Book – The Garden (Lavender Shores #2)
Author – Rosalind Abel
Star rating - ★★★★★
No. of Pages – 246
Cover – Gorgeous!
POV – 1st, dual POV
Would I read it again – YES!
Genre – LGBT, Romance, Contemporary
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK FOR MY READING PLEASURE **
Reviewed for Divine Magazine
*Warnings: this story explores suicidal behaviour, therapy, an HIV scare and discussions of dangerous/harmful sexual practices. There is nothing overtly explicit, concerning these warnings, within the pages. Just be warned that these topics come up. There is also mild-BDSM related behaviour and discussions.*
Wow! This was one hot, explosive addition to the series. Beautiful, flaming hot, magical and...maybe...even better than book 1.
Now, I loved Book 1 and with all the characters that I could have asked for a book about, Lamont and Gilbert were top of my list. Gilbert got there first and I couldn't have been happier.
This book has everything you could possibly want from a novel: heat, passion, tenderness, sensuality and a family full of misfits to bring it all together. Gilbert was someone we got to know pretty well through Andrew's eyes in book 1, but getting to know him here, in his own head, was so much better. He was troubled, that much we knew, but finally finding out his story just pinpointed what a great best friend Andrew was, what a strong, amazing person Gilbert was and that the two of them together couldn't be any sweeter. Walden was the unknown; the one that had some troubles of his own in his past and remained pretty much a mystery, despite giving his POV. But, despite all of that, I felt immediately connected to him, concerned about him, hopeful for him. Both MC's were relatable in ways, yet also intriguing and different enough for me to be interested in their stories. And their chemistry? Off. The. Charts!
Again, we started with an incredible opener and, just like book 1, I have to ask who wouldn't want to keep reading, after starting off this way?
“Fresh meat. Whoever designed the gym so the Stairmasters were directly in front of the treadmills needed a raise. Like, for real. Every step the guy took made that ass clench, flex, and relax with the tiniest bounce. I wanted to fling myself off the running torture device and dive in.”
I mean, hell, who could resist that? It's absolutely everything we thought Gilbert would be, after reading book 1, but takes it to a whole next level that I can't even articulate.
I loved the fact that we know right off that Gilbert is only back in Lavender Shores for Andrew's engagement party. Heck, I love knowing that we get to see Andrew's engagement party and the wedding, in full detail, with Gilbert there to give us the skinny on every second of them. I love that the books are so neatly intertwined that you could easily read either as a standalone, but it's almost a guarantee that once you've read one, no matter which of the two, you'll be heading straight off to get the other one pronto.
I also thought it was great that we got to know and learn that Gilbert was in biweekly therapy sessions, almost right off the bat, because that was an important part of his role in book 1. After his confession to Andrew, I needed to know that he was taking proper care of himself and meeting his therapist in the first few pages was a great warning that things were on track.
Now, being Gilbert, it's no surprise that his first meeting with Walden is anonymous sex. What is great is that we get each experience in both POV's. Not a repeat of the experience from both sides, but sometimes the lead up will be in one character's POV then will follow into the next stage with the other character's POV, letting us see how they both feel about the same event, without repeating what we already know. I love that. And, despite it not being my thing normally, I actually really appreciated the way that Gilbert and Walden were so unashamedly (at times) themselves when it came to sex. Walden was a really, really greedy bottom, who could take a lot. And I mean A LOT. Yet, Gilbert was there to give him what he needed and craved, in a way that let them both have what they needed without having to experience the shame that others might make them feel. The kinky, dirty talk fitted perfectly with their personalities. Yet, I think I loved it even more than Gilbert did when Walden would manage that switch from shy, nervous and unassuming hot guy who doesn't know his own worth to the fiery, sex-god, greedy bottom who could take control. I never knew when the switch would happen and it only made things more exciting.
Despite all the hot times that Gilbert and Walden had together, I loved the moments in between more. The nerves, the confessions, the awkward silences and the slip ups. Their truths – the dark pasts they came to each other holding so close to the shame of and yet couldn't release, even after finding each other – were astoundingly perfect for who the characters were and made my heart break for them. But I can't say what they were. I could go on and on about how great they were, but I don't want to spoil some great plot secrets, so I'm going to limit myself to this:
The Garden. Once I understood what it meant, I fell in love with the concept.
Teacher. The strength that this word took on throughout the story flabbergasted me, but it was also perfect in all the wrong ways and yet gut-wrenching in all the right ones.
Levi. I kind of wanted to see Gilbert use that guillotine. Both of them. Especially after that incident with Pete!
Pete. Gosh, I never knew I could love that man so much. He was brilliant in book 1, but here he just took it to a whole new level and I broke my heart over him and Omar.
The dogs. God, the dogs. Joel's baby talk nearly killed me it was so adorable. I'm so thrilled that was added, because I really, really didn't know how much I wanted to read that until I read it.
Lamont. I don't read much MF anymore, but I seriously am intrigued by that novel of his that Walden wrote. I can't wait to see his story and for him to finally get some real recognition for his writing.
Rachel. I can't tell you who she is or what part she plays, but I have got to respect a strong woman, even if her strength comes from dealing with an asswipe that doesn't deserve her time or love.
Sweet Creature. Now, I'd never heard this Harry Styles song when it came up in the story. But, my first job after writing this review was to go listen to it and...gosh...could you get a song any more perfect for these two? It almost had me in tears all over again, just thinking about it.
I really liked that the story jumped ahead months at a time, in some places. It seems like a weird thing to say, but the fact that Walden and Gilbert had months away from each other, at times, while also not forcing us to sit through their wallowing or everyday lives was actually a genius piece of plotting. Because their times together varied in heat and length, it was great to see how varied those times could be; from snogging to holding hands to dancing and puking; nothing of it was wasted. At the same time, I loved that the times they came together usually came about because of some big family event or other. It was a great way to keep the characters of book 1 and the minor characters all involved with the story, without having them take over.
To slip away from the plot points for a moment → The writing is exquisite. It has been since book one. Every thought, every feeling, every shiver and glance that I want to experience was on the page. But it's more than that, too. It's that sense of being the character, of knowing explicitly what you want that character to do next, because you feel like you know them so well, then being happily surprised or gut-wrenchingly devastated when things don't go to plan. I felt like I was Andrew, for the entire story – watching my best friend go through this roller-coaster ride of emotions and experiences but being unable to do anything but watch, sometimes shocked, sometimes cheering them on, sometimes crying and wondering what the hell was going to happen next, because it couldn't get much worse.
Of course, I cried. Who wouldn't? You'd have to have a heart of stone or no tear ducts to not end up crying just once throughout this book. Me? I was a raging mess of hormones and I think that would be true of any Rosalind Abel book I picked up. So, this time, I'm not holding Abel responsible for the amount of tissues I needed. I'm just going to stock up before the next book comes out next month.
And, to note, this was an uncorrected proof. UNCORRECTED. Meaning there was no finalised formatting, very basic editing and that was it. Nothing professional about it. It wasn't anywhere close to being the 'finished' or published version. And you know what? There was nothing wrong with it. I saw barely three issues in the entire document. That's it. It was almost to perfection. In fact, I've read many, many finalised, professionally edited books with far more issues in the finished version than this one had in my hands. Seriously good job to Rosalind Abel for getting it into this impeccable shape, for an uncorrected proof.
Is there anything I wanted but didn't get? Maybe. I'd loved to have seen the family's reaction to the epilogue, but although that was my initial reaction, it's actually perfect the way it is. I also would have liked a little bit about Mr Fitz, maybe to give Gilbert closure, but I think that's probably me trying to wrap too many ribbons around the story. Gilbert has proven time and again that, although Lavender Shore's opinion of him sucks to experience, he's strong and man enough to live with it. So...in the end...no, there's nothing I wanted that I didn't get, because what I got was perfect. And who can beat that? Well...except for the next book. The blurb alone has me salivating and squeeing like a kid, but I can't bring myself to read the extract. Not if I can't have the whole thing to binge on. So I'll just have to wait until next month, for the next installment of Lavender Shores. My new favourite, spicy soap opera/telenovela rolled up in one.
(Disclaimed: I could easily have quoted half the book. Believe me, my notes would prove it. So, though it looks a lot, this is barely any of my highlights.)
“As beautiful and talents as he was, he was dangerous. So very, very dangerous.”
“This tiny town became nothing more than childhood fantasy. The city offered what I really needed.
And boy did it. A fresh start. A career. The love of my life. Heartbreak. Then more sex than a person is supposed to have in a lifetime. And at the bottom of it all, as I fell asleep in tears, little Lavender Shores called to me.”
“Maybe there was a back door I could escape through. Of course, I could see myself getting trapped in their yard. The Kellys were fancy enough they provavly had one of those hedge mazes complete with giant spiders and dementors.
I really needed to quit rereading Harry Potter.”
“Sex had a way of making the entire world disappear. Suffocating every hurt and fear, at least for a little while. Of making me vanish.”
“Oh my God, I really was distraught. I was thinking complimentary thoughts about Lavender Shores.”
“Time to storm the castle.
Slay the dragon.
Rescue the maiden.”
“We can both be exactly who we are and want what we want.”