Secrets of Neverwood (Anthology), Various Authors
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Gay Romance/Mystery
Tags: Anthology, Contemporary, Mystery, Paranormal (Ghost)
Three foster brothers are called home to Neverwood, the stately Pacific Northwest mansion of their youth. They have nothing in common but a promise to Audrey, the woman they all called mother–that upon her death, they would restore the house and preserve it as a home for troubled boys.
But going home is never easy.
Cal struggles to recover from past heartbreak, while Danny fears his mistakes are too big to overcome. Devon believes he may never break down the barriers that separate him from honest emotion.
On the path to brotherhood, they discover the old mansion holds more than dusty furniture and secret passageways. Audrey’s spirit still walks its halls, intent on guiding “her boys” toward true love, and an old mystery stirs up a new danger–one that could cost the men far more than just the house.
One Door Closes by G.B. Lindsey
When Calvin (Cal) came back home to the house he lived in as a foster child, he had no idea what he was in for. His foster mother Audrey, whom he loved dearly, had passed away and left her old mansion to Calvin and two of his foster brothers, Devon and Danny. Cal had never been close to either of his brothers when they were young and now they are once again, as adults, living under the same roof. Devon is stand-offish and not all that interested in being overly brotherly. Danny seems skittish (to this reader anyway) and seems a bit lost. Calvin has his own issues. The house is falling down around them and there is a developer who is chomping at the bits to come in and tear it down and will gladly do so if a plan is not in the works and financing secured to bring the old mansion up to code. There is more to the developer, Eric Angus, than just wanting to take the house away. While the reader is not completely privy to everything with him, it’s obvious there is more going on. It’s like he is eagerly hoping the renovations fail so that Audrey’s dreams can literally be torn apart.
Knowing he doesn’t have the amount of money it will take to make all the necessary repairs to keep the house, Calvin falls into a deep depression. He uses what he can of his own funds, but much more are needed and Devon and Danny don’t seem to be going out of their way to help. Calvin wants to once again open Neverwood as a home for foster children but that dream seems out of reach. But Calvin has other problems, problems that slap him in the face the moment he opens the door for a contractor who will be giving him an estimate on house repairs. The contractor, Will, is a man Calvin fell in love with and then ran away from ten years before.
One Door Closes has a slow build with Calvin and Will. It is obvious that the two have a history but it takes awhile to find out exactly what that history is. Then there is Audrey who (in spirit) feels the need to try to ‘help out’ a little bit, when in reality, she’s causing more issues for both Calvin and Will. Audrey means well but things don’t turn out exactly the way she plans. Or, maybe they do. Throw in the discourse with Devon and Danny – on top of personal issues that Calvin must face and the developer who has it in for them – and this is quite an interesting story. There is also something else going on at Neverwood that may or may not can be explained. This is not all happy and roses as very real issues are addressed. It’s written beautifully and I ended this quite pleased with Calvin and Will’s story and eager to read about Danny and Devon.
An excellent read.
The Growing Season by Diana Copland
In The Growing Season, we get Danny’s story. Danny, at twenty-one, is the youngest of the three foster brothers to inherit one-third of Neverwood from Audrey. While Cal and Devon’s stories are sad, Danny’s is downright heartbreaking. Not only is Danny twenty-one, but he looks much younger than his age and this has helped him during his life, but it has also caused major problems for him. One of those problems comes when he meets Sam. Let’s just say that first visit doesn’t go too well for Danny.
Sam is a very successful landscaper and when he shows up at Neverwood and sees this young man on a ladder clipping away on a special plant, he first makes the mistake of calling the young man ‘kid’ and then he makes the mistake of not taking the ‘kid’ seriously. Well, until said kid basically tells him to go fuck himself anyway. *grin*
There are a few misunderstandings early on. The gardens at Neverwood had always been Danny’s safe place. He spent a lot of time there as a teen with Audrey, learning both about life and about the plants she loved so dearly. For Sam to show up at Will’s invitation devastates Danny. The gardens are his. How dare someone else come in and try to take that away from him? How could his brothers betray him like this? This, of course, is a misunderstanding and eventually Sam and Danny are able to work together.
It doesn’t take long before Danny and Sam begin something that goes beyond merely working together. Danny has a past that even his brothers aren’t aware of. What happened to him when he left Neverwood three years prior is not something he has ever been able to share with anyone. He has nightmares that bring horrific memories back and he knows these memories and events from his life will prevent him from getting close to Sam.
Sam has his own issues. His father sits on the council that is trying to prevent the foster brothers from going forward with Audrey’s dream of helping those who have nowhere else to go. A part of Sam’s story is sad but I won’t give that away.
Eric Angus is still causing trouble and doing everything in his power to get the foster brothers out of the picture and away from the large mansion they inherited. Some things come to light in regards to him in this particular story.
I sat here with tears running down my face while reading Danny’s story. I fell absolutely in love with him and found myself wanting to hug him more than once. He and Sam are beautiful together.
Another outstanding story.
The Lost Year by Libby Drew
The Lost Year is the story that brings everything together. I am going to stress that each of these stories can be read as a standalone and not feel as if you have missed anything, but if you want the whole of the story that is Audrey and Neverwood, I suggest reading all three stories in the order of how I have them listed in this review.
We have already been introduced to Cal, Danny and Devon. Cal and Danny have finally found partners and are working hard to see Neverwood restored to its former glory. Then there is Devon. Devon has done more than his share in regards to the old house, but he manages to stay just on the edge emotionally. He does not openly show emotion – ever. He learned at an early age that too much emotion would get him hurt so he has spent his life never being put back in the position he was in as a child. Devon is also the foster son who broke Audrey’s heart.
Devon is a photojournalist and his entire world centers around his camera. A recent assignment had him taking photos of homeless teens. He has just come home from a grueling assignment in Colombia when he receives a visitor. That visitor is Nicholas and Nicholas needs Devon’s help to find his son Robbie, who ran away a year before. Nicholas had given up his life to search for his son and had about given up hope when he saw photos that Devon had taken and saw his son in one of them. Devon is his last hope of bringing Robbie back home.
The story of Nicholas and Robbie is heartbreaking. Watching Devon try to keep from feeling something for Nicholas was as well. Devon has guarded his heart for most of his life and then suddenly this man comes into his life and turns everything upside down. He offers to help Nicholas, against the wishes of his brothers, and a journey begins with the two of them… a journey that takes them places neither is prepared for.
Then there is Eric Angus, who is still causing trouble. Audrey is in this story a lot, as in the other two. Sometimes she helps, sometimes not, but in the end all she wants is to see her boys find love and to have the lives she feels they deserve.
There is a lot more to this story and the two before it but I’m not giving away any spoilers. Suffice it to say that I absolutely fell in love with Devon. He rides a motorcycle, which I find to be hot as hell. One thing that really did it for me with Devon (other than watching him finally discover his long-lost emotions) was the fact that he got all hot and bothered when Nicholas put his glasses on.
“He wears glasses.”
Cal tilted his head, considering, as though Devon were a challenging Soduku puzzle.
“Glasses,” Devon repeated, then pressed his fingers against his eyelids. “Why did he have to wear glasses?”
I am so there with Devon on that one. I adore men who wear glasses.
It takes a lot to bring Devon and Nicholas together but when it happens, it’s beautiful. This is a wonderful story and it ties in perfectly with the ones before it. I’m purposely not going into details in regards to Nicholas’ son. You would have to read the story to find out what happens there.
Overall, I enjoyed all three of the stories in Secrets of Neverwood. My favorite kind of anthologies are those where the stories tie together in some way and it was done brilliantly with One Door Closes, The Growing Season and The Lost Year. The reader is taken inside the heads of three very different men who have different life experiences, but in the end they are brothers – though not by blood – and that brotherhood is there when it counts. Audrey is a treat. Oh, she has her moments but she means well. She loves her boys and only wants them to be happy and to carry on her dream of taking in those who have no one to take care of them. I should point out that I was so moved by that particular part of the story. Audrey took care of lost children and her ‘sons’ were going to do their damndest to do the same.
I have a tendency to rate books in anthologies individually and average the ratings at the top of my review. Each one of these stories got an easy five stars from me and I really hope the authors continue with the story. I hope this isn’t the end for Calvin, Danny and Devon. Do not take my words to assume these stories are all sad and serious. There are quite a few silly moments as well. Everything balanced out beautifully.
The covers, for the anthology as a whole, and each individual story, have gone on my all-time favorites list for covers. Absolutely stunning.
This book was provided by the authors in exchange for a fair and honest review.