Today we shine the spotlight on GRL 2014 author Katey Hawthorne
and her novel
and her novel
Here's a confession that will surprise no one who knows me: I'm a fantasy junkie. I love it, all kinds of it, but one of my absolute favorites is the kind that often gets called 'magical realism'. To my mind, it's sorta one step off straight up urban fantasy: it's happening right here, right now, in our world, and the magic is so subtle and real that it just feels natural.
So when I was looking to do something a little different, I went straight for one of my favorite themes, elemental magic. I figured I could do a series of romances where the main love interest represented one of the elements--to the point of being an elemental, themselves... but living in our world. Sort of an experiment, I reckon, but once I got the idea I couldn't let it go.
I started with water--and while the ocean seems like the obvious choice there, hey, I grew up on the Ohio River. In fact, Adam and Leith's hometown in By the River is based on mine, down to their houses being actual houses of friends of mine. I know, Ohio Valley Romance, doesn't sound all that exciting. But there's magic in the water...
Or just a really pretty boy, as it happens.
After a bad breakup, Adam Kavanaugh returns to his sleepy old river town to find himself. His family hasn't changed, but he has some work to do readjusting to small town life, so much that he wonders if he's made a mistake by coming home.
But from the moment Leith Marshall pops out of the Ohio River and smiles at him, there's no turning back. Between Leith's swimmer body, sweet laugh, and gentle soul, Adam is head over heels. Leith lets Adam into his little world bit by bit, from his mother's abandoned aquarium shop to his elderly father's fairy tale delusions.
Which might not be so delusional after all. Leith does have a certain affinity for water. It seems almost to listen to him. The current never pulls him downriver, the tub doesn't splash, and the pool hardly moves around him even at an all out sprint. He can't spend a night away from his river, and then there's the way he sings. Adam has to admit, he'd steer his ship straight into the rocks for that.
So maybe Leith inherited a few things from his mysterious mother. It doesn't mean he'll disappear like she did. That's absurd.
By the River is the "water" in the Elementals project.
A pale figure floated off a nearby dock that was in good repair, unlike some of the waterfront shit holes. Adam paused, realizing he was seeing the Marshall kid. They had the last house before the park, the one with the old store on the bottom floor. He’d never seen the backyard; it wasn’t much, but the dock was gorgeous, freshly stained, populated by folding disc chairs, cooler, grill, picnic table.
He’d somehow had the impression they were poor. Maybe it was the cobwebbed windows in their first story, though. Maybe upstairs, the real house, was nice.
All this flitted through his brain before he noticed the Marshall boy wasn’t moving. Floating, yes, but perfectly still. Face up. Eyes closed. Hands out. And he was so, so pale—unnaturally pale. Yeah, maybe he’d been pale at the meet, but it had been a while, and people looked different at those things. This couldn’t be right. What if he’d fallen? Cracked his head on the dock? Who the hell would go in there without a life vest on purpose?
With a sick feeling, Adam took a step toward the riverbank. He snapped a fallen twig loud enough to echo over the restless water.
Marshall stirred and sat up, treading water and looking around. The water rippled where the current hit him and had to go around, but he remained stationary. Didn’t even look like he was trying.
Adam sighed, leaning against a tree. “Oh, Jesus.”
“Who’s that?” Marshall called.
“Sorry.” Adam pushed off the tree, emerged from the wooded lot, and waved. “Heard a big splash. And you weren’t moving. You, uh, forgot your vest.”
Marshall smiled, quiet but genuine. “Don’t like the vest.”
“Isn’t that cold at this time of year?”
“Feels good.” Marshall pulled to the bank and emerged, skin pebbling over tight muscle, broad, flat chest tapering into a slim waist, narrow hips, and—
Jesus, he was only wearing a pair of little gray boxer briefs, slipping dangerously low. He’d obviously been waxed during swimming season (TJ used it as an excuse to wax all year round, vain little shit), but hair on his belly and chest had begun to grow back, a faint happy trail stretching down into that distressed waistband. The clingy wet cotton displayed Marshall ’s package even more obscenely than if he’d been naked.
Adam cleared his throat and forced his gaze not to linger. Especially on the crotch area. He only had a pair of shorts on himself, and his dick was already getting heavy.
Damn swimmers and their gorgeous bodies.
Whatever. The guy was probably used to it. Damn swimmers and their shamelessness.
“Were you looking to rescue me?” Marshall smiled, but his gaze dropped as if he’d just noticed that Adam was shirtless.
And kind of liked it, actually.
A trickle of sweat began between Adam’s shoulder blades and ran down his spine, ending up in his ass crack. He cleared his throat again. “Just, you know, river rats. We’re all raised to fear it.”
Marshall’s eyes met his again. His cheeks lit up. He looked down, but now at himself, as if just realizing that he had no shirt on. And not much of anything else, either. “Uh. Shit.”
Adam barked out a laugh, and it shattered his personal awkwardness. He strode forward and held out his right hand. “Adam Kavanaugh.”
“Leith Marshall . You’re TJ’s brother.”
“Right.” They shook, and somewhere in there, Marshall started to relax too. So Adam said, “So weird. I’m older, but I’m always his brother.”
“Maybe just to the team.”
“You’d be surprised. So, seriously? River? No vest? You—” Adam almost asked if the guy had a death wish, but stopped himself. “You that good, huh?”
“It’s home. No point being scared of home, right?”
Okay, so the guy was nice but definitely strange. And yet Adam had to admit, “So I keep telling myself.”
Marshall looked down at himself again. “I…”
Right. “Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt. I’ll just—”
“No, it’s—I mean, if you’re going somewhere…”
“No, just finished my run. But—”
“Thirsty?” Marshall cocked his head.
Adam smiled. “Thanks. If it’s not too much—”
“It’s not. And I’ll, um, put some pants on.” He turned and gestured for Adam to follow to the dock.
Adam almost told him not to go to any trouble on his account but, luckily, couldn’t get the words around the lump in his throat. The wet shorts clinging to that small but muscled, round ass, waistband just low enough to let the top of the crack peek out—Jesus. Disaster waiting to happen.
A brilliant disaster, for sure. But disaster all the same, in the circumstances.
Not quite four stars due to the abrupt ending that left the story slightly unfinished. I liked the relationship between Adam and Leith, their easy banter, and even though it smacked of insta-love, I believed the romance between them.
TJ as Adam's younger brother was a good secondary character, even if he only had one major scene. He brought a voice of reason to the table and gave his brother something to think about.
I felt like Adam grew into himself in this novella, and for once experienced real love - the one where you love someone so much that you just want them to be happy, no matter what it might cost you.
And I very much enjoyed Leith's character - eager to learn, wistful, and more or less dancing to the beat of his very own drummer. He had a supernatural quality about him, something ethereal that drew me in from the start, much like Adam was drawn to him. Like a siren song, perhaps, though muted to an extent.
The writing was beautiful in some places and too purple in others, but overall well done. A better editor might have suggested the removal of the 'impossibly' - one of my pet peeves - but that did not detract from my enjoyment.
At only 70 pages on my Nook, this was a quick read, something to take with you to the beach on a hot Summer day to devour while the wind is in your hair and the sound of crashing waves is in your ear.
That'd be fitting, too.
** I received a free copy of this book from the author. A positive review was not promised in return. **
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By The River
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