovery

Length: 209 Pages

Reviewer: Cindi

Purchase At: Amazon, NineStar Press

Blurb –

Winslow Birkel is a sweet young man in his first relationship. But his boyfriend, the charming and fiery Chad Loveless, has become increasingly abusive to the point where Winslow fears for his life.

Everything changes in a single night when Winslow, fleeing yet another epic fight, goes out to a local bar and finds a sympathetic ear in a new friend, Darryn Maxwell. But when he comes home, Chad’s waiting. He’s got it in for Winslow, whom he wrongly accuses of being unfaithful.

The stormy night sends Winslow off on a journey to escape. The last thing he recalls is skidding off the road and into the river. When he awakens, he’s mysteriously in the charming seaside town of Seaspray, where people are warm and welcoming, yet their appearances and disappearances are all too inexplicable.

Back home, Darryn wonders what’s happened to the new guy he met during his first outing to the local gay bar, the Q. Darryn knows Winslow’s been abused, but he also feels he’s quickly fallen in love with Winslow.

Can Winslow and Darryn decipher their respective mysteries? Is it possible for them to reunite? Is Chad still lurking and plotting to make sure Winslow never loves anyone else? The answers to these questions await you in Seaspray, where you may, or may not, ever leave.

Review –

I’m not sure how to tag this book. It’s a contemporary story but not. The only way to explain it correctly is to give serious spoilers. I won’t be doing that. You have to read the book to understand it. If you do read it, pay close attention to everything. What may seem insignificant probably isn’t. I ended this knowing I’ll be reading it again soon to better understand certain details that were thrown out that didn’t make a lot of sense early but they did later.

I’ll start with the characters, each of which is very important to the story as a whole.

First, there’s Winslow, the main character, and Chad, his abusive longtime boyfriend. The book starts with a quick prologue that basically sets the tone of the story. The reader doesn’t know how until long into it. After a particularly violent episode with Chad, something happens and Winslow’s life as he knows it changes drastically. One minute he’s dealing with Chad’s abuse, and the next minute he’s in a town he’s never been to before. Winslow has never been to the ocean, doesn’t live anywhere near one, yet here he is suddenly waking up in a place called Seaspray that has ocean views unlike anything he’d ever imagined.

The place I found myself in was all about questions. And yet, the only word I could think of for being in this place was – serene.

He’s a little nervous at first but I wouldn’t say he’s scared. Confused, sure, but not scared. As he tries to figure out the why and how, he meets an elderly woman named Frankie who takes him into her home as if he belongs there.

I adored Frankie. She was kind, giving, trusting. She reminded me of one of my late sisters in a lot of ways.

As Winslow tries to figure out how he ended up in Seaspray, other characters are introduced, each having a chapter (or more) in their own POV.

I admit that I got confused with the random intros of new characters that seemed to have absolutely nothing to do with Winslow. Only they did. I just didn’t know that until later.

There’s Julia, an addict who was once a doting mother and wife before a back injury started her journey of addiction.

There’s Myrtle, a stray dog that Winslow takes in; with Frankie’s blessing, of course. Myrtle is special in a way I can’t say in my review.

There’s Grace, Winslow’s mother, and Jaime Ryan, a patrol officer in Seaspray.

Then we get to Darryn and his very religious mother Cora. Darryn is twenty-one (it’s actually his 21st birthday) when he meets Winslow outside of Q, a gay bar. Darryn’s in the closet so it takes a lot for him to build up the courage to even get out of his car. The meeting between Winslow and Darryn is a little confusing. Not them meeting but how they’re able to meet. That’s one of those things that’s later explained.

I despise flashbacks in books. Always have. In Seaspray not only were they necessary, but they were written brilliantly. There’s quite a bit of jumping around, but again, it makes sense later. It’s like all of a sudden everything just clicks – all the different characters, the small details that turn out to be not so small, the meeting between Darryn and Winslow, everything that happened with Chad… it all comes together. The author even allows the reader inside Chad’s head. While it didn’t change my opinion of him (by any means), it did give me a glimpse of why he may have turned out the way he did. I’m glad that wasn’t elaborated on too much. He’s not one of those characters I’d ever want to sympathize with. Learning more about his past may have had me feeling a little bad for the guy. Not for the Chad in the here and now – he was a total bastard – but the young boy who turned into that.

Seaspray reminded me in a way of some of the late great Eric Arvin’s books, most notably Woke Up In A Strange Place. In Eric’s books there were so many details thrown out that appeared to make no sense and have no connection to certain things in the story. Only they did. You just have to really think, really pay attention to what you’re reading. If you do, every single thing you’ve read will make perfect sense. That was Seaspray 100%.

It’s been a long while since I’ve read one of Rick’s books, and the above paragraph kind of explains why. He’s my favorite author and has been for years. When I sit down with a Rick R. Reed book I want to take time and truly fall into the story, get lost in it. Because of things happening in my real world, I didn’t think I could mentally do that and do the books justice in a review. For that reason, I held off, only allowing myself to read books that didn’t require much thought. I definitely don’t mean that against the other authors I’ve read. My point is that Rick’s books do, as Seaspray proves, require extra attention to every single detail or you risk missing something that’s later explained. Honestly, I’m glad Seaspray is my first one of his to pick up in a while. It’s brilliantly written and tells a very unique story.

There’s a romance of sorts between Winslow and Darryn, though that’s not the main focus of the story. And honestly, it shouldn’t be. There’s also insta-love for both of them. While it may not seem like it as Winslow makes a life of sorts in Seaspray, things really do move fast. As for Chad, the abusing bastard of a boyfriend, you can’t not hate him. Cora, Darryn’s mother, is another character I thought I’d hate. I kind of did at first but that didn’t last. All she cared about was her son and making sure he was happy.

Seaspray is a magical place that will leave you wondering if it’s real, a dream, or merely a figment of one very overactive imagination. Regardless of what it is, it’s a place I’d love to visit, maybe even sit and have a cup of tea and conversation with Frankie.

I have missed the hell out of Rick’s writing. I can’t wait to play catch up on his others I’ve missed.

If you’re looking for a typical gay romance, this isn’t it. It’s more of a story of personal growth for Winslow and his realizing that the life he had before was just a stepping stone to the one he’s meant to have. A painful stepping stone, but one that gave him strength and courage to move on to where he’s supposed to be.

I love the ending and epilogue.

A fantastic book that I’ll be rereading soon.