“Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Be true to yourself. How you treat yourself sets the standard for how others will treat you.” – Steve Maraboli
Title: The Companion
Author: Lloyd A. Meeker
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 220 Pages
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Blurb: Shepherd Bucknam hasn’t had a lover in more than a decade and doesn’t need one.
As a Daka, he coaches men in the sacred art and mystery of sexual ecstasy all the time, and he loves his work. It’s his calling. In fact, he’s perfectly content—except for the terrors of his recurring nightmare and the ominous blood-red birthmarks on his neck. He’s convinced that together they foretell his early and violent death.
When Shepherd’s young protégé is murdered, LAPD Detective Marco Fidanza gets the case. The two men are worlds apart: Marco has fought hard for everything he’s accomplished, in sharp contrast to the apparent ease of Shepherd’s inherited wealth—but their mutual attraction is too hot for either of them to ignore.
Shepherd swears he’ll help find his protégé’s killer, but Marco warns him to stay out of it. When an influential politician is implicated, the police investigation grinds to a halt. Shepherd hires his own investigator. Marco calls it dangerous meddling. As their volatile relationship deepens, Shepherd discovers his nightmares might not relate to the future, but to the deadly legacy of a past life—a life he may have to revisit before he can fully live and love in this one.
Review: Shepherd is not just wealthy, he is rich. He is also alone, emotionally closed off, and a Daka–one who helps men find themselves, their inner peace and beauty–through a form of sexual therapy of sorts. In other words, he performs a service, becomes their guide and, in doing so, helps men who have closed themselves off to the intense ecstasy that physical release provides to fully experience it, often for the very first time. But Shepherd never gives of himself fully during those sessions. Instead, he participates to the extent of knowing satisfaction when a man has completed his journey successfully. This is more than just sex, it is a discovery, and it is most fulfilling to Shepherd…until a tragedy sets off a series of events that will alter him forever and open him up in ways ne never knew possible.
The horrific murder of his protégé and friend, Stef, brings a cop named Marco Fidanza into Shepherd’s life. Marco presents a whole new entanglement–someone who wants a commitment, a man who will not be content to allow Shepherd to merely facilitate their relationship. But Shepherd is struggling, not only with Stef’s unsolved murder, but also with a recurring nightmare of his own brutal death by a gang of thugs. What Shepherd uncovers about this dream and his connection to a past life leaves him free for the first time. Free to feel a connectedness that allows him to embrace the idea that despite the danger, he must pursue Stef’s killer even at the potential cost of his own life.
Author Lloyd A. Meeker unveils a carefully woven mystery in his novel, The Companion. However, this is secondary to what is really happening in this story. This is a tale of self-discovery and transformation. Shepherd is really on a life journey throughout most of this novel. He has blocked himself off from understanding how a past life and his own history shaped him into someone who is both fearful and withdrawn. His is in a safe and comfy world where he rarely places his heart on the line. Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the most compassionate characters you may ever read, but he is so careful to never go too far, to open himself to love, to be at one with who he is deep inside.
At this point I should mention that the novel contains a possible trigger for some. There is mention of childhood sexual abuse. However, never in this story did I feel that Shepherd condoned what was done to him, but he had made (via therapy and counseling) a truce of sorts with his past. While he did not love his abuser by any means, he allowed for the possibility that the abuse made him the Daka he is today. In other words, his ability to help others, to guide them, stemmed from his recognition of his past abuse. For me, this made sense, as we are all a composite of those things in our past; they mold and shape us to a certain extent, as they did Shepherd. I felt this topic was skillfully handled and while it did not in any way dominate the story or who Shepherd was, it was an intricate piece to the path of self-discovery and healing Shepherd had to take.
The Companion was such a beautiful story. Amidst the backdrop of a murder mystery was this story of love and healing and, in the end, peaceful acceptance. This novel takes us on one man’s journey of learning to love himself so that he can be free to love another. It is a journey you will not want to miss.
You can buy The Companion here: