Review: Isle of Wishes (Isle of Wight #2) by Sue Brown

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Isle of Wishes coverAfter the tumultuous events of the past months, life for Sam Owens and Liam Marshall is finally on track.  They are getting married and Liam’s visa issues have finally been resolved.  So Sam sends Liam back to his home in Michigan to pack up his belongings for the final move to England and married happiness with Sam.   Everything is fine until Liam stops returning Sam’s phone calls. Sam trusts Liam and their love so Sam knows that something has gone terribly wrong.

Sam intends to go to the States to look for Liam but knows he will need help and support.  So he turns to his brother, British Metropolitan police officer Paul Owens, to accompany him to Michigan.  If anyone can find Liam and get them both safely back to the Isle of Wight for their wedding its Paul Owens. Upon landing, they soon discover the trail leads to a small town in Wisconsin, outside of Milwaukee where LIam’s rental car has been found.

Once in Milwaukee, openly gay Detective Paul Owens starts investigating Liam’s disappearance and runs smack into the closeted but gorgeous Wisconsin Detective Olaf Skandik.  Olaf returned home after he left the service and joined the police force.  But the small town attitudes and close-knit community now feel restrictive, and Olaf is afraid that coming out will leave him both without a job and family.  But as Paul and Olaf start investigating Liam’s disappearance together, mutual attraction flares into something much more, shocking them both.  What happens when a casual attraction turns into love for men separated by an ocean of responsibilities?

Isle of Wishes is the second story in the Isle of Wight series and it deepens my love for these men and their families that started in The Isle of…Where?.  In that book, we first meet Sam Owens and Liam Marshall when Liam arrives on the Isle of Wight to scatter the ashes of his best friend, Alex.  Sam and Liam meet and fall in love, passionately and forever within weeks of Liam’s arrival and Sue Brown absolutely makes the reader believe in this love affair and Sam and Liam’s need for each other.  The author also surrounded this pair with a collection of characters, mostly Sam’s family, including one of his brother’s, a police officer named Paul.

Brown gave this motley, large family such depth and dimension to their characters that I fell in love with them as much as I did with Sam and Liam.  At the end of that story, we left Sam and Liam happy but starting the process of getting a residency visa for Liam and dealing with other issues.  Brown had convinced us that they were on the road to happiness but still had a journey in front of them. So naturally  I wanted the next chapter in their lives immediately.  Sigh.

Instant gratification are two words not in Sue Brown’s vocabulary, at least not in this series.  Her readers had to wait over a year to see what happened next to Sam and Liam and the Isle of Wishes gives us a startling answer.  Liam disappears to the consternation and heartbreak of Sam and fans of this series.  I love that element of Sue Brown’s stories where items that appear to be safe and straightforward are actually deceptively complicated, whether it is  relationships, sexuality, or even a trip home to finish packing and move.  Nothing works out as planned because life doesn’t function that way and Sue Brown’s stories are most definitely grounded in reality.

That’s why I can accept a casual attraction turning into something deeper, not yet love but greater than just a flirtation and hookup.  It’s also the reason why the cause behind Liam’s disappearance is so plausible as well.  I often find myself nodding in agreement with something I am reading in her stories because its recognizably familiar and human.  This also applies to her characters, whose problems and outlooks reflect our own.

Olaf is that man who finds himself torn between family and job he loves and his sexuality.  Olaf has hidden his sexuality for years and now it has become deeply ingrained to hide his attraction to men.  Given small town attitudes, especially in his town’s law enforcement, Olaf is well aware of what coming out would cost him, his job and his family.  Until Olaf meets the outwardly gay Paul, he has never questioned his decision to remain firmly in the closet.  Then Paul and Sam arrive looking for Liam and Olaf’s life is turned upside down.

Brown makes Olaf’s decisions understandable even as the heat between the men flares white hot.  It’s painful, its frustrating and it feels so real to watch Olaf and Paul work through what they mean to each other even as they follow the leads in Liam’s disappearance.  Paul is a great character too.  Paul is home is in his sexuality.  He is great at his job, loves his family and is astonished at his feelings towards Olaf.  We get it that both men have a hard time believing that their feelings for each other are real given the time frame and situation they are operating in. Sam is there too for every agonizing minute that Liam is gone.  Trust me when I say your heart will be sore but not broken by the end of this story.

And that is primarily why I have not given Isle of Wishes 5 stars.  There are many loose ends left fluttering about at the end of this story, intentionally so.  We do get part of a happy ending and a something more but the author is laying her groundwork for the next installment.  And while I respect that, I do wish it had been pulled together a tiny bit more instead of a surfeit of questions and possibilities.

Still this is a deeply wonderful story.  The writing is crisp and the plot complicated enough to let the romance shine through without obscuring all the other great elements here.  And of course, there are those marvelous characters that we have come to love and who form the  basis and structure for this series.  I don’t think I can place one above the other, they are all so intertwined that separating them out actually would lessen the impact of the story. The Owens family, those by blood and those they adopt are a force to be reckoned with and I love them all equally.

So, what is in the future for this series? Well, per Sue Brown, book 3, Isle of Walls, will be out in May next year. It directly follows on from Isle of Wishes, and although it’s based on Nibs and Wig, it will tell more of Paul and Olaf’s story. Then she has a new series planned with Olaf and Paul, which will start next year.  So many stories to look forward to.  I know I will spend some of the time rereading the first two books while waiting for next spring and the arrival of Isle of Walls.

If you are new to this series, go back to the first story, Isle of….Where?(Isle of Wight #1).  It’s necessary in order to fully understand all the people and relationships to follow.  For no matter where this series goes, the heart of it remains on the Isle of Wight and the incredibly addicting Owens family. Consider this book and this series highly recommended.

Books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events that occur:

The Isle of… Where? (Isle of Wight #1)
Isle of Wishes (Isle of Wight #2)

Book Details:

ebook, 242 pages
Published August 19th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1627980776 (ISBN13: 9781627980777)
edition language English
series Isle of Wight

And I Saw A Sea of Squirrels….and the Week Ahead in Reviews!

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And Then I Saw A Sea of Squirrels……grey squirrel drawing

Its fall and my patio and lawns are full of nature’s bounty, aka nuts.  Lots and lots of nuts and therefore lots and lots of squirrels (and deer but that’s for another story from this park naturalist).   This year is a high cycle year so all the oaks, hickories, and beech trees in my backyard were groaning under the weight of the nuts they bore.  And have now loosed them upon every surface available, turning every spare inch into a prickly hulled,DSCN4046 brown blanket or a mosaic of shiny hard bits and pieces of acorns to go along with the prickly hulls of the beech nut.  Of course the green golf balls of the black walnut are dropping too, sounding like hail during the worst of storms.

And my dogs hate this.

I don’t blame them.  Those prickly little bits and pieces hurt the pads of their paws, jagged hulls of shells courtesy of sharp squirrel teeth are just the right size to work themselves between the pads and wedging themselves firmly to great pain and discomfort.  No amount of sweeping is stopping the tide.  It’s relentless, a constant cacophony of sound followed by a carpet of discarded husks.DSCN4053

I think most people don’t realize that nuts are cyclical.  That each year the harvest is that much greater than the year before with the various animal populations that depend upon them for food expanding along with them.   And then the year that follows the one with the biggest yield is all but barren.  No nuts, or at least very little.  People start reporting seeing skinny or starving animals.  And they reason that such a thing helps to keep populations down.  And certainly that is true for the present day.  But not always.

Did you know people once saw seas of squirrels as they migrated through?

Yes, Eastern gray squirrels used to migrate, following the cycles of the oaks, and hickories and other nut bearing trees.  Back when the midwestern and eastern forests were one contiguous mass of forest.  Back before we started to carve out our settlements, and farms and cities. Back when there were only small farmsteads and villages that dotted the forests, tiny punctuation marks of humanity.

Then the animals lived much different lives than they do today.

One of my college professors,  Dr. Vagn Flyger wrote a report for the University of Maryland on a squirrel migration as recent as 1968.  Oh, how he loved squirrels and imparted that love to his students!  And this recent migration, from Vermont to Georgia, fascinated him.  You can read it here.  But even more fascinating are the earlier account of waves of squirrels so massive that it took days before the end of the hoard could be seen.  Or as Robert Kennicott in his article “The Quadrupeds of Illinois” in The Annual Report of the Commissioner of gray squirrelPatents for 1846 stated  “it took a month for the mess of squirrels to pass through the area.”*

Just imagine what that must have looked like! Tens of thousands, perhaps millions of squirrels following the wild harvest through the vast forest of the midwest and east, flowing like a grey furred river, leaping and bounding over every surface as they passed their way through the immediate area.   Here is another quote (from that  *same article ):

*In 1811, Charles Joseph Labrobe wrote in The Rambler in North America of a vast squirrel migration that autumn in Ohio: “A countless multitude of squirrels, obeying some great and universal impulse, which none can know but the Spirit that gave them being, left their reckless and gambolling life, and their ancient places of retreat in the north, and were seen pressing forward by tens of thousands in a deep and sober phalanx to the South …”

No longer.

We still have them migrate occasionally.  The last reported one was likely 1998 in Arkansas but nothing like the vast migrations of the past.  And how can they with no massive forest or massive stands of trees, following the bounty of nuts and seeds as the cycles demanded?  Like the beaver before them, we have changed their natural history and lost something special in return.

Now the Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is regarded as a cute backyard dweller or bird seed eating pest.  They get into attics or gnaw on wires.  We are amused by them, infuriated by them, and in some cases regarding bird feeders outsmarted by them.  They throw nuts at my dogs and tease them unmercifully and I laugh, of course.  They are a constant in my yard and a source of food for my owls and hawks.  They are as familiar to me as my wrens and woodpeckers…and my life would be poorer without them.

But once they moved across the land in rivers of energy and gray fur, millions of them covering the landscape and making people stop in their tracks, marveling to see such a sight.  Just once I wish I could have been there, standing beside those folks so I too could have said “and then I saw a sea of squirrels…”.

The Migration of the Grey Squirrels

by William Howitt

When in my youth I traveled
Throughout each north country,
Many a strange thing did I hear,
And many a strange thing to see.

But nothing was there pleased me more
Than when, in autumn brown,
I came, in the depths of the pathless woods,
To the grey squirrels’ town.

There were hundreds that in the hollow boles
Of the old, old trees did dwell,
And laid up store, hard by their door,
Of the sweet mast as it fell.

But soon the hungry wild swine came,
And with thievish snouts dug up
Their buried treasure, and left them not
So much as an acorn cup.

Then did they chatter in angry mood,
And one and all decree,
Into the forests of rich stone-pine
Over hill and dale to flee.

Over hill and dale, over hill and dale,
For many a league they went,
Like a troop of undaunted travelers
Governed by one consent.

But the hawk and the eagle, and peering owl,
Did dreadfully pursue;
When lo! to cut off their pilgrimage,
A broad stream lay in view.

But then did each wondrous creature show
His cunning and bravery;
With a piece of the pine-bark in his mouth,
Unto the stream came he;

And boldly his little bark he launched,
Without the least delay;
His busy tail was his upright sail,
And he merrily steered away.

Never was there a lovelier sight
Than that grey squirrels’ fleet;
And with anxious eyes I watched to see
What fortune it would meet.

Soon had they reached the rough mild-stream,
And ever and anon
I grieved to behold some bark wrecked,
And its little steersman gone.

But the main fleet stoutly held across;
I saw them leap to shore;
They entered the woods with a cry of joy,
For their perilous march was o’er.

Now for the Week Ahead in Reviews (and  Autumn Sedum in my garden):DSCN4051

Monday, Sept. 30:         Sonata by A.F. Henley

Tuesday, Oct. 1:              September Summary of Reviews

Wed., October 2:            Goblins by Melanie Tushmore

Thurs., October 3:         Dominant Predator by S.A. McAuley

Friday, October 4:         The Isle of Wishes by Sue Brown

Sat., October 5:               Knightmare (City Knight #2) by T.A. Webb