Review: Eye of the Beholder (Winterfield series) by Edward Kendrick

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Review:          3.5 stars

Eye of the BeholderPreston Davison and his friend Cary Fielding were friends in high school and then their lives took two wildly different paths.  Cary went off to college and Preston went on to become ‘The Sergeant’, a minor star in gay pornographic movies. The two kept in touch and it was Cary who finally gave Preston the push to leave the adult film company he was working for and try to start over.  But on the very night Preston quits his job, he is brutally attacked and his face destroyed by an unknown assailant.  Now afraid to go outside with his “monster” of a face, Preston lives with his friend the nurse who treated him and starts working on his own web design company, secure in the fact he will never have to meet any clients face to face. But one of his new clients has a very familiar name and soon Preston is writing to his old friend under a pen name.

Cary lives with his boyfriend, Hugh, and has tried to move on with his life after failing to find his friend after the attack.  But memories of Preston won’t go away.  Then one day, Cary’s firm decides it needs a new  website.  The designer Cary chooses only conducts their meetings online and corresponds only with email.  But something about the way this person “talks” feels so familiar to Cary….

Can Preston overcome his fears and tell Cary who he is? Unbeknownst to Cary and Preston, the person who ruined Pres’ face is still around and waiting for his chance to strike once more.  What will win out?  Fear or love?  Is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder?

I really liked this story and wavered in assigning a rating.  The true strength of this story is the character of Preston Davison, the ex porn star disfigured by a gruesome attack.  The attack happens “off stage” so we jump immediately to the aftermath and it’s devastating effect upon Preston and his life.  We are there as Preston grapples with the remnants of a face that once was beautiful and the lack of a career to land on.  I actually wished there was more of this section of the story.  What Kendrick gives us as Pres starts to pull whats left of his life together is so realistic, so heart wrenching, especially a scene in a part with a little boy, that I wanted more of his recovery.  And I wanted the payoff promised by the interaction with the young boy (more about this later). Pres is helped by his “Tabby Cat”, the nurse who cared for him in the hospital and became his friend.  I loved that character too.  Tabitha is a lovely creation, and I really enjoyed every part of her friendship with Preston.  This part of the story is a solid 4 star rating.

It’s when we turn to the other characters and elements of the story that the rating starts to waver downward.  Cary is a less substantial figure here with respect to Preston.  Cary’s present relationship is not fulfilling but he stays in it more out of habit than anything else.  I could wish for a more  forceful or lively presence here but Cary comes across as just too passive a character for this to work as well as the author had hoped.  The other part of the story that didn’t work as well for me was that the attacker was easily identifiable early on in the story. And although this didn’t really bother me,  the resolution at the end came far too easily for everyone concerned. No big denouement, no great dramatic”aha”, so it didn’t ring true considering the heinous nature of the attacks on Preston. Given the strength of the first part of this story, the last half just sort of petered out.

I did notice that this story seems to be the beginning of a series titled Winterfield which is the town they all live in so I am hoping that the boy and his brother will figure in one of the books to come.  Really, that was such a tantalizing scene and its promise has stayed with me all through the rest of the story as I kept hoping the boy would make a reappearance.  So I am still going to recommend this book with reservations.  Forget about the suspense tag and look at it as more of a romance.  I am hoping the stories that come will fill in the narrative I feel is lacking here.  Let me know what you think?  I look forward to hearing from you.

Cover by Reese Dante is nice but really doesn’t speak to the story.