Author: Scarlet Blackwell
Length: 19,591 words
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Ten years after the horror of 9/11 and the loss of his firefighter partner Justin, former NYPD cop Damon Summerfield is back in New York for Christmas with his family. Still deep in mourning with no end in sight, he visits Justin’s favourite bar near Ground Zero and there meets Simon, a member of the FDNY and fellow survivor of 9/11. Damon can’t bear to give their attraction a chance, not when he thinks Simon’s job will tear them apart someday…
Can Simon help Damon with his grief and can they build a future together?
Overcoming grief is a theme which appeals to me as a reader, but it has to be done well. There needs to be a setting aside of the past and a move into the future. Whilst I thought this book had done a good job of showing how a character can become paralysed by grief, the moving on part happened too quickly for my liking, occurring almost overnight. Mind you, it was high time that Damon did move on given that his lover died 10 years prior to the story. Maybe that was why I forgave such a quick turnaround in this case.
The story has an intense theme joining together two men who lost a loved one in the attacks of 9/11. Added to that was the fact that both men were there, along with their lover and brother, and only survived by a quirk of chance or fate – the same fate which took away the other loved one. So we have grief and a heavy dose of survivor’s guilt, especially with Damon who has chosen never to deal properly with losing Justin, and with the trauma of that terrible day. Instead he ran away to Canada to hide out and allow his grief to consume him. As the story begins, Damon has returned to NYC to visit his parents over Christmas and New Year. He visits the site of the twin towers and goes to a bar which Justin favoured. It’s here he meets Simon, who, like Justin, is a firefighter. Damon feels the first stirrings of attraction but this leads to more guilt and he tries to push Simon away. However, after accidentally meeting with him again Damon agrees to a date.
This is not an easy book to read for two reasons. Firstly, Damon is not an easy guy to like. He’s surly bordering on unpleasant and he behaves in quite a shocking manner towards Simon. This behaviour is all part of the grieving process, as his guilt and self-disgust manifest themselves in rather an abusive fashion. I had to try and look past Damon’s behaviour and see the man hurting inside. I just about managed it, but it was a close call.
Secondly, the book has some graphic descriptions of 9/11, as remembered by both Damon and Simon. I found them upsetting to read about, and I was a continent away during 9/11 and had no direct contact with the tragedy, so I’m not sure how some readers who are somehow connected with 9/11 may feel. Occasionally I did wonder whether some of the more horrific details were strictly necessary, but I could understand why some of the descriptions had been included. It was, again, part of that process of trying to grieve for Damon, and Simon too, that they shared their experiences with the reader.
This review may seem overly negative, given that I’ve given it a grade of B. But really the grade is on the strength of the writing and the fact that as a study in grief and the step towards forgiveness it worked for me. The ending is only the beginning as Damon has a long road to travel yet, but I felt happy that with Simon’s support there was a chance of recovery and that made me optimistic. This meant that overall I can recommend this story, with a note of caution for readers will be upset at the descriptions of 9/11 and find violent behaviour distressing.