Rating: 4 stars out of 5:
Decades earlier a tragic accident separated two men who were always meant to be together. Now the ghost of the man that died makes one more effort to bring the men he loved together as they were always meant to be.
Clayton Merk, accomplished, yet arrogant, businessman, has a reputation for one-night stands and being steadfastly anti-relationship, life choices that stem from a traumatic loss in high school. When he decides to return home—to the root of all his problems—he brings a co-worker with him as a buffer against the past. Even though he’s ready to lay old ghosts to rest, he certainly didn’t expect a literal ghost to lend a hand.
Brad Jorgensen, Clay’s former best friend, has also clung to the past in an unhealthy way. When Brad’s brother died in that car accident, he lost not only his brother but any chance he had to get together with Clay, the boy he secretly loved. Now Brad holds Clay responsible for everything that has gone wrong with his life, not the least of which is his cousin’s death decades earlier. At one time they’d been closer than brothers, but blame and anger are powerful weapons of destruction, and they’ve left Brad in a wasteland of self-doubt, hatred, and loneliness.
For decades Clay and Brad have remained apart, separated by loss, anger, bitterness and guilt. The ghost at the heart of the problem has had enough. Bobby isn’t pleased with his cousin or his ex. Their refusal to let go of the past has kept him on a plane where he doesn’t belong and isn’t at home. He’s expended all his energy trying to get through to Brad, without success, but Clay’s return finally gives him a foot in the door…or out the door.
If he could just get the two stubborn men together.
I have loved ghost stories since I was a child and when combined with romance, they prove downright irresistible. In Heart of Clay, Lee Brazil takes this trope and gives it his own twist by taking these two men decades past the accident that caused Bobby’s death and the schism in their lives. Heart of Clay by Lee Brazil opens with Clay, a successful businessman, returning home to the farm he grew up on with his grandparents. So powerful and traumatic are the memories he has of his time growing up there (and the strong bonds he built with the Jorgensen brothers from the farm next door), that Clay has stayed away rather than deal with his memories and issues. Clay even brings along his assistant as a buffer although the man has other ideas about the trip. Brazil makes us understand Clay, the shallow life he’s been leading and the importance of the farm, and grandparents to his formative years and well being. Clay is clearly someone stuck in a pattern that not even he likes but the past is holding him there and he doesn’t know how to move forward.
Like two halves of the same whole, Clay’s arrival home after all this time sets off sparks everywhere, including next door, where Brad is still farming his family’s land. Brad’s life is just as dry of life as Clay’s, albeit in another drastic manner. If Clay’s life is a constant revolving door of anonymous men and no commitment, Brad’s has been one of alcohol abuse, anger and guilt. The author is able to make Brad’s pain visceral as well as his deep love for the man he blames for his brother’s death.
Little by little, their combined past, happy and traumatic, is revealed to the reader. We get to “see” it from several perspectives, the idyllic life all three boys lead, their strong bond, and, for one, the feelings he kept hidden from the other two. And then, of course, we have Bobby, our frustrated ghost. Bobby’s just as stuck as the other two, all three lives shattered by one awful decision.
Bobby is just as real a character as the other two men, however ghostly he might be. His frustration and pain balanced by his continuing love for Clay and his brother, Brad. He’s a great character and I only wish I had a little bit more of his life before it was ended.
It’s easy to understand how one moment, one bad decision can obliterate three lives, especially the one that caused Bobby’s death. Equally, the reader will recognize someone wanting to fix the blame somewhere, anywhere than accept the situation as it really occurred. Brazil offers lots of small truths in this story and that makes Heart of Clay feel familiar and layered.
If I had a quibble with this story, it would be that I wish sections had been enlarged with more memories, more of each man’s life in the interim. There is a wealth of back history here, and the parts that we see are so intriguing that it makes us want to know more. And Bobby’s hauntings? More scenes of those as well. Bobby’s cuts quite the supernatural presence here.
I so enjoyed Heart of Clay and think you will too. Love romance with a mixture of the otherworldly? Love the idea of ghosts and a little supernatural matchmaking? Pick up Heart of Clay by Lee Brazil, I absolutely recommend it.
Cover art by Laura Harner. It’s a nice cover but I could have used a little more of the supernatural element whether it was in the color or design.
Published April 1st 2015 by Smashwords Edition