Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
I’m a huge fan of Robert Winter, and I adore the universe he’s created with the Pride and Joy and Nights at Mata Hari series. Although this book is a standalone, there are a few spoilers for September, the first in the Pride and Joy series that introduced the MC of this book, Colin. Brandon and David do show up briefly in Asylum, and I was happy to hear a little more about them.
I was very impressed with the research that went into the writing of this book, and the lengths that the author and publisher went to in order to create a book as culturally sensitive accurate as this one. In today’s climate of increasing xenophobia, when it seems that all illegal immigrants are demonized, this was a story that needed to be told: one man’s escape from true persecution in Central America and his hopes for a safe and peaceful life here. It was also encouraging to read about the efforts other American citizens are making to ensure that asylum is available to people who need it. I don’t know if the author was trying to make a political statement, but I hope that this book will be an eye-opener for readers who are not aware of these stories.
The book is written from alternate points of view of both main characters. Colin comes from wealth and privilege, though he tries to avoid showy displays of it and truly doesn’t feel that he is superior to any other man just because of that accident of birth. He’s an idealist who wants to make a difference in the world, and has chosen to do so by working with a non-profit that helps illegal immigrants. Hernan is an illegal – he has been specifically targeted by a gang in El Salvador because he has witnessed a murder and because there are suspicions that he is gay. He made the harrowing journey to the US (the trip is recounted in all of its horrifying details later in the book) with the help of friends and family, and though he is managing to keep his head above water, he lives in constant fear of being discovered by both the gang, which has members all over Central and North America, and ICE.
Hernan rescued Colin from drowning when he drunkenly fell off the pier and escorted him safely home, but would not tell Colin who he was and would not accept any recompense from him for his good deed. When they met by chance again a few days later, Colin felt not just indebted to Hernan, but also attracted to him physically and emotionally. Despite Hernan’s efforts to remain anonymous, Colin eventually convinced him and his cousin (Rudy, who is a legal immigrant and another character introduced in September) to allow Colin to help him avoid exploitation and deportation. As the two men work together towards getting legal asylum for Hernan, they begin to tentatively develop a relationship; but the differences between the two men in culture, background, and experience are almost insurmountable.
I really did enjoy the book, and the author certainly made a great deal of effort to tell what went through the minds of these men as they tried to overcome both Hernan’s situation and their differences. But I never got really invested in the romance – I guess it was too much of a fairy tale (and not in the good way, since I love a well written fairy tale) for me to believe in it. How did Hernan manage to rescue the one man who was just waiting for a guy like him that he could rescue in turn? How convenient is it that Colin is not just idealistic and wealthy, but also works for the specific agency that not only makes him understand what Hernan is going through, but also is best poised to give Hernan exactly what he needs? I felt the book was trying to be either a romance or a documentary, and though the author clearly wanted it to be both, it ended up not being truly satisfying on either count.
Cover art by Dar Albert is standard for MM romance, but the cover models are pretty close to how I imagined the MCs.
Sales Links: Amazon
Kindle Edition, 1st, 430 pages
Published April 2nd 2018 by Robert Winter Books
SeriesPride and Joy #2