Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
Following the sudden death of his father, Lawrence “Law” Crow must not only comfort his bereaved mother, but also find the strength to continue running the family business, a local and beloved lavender farm in the mountains of northern California. At first, consumed with his own grief and struggling to find meaning in life, Law indulges in his vices, mainly by surrendering to his sexual urges with numerous men, all in a desperate battle to forget his pain and to end the emotional turmoil tearing him apart.
But when a stunningly handsome and passionate Spanish soccer player named Garbi suddenly crosses his path, Law discovers light in the possibility of love. Does Garbi have the ability to heal Law’s shattered heart, provide him with purpose, and help him fully embrace the joy of living once again amidst the beautiful and fragrant lavender fields?
I read Xavier Axelson for the lyricism of his narrative. His words can flow with a beauty that can haunt you, surprising you with their imagery and emotions. From the synopsis, this seemed perfect for that the sort of story I’ve come to expect from this author in the past. What I found was a mixture of new and remembered.
There’s a rough, gritty side here that I wasn’t expecting. On one hand, I think it works well. Law Crow is deep within the misery of his grief over the death of his father, the hole left by his mother’s fleeing to France, and his inability to deal with it all other than have copious amounts of clinical sex. That’s exactly what we get when we aren’t getting gorgeous descriptions of the lavender fields, the house and memories. Almost, textbook anatomy sex. Maybe for some, it might have some appeal. I feel that the author was letting us know that Law was mechanically “going through the motions”. But it was too much for this reader. Not when he was also delivering this:
“Surrounded by lavender fields, the isolated farmhouse stood out against the sunburned sky. My mother, statuesque and graceful, cut a striking image amidst the swaying lavender, reminding me of a knife stuck in the earth.”
Things improve immeasurably when Garbi enters the novel. Still tons of sex, but as Law starts to recover emotionally so does the story. You might say Garbi saves both Law and Lavender. It’s not that you don’t feel for Law, adrift in his mourning. It’s that the overwhelming sex takes you away from the story in a way that distracts you and not in a good way. I get what the author was trying to do but imo it just didn’t work with this reader.
I could see and smell the fields of lavender spread out from the house. I could imagine the aroma lingering on his clothes and body. I loved Garbi and his teammates. There is so much to love here in this story. The characters and raw emotions that Axelson pulls from them and their scenes makes this story one to read, especially at the end.
The dawn broke across the fields, a sight I never grew tired of experiencing. I approached the lavender with hesitant excitement. I placed the urn on the table and undid the lid. The last knot of grief unwound from my heart, and a lightheaded joy washed over me. In my mind?s eye, I saw him whisking my mother across the wooden floors of the family room, and heard the piano.
Play the keys, Law. It’s time.
There’s so much more after that. A satisfying ending and a HFN romance amidst lavender fields. It still remains true, Xavier Axelson has a way with words that makes me want to read his stories. I can’t wait to see what stories are coming next.
Cover art by Written Ink Designs is lovely, if too purple. I get why. Lavender infuses everything about this story so why not the cover.
Published July 15th 2017 by JMS Books