Wednesday, October 2, 2013

REVIEW: "Illumination" by Rowan Speedwell

Illumination by Rowan Speedwell
For Ages 18+
Male/Male Romance -- Contemporary
Riptide Publishing -- September 30, 2013
Ebook, 308 pages
Received from Netgalley

Tortured Hero, Addiction, Rock Stars

Adam Craig is burned out. Lead singer of the hard rock band Black Varen, he's tired of the empty life of groupies, paparazzi, and hotel rooms. Worse, a life in the closet. After the final concert of their latest tour, he flees the after-party in pursuit of memories of lost summers and carefree days, until he passes out on the patio of a shuttered lake resort.

Miles Caldwell is a brilliant artist, tied by agoraphobia and social anxiety to his family's lodge. Alone but for his parrot, he spends his days illuminating manuscripts and hiding from the complexities of life. When he discovers Adam asleep in a deck chair, he's furious but intrigued. Adam soon charms his way into Miles' bed, and they lose themselves in a summer idyll, safe from the compromises and claims of reality.

But Adam's life, with all its demands, is waiting for him. And Miles, uncertain of Adam's true feelings, is battling demons of his own. Somehow, the man who's never home and the man who never leaves it must find the strength to fight for a future together.

"Adam Craig worked his way through the crowd in the hotel suite, champagne bottle in one hand, cigarette in the other."

I received a free copy of this book from Riptide Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I first saw Rowan Speedwell's Illumination on Netgalley, I was intrigued by the summary, mostly because it said that one of the heroes was a rock star.  I get a weird guilty pleasure from books featuring musicians of any kind so I was definitely excited to check it out.  Plus it was going to be my first Rowan Speedwell book and I've heard great things about her writing.

Well, this book went beyond my expectations!  The writing was beautiful and thought-provoking without seeming maudlin or preachy.  There were some major issues portrayed and I thought they were handled with respect and knowledge.  I love it when authors manage to surprise me and that is definitely what happened here!

Adam Craig is a rock star who, at first glance, appears to thoroughly embrace the lifestyle of the rich and famous.  But, readers quickly learn that the drinking, drug use, and excessive partying hides a man conflicted about his sexuality and what he wants to do with his future.  Miles Caldwell is a socially awkward artist who has taken refuge at his family's lakeside resort.  This is in reaction to the mental scars from surviving a tragic accident that has completely altered his personality.

These are two people who should not work as a couple, but they do from the moment they meet.  I loved their first meeting which involved a hungover Adam who ran away from his Chicago hotel room and ended up on Miles's deck.  This escalated into a sweet and steamy two week "getting to know you" session that started out awkward, but soon showed how well matched Adam and Miles are.  I'm usually not a fan of couples who fall instantly in love, but I thought it worked for this particular story.  It just felt very organic and purposeful.

Of course, things can never be easy for couples in romance novels and the big conflicts start when Adam has to go back to work in L.A.  He promises to return in a few months, but the separation causes some doubt in both of their minds.  Miles wonders what he can offer someone as lively as a rock star while Adam muses about coming out to the music world to be with the man he loves.  What I loved about this part was the fact that Rowan Speedwell emphasized that each of them has their own issues to work through in order to have a successful relationship.  There are no magic curses for either of them and I shed quite a few tears throughout this journey.

A final aspect of Illumination that I think deserves mentioning is the secondary characters who helped bring this story to life.  While the majority of the book focuses on Adam and Miles, there is some time devoted to Adam's bandmates who have differing views on his sexuality, his best friend and fake girlfriend, Miles's helpful sister, and his best friends who help him heal in their own way.  All of them felt fully developed and had a purpose which I liked.

In conclusion, I was thoroughly impressed by Rowan Speedwell's writing style, plot development, and characterization in Illumination.  I am definitely going to check out more of her work in the near future.  Highly recommended!


"Miles," he said softly,"it's not only beautiful, but it's something you made me, so it means even more.  I love you, Miles.  I think you're the first person I ever have."

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