Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review: Paradise Found by Hunter Raines

Paradise is just an illusion . . .

Or so Philip thinks as he vacations on exotic Anguilla. He should be celebrating the end of law school and the start of his successful career, but he's tired of living a lie for his family's sake. For just one night, he lets down his guard with two men he thinks he'll never see again.

He isn't the only one with secrets. For years, Cameron Drake has suppressed his need for dominance, afraid of hurting his lover, Mark Wilder. But when Cameron's hand meets Philip's ass, there's no more pretending. Mark can't face his conflicting feelings about the ménage; does Cameron want more than Mark can give?

The three of them may have been perfect together but consequences follow them back to their real lives. Will their desire for another encounter shatter the illusions they've built to protect themselves or clear the obstacles to paradise?

Those who know me well know that reading, much less reviewing M/M novels has been a journey of discovery for me. I just hadn't come into close contact with M/M stories previously and we all know that in the past few years there have been a literary avalanche of M/M and F/F stories published and made available on ebooks. So finding this book on Net Galley was a bit of a challenge to myself to take it and read it and try to find the underlying issues that drove these characters and why this story played out as it did.

All that being said, I found these three men to be compelling characters as each was allowing deep fears to motivate them in their relationships. Obviously Cameron and Mark had moved past the fear of "coming out of the closet" and were in a committed relationship for several years. That wasn't the issue for them at all. Yet their relationship was foundering, emotional distance between them was growing, and frustration over this was almost at an unbearable level in light of the fact that they continued to love each other dearly. Perhaps a vacation--a trip to Paradise, if you will--would help to re-connect and mend whatever was slowly killing their relationship.

Phillip didn't have the luxury of having come out regarding his sexual orientation. His ultra-conservative, starchy, steel rod up the butt Father was driving him crazy with his expectations both professionally and personally. He was living a lie and he was royally tired of it!! Now he had completed his law education, taken his state boards, and was now all ready to become a productive member of his dad's law firm. But that entry into the firm also included finding a socially acceptable wife and begin a family. No gays allowed!! And Phillip had to continually live with this prohibition, the realization that owning up to his gay-ness would put him in the sewer with his dad and family. How was he to live?

Cameron and Mark decided that a "one night stand" with a stranger would bring some needed spice into their relationship and they hooked up with Phillip. But some things happened that threatened all three. And in the months that followed that night together, all three made some decisions about themselves and each other that changed the course of personal history and the nature of their relationship.

I have read some of the reviews for this book on Goodreads and I have to say that I found this novel deeply moving. I was drawn into their individual pain as well as the sense of frustration that seemed to cloud Phillip as he tried to live his life to please everyone except himself. Cameron and Mark didn't fare much better and their relationship was still headed for the dumpster if something more wasn't changed. About half way through the book I felt that the obstacles to resolution for any of them were almost insurmountable. I have to hand it to the author for managing to pull this threesome out of the deep emotional holes in which they found themselves.

This novel is really about honesty--the kind that doesn't let anyone off the hook, including one's self. All of the 12-step programs counsel that " . . . there is no recovery without honesty." And it was certainly true for these three--honesty about themselves and their own inner needs, about their willingness to be open with each other, and in Phillip's case, willingness to live to please himself rather than everyone else. Cameron and Mark needed to learn that no love, no matter how genuine and caring, can flourish and be sustained in an environment of dishonesty, driven by fear and resulting secrets. Phillip knew that his hidden life and inner needs to be himself in every way could only be sustained for so long. The constant badgering of his dad to "bring home a nice girl" could only be tolerated so long. His secret life, his hidden need, his true self could only flourish in honesty. Once he faced himself, Phillip also had to face his hidden and long suppressed his attraction--actually his love--for Cameron and Mark. In the final analysis, only honesty would do.

I really got into this book and am so glad I read it. I'm not nearly so concerned at how people live their lives and how they relate to one another as long as it is done with honesty, caring, a willingness to give more than take, and a desire for the well-being for everyone in the relationship. As I traveled the literary "journey" toward that kind of realization with these three characters was one that made this novel come alive for me and one that turned out to be so instructive for me personally. Can a heterosexual female be instructed by the fictional experiences of three homosexual males? I think so, and found that I was challenged to be more honest in my own relating to husband and family as well as good friends and colleagues. For me, this makes for a fully satisfying read. Add to that the good writing, good editing, and the work of an author who obviously knew how to put together good characters with a good plot and storyline, and you have an entertaining as well as an instructive book. The best kind, in my humble opinion.

This book was released in June, 2011 by Carina Press. I think those who like good M/M books will find this a book they don't want to miss.

1 comment:

Robin S. said...

Wow, I think you definitely "got" Hunter Raines' book. These characters are very multi-dimensional and real - but that's a trademark for this author. Great review!

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