Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
After 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)