Summary Review: If you love adventure, if you want to read a story that will enchant and excite you, if you hunger for wonderfully flawed characters with whom you will fall in love, and a location that reeks of atmosphere, Driftwood serves up all this and more, in spades.
What the tide washes in, the past can sweep away.
All Dr. Tom Penrose wants is his old life back. He’s home in Cornwall after a hellish tour of duty in Afghanistan, but while the village is the same, he isn’t. His grip on his control is fragile, and it slips dangerously when Flynn Summers explodes into his life. The vision in tight neoprene nearly wipes them both out in a surfing mishap—and shatters Tom’s lonely peace.
Flynn is a crash-and-burn in progress, one of only two survivors of a devastating rescue helicopter crash that killed his crew. His carefree charm is merely a cover for the messed-up soul within. The sparks between him and Tom are the first light he’s seen in a long, dark tunnel of self-recrimination, which includes living in sexual thrall to fellow crash survivor and former co-pilot, Robert.
As their attraction burns through spring and into summer, Tom must confront not only his own shadows, but Flynn’s—before the past rises up to swallow his lover whole.
I’m sitting here with mixed emotions, after having just finished reading Driftwood which moved me beyond words, something that rarely happens. When I read Life After Joe which I absolutely loved, I knew that Harper Fox was a talented writer and I anticipated that she would continue to grow and her skill would improve. What I didn’t expect was to be blown away by the phenomenal ride she served up in Driftwood which is set in the wild, untamed coast of Cornwall in the United Kingdom. This story is so different from her first book it’s like night and day. The wonderful prose and heartbreaking emotions that drew me into Life After Joe are evident, but the similarities end there as Driftwood literally took my breath away.
Tom Penrose is the local doctor in a small Cornish village, the same place where he grew up. He is trying to cope with the effects of PTSD after serving three terms in Afghanistan and losing his lover in the war. He lives in a converted watchtower or lighthouse with his wolfhound Belle, and occasionally, when he can’t bear the nightmares any more, he gives in to his alcoholic tendencies and goes on a binge. One morning when he was out walking Belle along the coast he saw a man riding the perfect wave recklessly, who then wiped out and disappeared from sight. Since as a doctor he couldn’t stand by and see him drown, he jumped into the raging currents to rescue the surfer who seemed to have a death wish that ended up almost taking both their lives. That man was Lieutenant Flynn Summers, a former Sea King rescue helicopter pilot. When Tom got over his anger they chatted a bit after their horrific ordeal, and it was apparent that they were attracted to each other.
Tom never expected to see Flynn again, but a few days later there was another chance meeting when he was at a local air show where there was a display of the Sea King helicopters. Flynn was there, of course, and invited him to have a drink that evening at a nearby pub. Tom couldn’t resist the opportunity to see Flynn and showed up. Flynn was very happy to see him, but someone else was not pleased and made his displeasure known by picking a fight with Tom. Robert Tremaine was Flynn’s lover and former co-pilot on a flight piloted by Flynn where 6 of his teammates had died. The accident was ruled pilot error and Flynn was no longer allowed to fly, although he was still part of Search & Rescue. His new job was called a “tea bag” – i.e. he rescued people by being winched into the sea at the end of a rope from a helicopter. Robert had rescued and taken care of Flynn after the accident and paid for expensive medical treatments during his convalescence. Now he felt that he owned Flynn and he was not going to let anyone else have him.
The attraction between Tom and Flynn would not be denied and they spent that night at the lighthouse. The sex was unbelievably tender, poignant, erotic and emotional. Here’s a bit of the prose from one scene:
God, Flynn tasted of sea salt. He was so warm. He reached up and placed a hand on Thomas’s shoulder—an open hand, no restraint, just a palm circling his clavicle, tenderly round and round the protuberant bone, even when its fingers closed, no restraint. And so the choice was Thomas’s, when the hundred reasons why he shouldn’t flickered like sheet-lightning through his mind and he leaned hungrily forward anyway, into Flynn’s taste of sunlight and salt, the evanescent sweetness of the Riesling.
He moaned, taking hold of the edge of Flynn’s T-shirt. His fingers felt clumsy and damp, but Flynn briefly touched the back of his hand in a gesture of assent and suggestion, his mouth opening under Thomas’s, slow as a sea anemone. Instinct stirred in Thomas, and he shyly let his tongue press inward, feeling the welcoming flutter of Flynn’s before he could recoil at his own daring.
The next morning Robert came to Tom’s home to collect his ‘property,’ and made it clear to him that if he went anywhere near Flynn he would pay dearly. Tom knew that Flynn was in an abusive relationship but there was nothing he could do if Flynn didn’t want to leave.
Shortly after, Tom was forced off the road by another vehicle and Flynn, who happened to be driving in the vicinity, pulled him out of his car just in the nick of time, at the risk of his own life. As Tom hovered between life and death there was another crisis, a rescue that could part the lovers forever. This was the kind of action you see in the movies, with gun runners, covert operations, and the drama of the Search and Rescue helicopters. What a wild ride on the sea in a storm with gale force winds in the driving rain as men fought the elements to save their brothers.
I never knew that the Cornish coast was so wild, rugged and beautiful. The location was so much a part of the story it seemed alive – talk about atmosphere! Harper Fox achieved something that few authors are capable of doing well – she made the location into another character in her book. Driftwood may be responsible for enticing many new visitors to Cornwall. Here’s a bit of prose about Cornwall:
There was the quoit. This was one of Thomas’s commuting runs and he saw it every day, often twice, but it never failed to seize him. Placed here by unknown hands five thousand years before, knocked down in a storm and badly reconstructed in the 1800s, it was a stupendous thing, as breathtaking today as it must have been when its Neolithic builders had somehow raised its ten-ton flying capstone onto its four granite supports—three, now, after its clumsy rebuild—and set it to dominate the Morvah moor.
This is what I said, in part, about this author when I reviewed her first book:
Harper Fox is a fresh new talent in the M/M genre with great writing skills and I hope that her other books are just as imaginative and entertaining as this one
Well, did she ever kick my butt! Her sense of timing was unbelievably precise. The pace started off at breakneck speed and never let up so I had to buckle myself in for this incredible ride. The book was the stuff of dreams if you love adventure, with crisis piled on top of crisis, the good guys and the villains fighting to the death. WOW! There is so much packed into Driftwood that you will need to read it more than once to get the full breadth of the story because I have only skimmed the surface in this review. Of course some of the action was too unbelievable for words, but this is, after all, not reality.
This story is an excellent mix of well drawn, flawed protagonists, an exciting adventure, a love story that will move you, an evil villain who was realistically portrayed and not a caricature, secondary characters who were three dimensional and actually had roles in the book rather than being just window dressing, and a damn dog that I adored. The protagonists were so emotionally open that I could feel their pain and need, and for me to become so invested in Driftwood and feel a part of the story is an indication of great writing. When you mix in the prose, which is exquisite, I had to give this book 5+ stars which I think it more than deserves. Harper Fox is a unique talent and I can’t wait for her next book.
Run, don’t walk, to get your copy. Highly recommended.
Driftwood is available from Samhain Publishing on August 17.