Title: The Garden (Lavender Shores: Book Two)
Author: Rosalind Abel
Length: 267 Pages
Category: Contemporary Romance
At a Glance: The journey is the story here, and it is well worth taking to watch these men change and grow to believe in themselves.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Beautiful Gilbert Bryant designs jewelry for the rich and famous, and he made his escape from his gossipy little hometown of Lavender Shores. However, with so many friends and family, he keeps getting pulled back. When he attends his best friend’s engagement party, Gilbert can’t help but sample one of the new men in town. It’s just some innocent—or not so innocent—fun. Nothing that will even cross his mind once he gets back to his everyday life.
Walden Thompson dreamed about living in Lavender Shores since he visited as a child. He finally gets his chance, and he embraces the opportunity to start over, to become someone new. He leaves both hurts and dangerous habits in the past, where they belong. When Gilbert crosses his path, Walden gives in to his baser instincts. He can indulge in the carnal pleasures this once and still be okay.
Their few hours together haunt Gilbert, the two-hundred-mile buffer from home no longer shutting out the past or the sexy man he left behind. Walden is just beginning to recover from the smoldering encounter with Gilbert when they are thrust together once more. This time, neither of them can walk away, no matter how hard they try. But when their pasts crash into each other as surely as the magnetism that pulls them together, walking away may be the only option.
Review: Author Rosalind Abel has released the second installment of her Lavender Shores series, and it picks up closely on the heels of the first. This foray into the idyllic town focuses on its renegade son, Gilbert Bryant. Those familiar with the first novel will recall that there are founding families in this series, one being Gilbert’s and the other being his best friend Andrew’s, whose wedding Gilbert is back in town to attend. But there is a secret hidden in the reason for Gilbert’s absence from his home—and his desire to never return. While he visits occasionally, his home is outside the town and that is the way he prefers it. With anger and sarcasm, he deflects the stares and comments he gets from long-standing town members, and keeps his appearances in the Shores brief. On one such visit, he eyes up a gorgeous hunk of man at the gym and decides to have a go at a one-night-stand with him. What he doesn’t count on is having anything other than a one-time fling with the handsome Walden Thompson, especially after finding out he is a local high school teacher.
Walden has always wanted to live in Lavender Shores. He has finally realized his dream, and now owns a small cottage where he can pour all his passion and his broken heart into creating a garden that will be his private oasis. He was betrayed by a controlling lover, after a two year relationship, and is trying to recover from losing what he is sure was the love of his life. But that love was toxic and built on lies, and it, along with his own shameful past, has prompted a vow of celibacy—a vow that is shattered when he sees Gilbert Bryant. Now the two men must evade both their deepening feelings and their well kept secrets, or risk exposing themselves to each other, which both believe will end any chance of developing something more.
I was so happy to see that this installment, The Garden, would focus on Gilbert and his back-story. I was intrigued by this character when he was first introduced in the former novel, as he was one that didn’t seem to be drinking the kool-aid when it came to the idea that Lavender Shores was some magical paradise. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of a town where LGBT+ folk are readily accepted in a specifically planned community is not a bad one. In fact, there are many such towns scattered across the globe, but I loved the idea that someone wasn’t as thrilled as the rest of the population about living there. I also enjoyed his rough sarcasm and humor that obviously hid a world of pain, and that is fully dissected in this new story.
Perhaps what works best in this book was the mutual feelings between Walden and Gilbert and that they both had pasts that would never allow for forgiveness—not by themselves or a person they might come to love. In their own way, these men were almost self-destructing, hell bent on a trajectory that had changed their lives forever and yet, the idea that they could never recover from their mistakes was a wrong one. The novel spent a great deal of time working through their misconceptions. So while there initial meetings were sexual, the buildup toward something more was almost gradual, even though it seemed to arrive swiftly due to the story skipping through months at a time. I never felt cheated by that, however. Instead, it seemed to really work for this particular plot, and made it feel as though each step taken, particularly by Gilbert, was well thought out.
Be warned: In many good ways, The Garden is not just a sexual romp with insta-love overtones between two wounded men. If you are looking for an easy read, this will not necessarily fill that bill. Instead, we watch the two of them work through a great deal of baggage, and keep coming to the same conclusion—maybe it was time to give happiness a chance. The journey is the story here, and it is well worth taking to watch these men change and grow to believe in themselves. Is Lavender Shores still too magical a place for my liking? Yes, I find it a bit too much, at times, but in this second book, author Rosalind Able gives her tiny hamlet some teeth, and it is just the right amount to make us realize that home is the place you create within yourself and, hopefully, in one you find to love, not just a locale.
You can buy The Garden here: