Title: Sunset at Pencarrow
Authors: Lou Sylvre and Anne Barwell
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 129 Pages
At a Glance: Sunset at Pencarrow was a good attempt at a story that could have been so much stronger. In the end, it was a nice story that fell short of being a sweet, redemptive romance.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Kiwi Nathaniel Dunn is in a fighting mood, but how does a man fight Wellington’s famous fog? In the last year, Nate’s lost his longtime lover to boredom and his ten-year job to the economy. Now he’s found a golden opportunity for employment where he can even use his artistic talent, but to get the job, he has to get to Christchurch today. Heavy fog means no flight, and the ticket agent is ignoring him to fawn over a beautiful but annoying, overly polite American man.
Rusty Beaumont can deal with a canceled flight, but the pushy Kiwi at the ticket counter is making it difficult for him to stay cool. The guy rubs him all the wrong ways despite his sexy working-man look, which Rusty notices even though he’s not looking for a man to replace the fiancé who died two years ago. Yet when they’re forced to share a table at the crowded airport café, Nate reveals the kind heart behind his grumpy façade. An earthquake, sex in the bush, and visits from Nate’s belligerent ex turn a day of sightseeing into a slippery slope that just might land them in love.
Review: Sunset at Pencarrow by Lou Slyvre and Anna Barwell was a novel deliberately focused on exploring New Zealand as the backdrop to a swift moving romance between two virtual strangers. Having visited the lovely country a few years ago, I can tell you that the authors did a great job giving the armchair traveler a taste of what the Kiwis love most about their land. With beautiful, descriptive prose, the two main characters explored the lush beauty around them, and as they did, both love and healing blossomed within both men. However, the emotional connection between Rusty and Nate did not fare so well under these authors’ watchful eyes, and the story, in the end, was truly lacking some critical relational glue that would have kept this novel from falling apart.
Nate has just gotten out of a rather abusive relationship—one that we only get to scratch the surface of, but get the distinct impression that it has left Nate with his fair share of anger and self-recrimination. Now, he’s on the cusp of getting the dream job he has always wanted, and starting fresh in a new town, but the unpredictable weather has grounded his flight for the foreseeable future. Giving his frustrations full vent, he doesn’t realize another stranded passenger is also observing his temper tantrum, an American named Rusty Beaumont.
Rusty is a former military man who has been doing some work in New Zealand for the past few weeks. Now heading back home, Rusty is disgusted by the petulant display he sees unfolding, even though it stars an admittedly good-looking native Kiwi. Circumstances will bring Nate and Rusty together, but it is their common bond of refusing to allow their hearts to be broken by another man again that will seal their tentative friendship. Rusty lost the love of his life, his fiancé, suddenly, and refuses to open himself up to that kind of painful loss again. Nate is kicking himself for not realizing sooner that the man who cheated on him was nothing more than a user who verbally abused him, undermining his confidence and his trust. Two men, thrown together, explore both the lovely countryside and their tentative but real emotional responses to each other, and try to constantly remind themselves that this is just a short-term thing with no future.
Anger is the key word for this story. Nate’s frequent and irrational bursts of anger at the smallest of things often gave Rusty pause, and yet the idea of no-strings sex drew both men along. It was these moments that seemed to launch out of nowhere that made the story lurch to a stop just when the two guys seemed to be making emotional ground with each other. Nate seemed to both want Rusty to be around, and was simultaneously irritated by him and the memories their activities provoked. By the halfway point in this novel, my head was spinning, and I was questioning why Rusty was still willingly spending time with Nate. Nate’s behavior was so erratic, and often the justification for his outbursts seemed rather contrived and weak.
The second nagging plot point for me was the vague hints surrounding Rusty’s past. Apparently he not only suffers from PTSD from his tour in Afghanistan but also was absolutely gutted over the death of his fiancé. While neither event was recent, some time having passed for both, Rusty was still struggling with both emotional wrecking balls. But, other than being lightly touched upon, we never got a complete story on what happened in Rusty’s past to bring him to the place he was now. It left Rusty as a bit of a conundrum and called into question many of the decisions he made throughout the novel, beginning with why he was trusting a virtual stranger to show him the country.
So, we are left with two broken men who have what must best be described as a sexual need that trumps any kind of common sense. They share this sightseeing trip, and a bed, with more ease than I would have thought either was capable of achieving given the reality of their emotionally tumultuous pasts. Sunset at Pencarrow was a good attempt at a story that could have been so much stronger had the authors focused a bit less on the countryside and more on developing their characters. In the end, it was a nice story that fell short of being a sweet, redemptive romance.
You can buy Sunset at Pencarrow here: