Title: Renewal (Dublin Virtues: Book Three)
Author: Helena Stone
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Length: 183 Pages
At a Glance: The thing I liked best about this story is how brutal and painful some of the life events were. I was thrilled with Renewal and definitely plan on putting Helena Stone on my TBR list.
Reviewed By: Taz
Blurb: When everything changes, can renewal bring redemption?
Shane Boyle left Dublin for America, burning most of his bridges, certain his future lay in Florida. When a family crisis forces him back to the city he grew up in, he knows his life will never be the same again. With his sister close to death, his mother and five-year-old nephew Danny need him not just to be around but also to be the rock they can depend on. Torn between panic about his new responsibilities and despair at his impending loss, love and a relationship are the last thing on his mind.
Chris Anderson left Australia for Dublin ten years ago with no intention of ever going back. For reasons he can’t explain, even to himself, he hasn’t been in a relationship for almost as long as he’s been in Ireland. Now thirty-five years old, he wonders what happened to his dream of a lasting bond and a family to call his own.
When Shane and Chris hook up one night in a pub, neither knows that the next day they’ll meet again, this time as colleagues in a tattoo parlour. Chris has no idea about Shane’s dodgy past and Shane can’t figure out the mountain of a man who refuses to take no for an answer. Having to reinvent his whole life is only the start of Shane’s process of renewal. Will Chris turn out to be his savior or his downfall?
Review: Renewal by Helena Stone follows Shane Boyle and Chris Anderson. Both men are somewhat damaged. Shane has moved back to Florida because his sister is dying, and he needs to take the responsibility of caring for his five-year-old nephew. He’s a man who has difficulty committing to anything, particularly men, preferring one night stands. After all, men will eventually leave him, so he may as well beat them to the chase.
Chris moved back to Ireland after discovering that he had a grandmother. His mother left him once he turned eighteen, setting him up financially, but also letting him know he was on his own. When his grandmother dies, he truly is on his own, with no one to call family. He never imagined his life would turn out that way, but at thirty-five, he finds himself still single and no closer to finding his soul mate.
This is the scenario that sets the stage for out two protagonists to meet. One steamy night brings them together and for the remainder of the book we watch them struggle to find their way to one another.
The thing I liked best about this story is how brutal and painful some of the life events were. Shane, in particular, is placed in a heartbreaking situation, losing his sister and having to take on the responsibility of father/caregiver all at once. Not only has Shane worked hard to avoid serious responsibility, like being in a relationship or taking care of another person, but he’s emotionally devastated by the loss of one of the very few people in the world he truly loved. Watching him grapple with fear and sadness was gripping and real, often raw and bringing me close to tears.
While Chris’s challenges aren’t as severe or devastating as Shane’s, he nonetheless experiences the pang of finding himself approaching middle age and not having accomplished some of the milestones he imagined he would. Disappointment and loneliness plague him, yet he manages to hold onto the hope that one day he’ll find his happy ending. As Shane works through his neuroses about connecting and letting people in, Chris is remarkably steady without allowing himself to be used as a punching bag. This element to the story was both authentic and riveting and had me turning the pages to learn what would happen next.
The other aspect of the story that drew me in was Danny, Shane’s five-year-old nephew. He is just so sweet and brave and innocent. I’m a sucker when an author does a great job of incorporating a child (or children) into a story. Watching adults put their own needs aside in order to care for young children is such a sexy and romantic thing to witness, and it shows who the characters are deep down inside, despite any actions they exhibit to the contrary. Danny is so brave and sweet, facing his mother’s death, fearing that other adults in his life will leave him. Watching Shane shift from a selfish loner to someone who knows how to put the needs of a child first is amazing. And Chris couldn’t have been a sweeter and kinder person, accepting Danny, unequivocally, as a natural part of a package deal if he wants Shane in his life. He also understands that Shane, who’s always only had to worry about himself, now fears letting someone get close to Danny if they may end up leaving.
These elements made the story a highly enjoyable book. There wasn’t a whole lot of sex or even sexual tension. The love was more emotional as were the struggles. When the sex occurred, it fit in with the plot and wasn’t added for gratification; however, if you’re looking for a piping hot, steamy read, this book does not delve into that arena as much as other erotic romances do. This is not a criticism, just an observation. You need to be in the mood to watch emotions grow and mature when you read this one. Definitely not a light read for a quick laugh or thrill.
Some of the sayings seem to be local to Ireland, so American readers unfamiliar with the vernacular should be aware of that. An example is how Shane has “burned his ships” as opposed to “burning bridges”, as we say in America, when it comes to making enemies and closing doors that could’ve have remained open to him. This is one example, but there are several throughout. I found it added to the charm of the story.
There were also certain elements to the story which were present, but not fully developed. Two such elements were the history Shane shares with two other characters in the story as well as the topic of Chris’s sexuality. As I read, I wondered what the significance of those storylines were, but never really got my answer. That said, they didn’t need to be developed in order for the story to remain robust, complete, and fulfilling. While it would’ve been interesting to see how those elements tied naturally into the larger story, I think the author was wise not to elaborate and expand on those areas. The story would’ve become too long and felt a bit clunky if she had.
Overall, I was thrilled with this book and definitely plan on putting Helena Stone on my TBR list.
You can buy Renewal here: