Review: Isle of Waves (Isle of Wight, #3) by Sue Brown

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Isle of Waves coverThrough the many years that they have been together, Wig Tobias and Nibs Tyler’s relationship has been tested and strained but it has always endured.  But then they had never had a year like the past year.  Since new owners took over the restaurant next to theirs, they have made Wig and Nibs life a living hell.  The reason?  Wig and Nibs wouldn’t sell them their beloved restaurant, The Blue Lagoon, which they have  had for as long as they have been together.  Now Nibs and Wig are harassed daily, anonymous flyers are posted everywhere with homophobic taunts and innuendos, and they feel helpless as they watch their customers dwindle and their restaurant fail.

Then the worst happens.  Upon returning from Sam and Liam’s wedding, Wig and Nibs find their restaurant has been vandalized, and the local police seem as reluctant to investigate this as they did all the other problems.  Demoralized, Wig and Nibs are about to give up their dream until all their friends,  Paul and Olaf, Liam and Sam, and the whole Owens family come to help Wig and Nibs in their time of need.  But will that be enough?  Paul and Olaf have their own problems and Nibs is hiding something from Wig too.

As a gale force storm bears down on the island and The Blue Lagoon Restaurant, that just might be the end of it all unless everyone pulls together to find the culprits behind the destruction as well as the strength to go on together in friendship and love.

 

I found this wonderful series and its author, Sue Brown, by the first book in the series, The Isle of… Where? (Isle of Wight #1).  There the author brought us to the indescribably lovely location of the Isle of Wight and the big hearted, gregarious Owens family and those that they love.  First up as a couple on their way to romance, is Sam Owens, a genial, large hearted man who loves his island and his family.  In desperate need of Sam and the Owens is Liam Marshall, who arrives at the island with an urn carrying his best friend’s ashes and a final wish to have those ashes thrown off the pier near town.  Liam is depressed and grief has immobilized him to the point that he can not act on his friend’s wishes.  Sam comes to Liam’s rescue, and then Liam comes to Sam’s.  It was a remarkable journey for both men as well as for the reader.  Between Sam and Liam and the entire Owen’s clan, they managed to engage the reader’s emotions while allowing us enough distance that we could still appreciate the location and the other characters Brown created for the story and series. My only issue was that the story ended a little unresolved, with questions about Liam’s visa up in the air.

With the second story, I learned that each new book will pick up exactly where the previous one will leave off, with the answers to the questions left hanging in the preceding tale. Isle of Wishes (Isle of Wight, #2) is both a mystery and a tale of two romances.  How I loved that book.  Liam is missing and Sam needs to find him and bring him home to the Isle of Wight.  That’s both a romance and  the first mystery here.  Helping Sam is his police inspector brother, Paul.  Paul is bisexual and never met a person he didn’t want to bed.  So who does Brown create for Paul?  Wisconsin Detective Olaf Skandik, a closeted mountain of a man who helps Paul and Sam find out what happened to Liam. Olaf works for a bigoted sheriff in a conservative small town, not exactly a conducive atmosphere for an out and proud English inspector to be attracted to the quiet Olaf. So, of course, while helping Sam  Olaf and Paul fall in lust and maybe love with each other.  More, many more problems ensue to our frustration and delight.

What problems?  The same problems Liam and Sam had or that any couple from two different nationalities would have when trying to live on the same continent.  There are realistic visa issues and citizenship hurdles and most of them are bogged down in the type of bureaucratic paperwork and regulations that can make this an impossibility.  That works out to be as much of a roadblock as any regular mystery found here.  This is a thread that works itself through all the stories and rightly so.  It makes the path to love and HEA messy, authentic, and always in doubt.  While the couples may fall for each other quickly, that they can remain together is never certain.

Sue Brown gets that love and romance is an iffy, questionable affair.  It doesn’t matter if the relationship is recent or well established.  If pressed hard enough, stressed to the maximum by outside pressures and lack of communication, not even the deepest of loves might survive under those conditions.  That’s where the Isle of Waves starts, at a relationship breaking point and an established couple, Nibs and Wig, who have been a constant, loving presence throughout the first two stories.  An older, long established gay couple, they have been the support for Liam and Sam and many others throughout the years.  Now it’s their relationship and their livelihood in danger.  And now Wig and Nibs are the ones in need of love and support and maybe even policework from Paul and Olaf when the local constabulary ignores their problems because of their homosexuality.

That’s kind of a stunning element here and probably a very realistic one as well.  Up until now, the Isle of Wight has seemed relatively accepting of homosexuality with the exception of a certain confectionary making couple.  But Wig and Nibs and Sam handled them easily.  Now with the revelations from Wig and Nibs about the harassment and hate crimes committed against them during the past year out in the open, we start to see the community and the Isle in a different and less idealized light.  It’s heartbreaking and painful and authentic in every way.

Brown never lets her couples and their relationships get off easy.  With all their years together, Wig and Nibs are quietly breaking down under the pressure of losing everything they have worked so hard to build, and that just might include each other if they can’t start talking about the issues facing them.  Both want to protect the other but at what cost?  Those types of questions and situations feel as real as the people that make up this couple.  Earthy, preening, stolid, sexy, stubborn…Wig and Nibs are totally human and wonderfully so.  They engage our emotions and our hearts as they struggle to stay together and keep their restaurant afloat.

And they aren’t the only couple facing overwhelming obstacles here.  Paul and Olaf arrived on the island for Sam and Liam’s wedding but Olaf can’t stay and Paul can’t leave to return to the U.S. with him.  Both have jobs and lives in different countries.  Do they have a future together and how will it even be possible?  Even as they work to help Wig and Nibs, Brown throws up barriers to a future together even as she breaks down others to show us how much these men love each other and deserve to stay together.  Do we have a resolution where Olaf and Paul are concerned?  No, we don’t.  Nor should we.  It took Sam and Liam several stories to pull it together.  I expect no less for Paul and Olaf.

When last I corresponded with Sue Brown, she indicated that there will be a new series for Paul and Olaf.  I can’t wait to see what she has in store for them.  Brown has a  way of creating characters and situations that burrow under your skin and into your heart.  It becomes almost impossible to keep your emotional distance from these men and their complex romances.  Your affections become engaged from the start and stay that way through every hurdle, all the bureaucratic tape, and relationship barriers thrown up against them.  And each new story feeds your need to have more, know more…about what’s coming and how they will handle it together. Or not.

I highly recommend this story and the entire series.  Start at the beginning of course, if you are new to the Isle of Wight series and the men and families at its heart.  I believe you will come to love them as I do.  Get cracking!  We have a lot more to come and I couldn’t be happier about it!

Cover artist is L.C. Chase. Chase are does a wonderful  job of conveying the men, story, and setting in one beautiful cover.

Buy links:     Dreamspinner Press       ARe          Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Published May 16th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published May 15th 2014)
ISBN 1627989528 (ISBN13: 9781627989527)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store
seriesIsle of Wight #3

 Series: Books in the Isle of Wight series in the order they were written and should be read are:

The Isle of… Where? (Isle of Wight, #1)
Isle of Wishes (Isle of Wight, #2)
Isle of Waves (Isle of Wight, #3)

 

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