And welcome, readers, to our third week of celebrations. This week's post is all about Recovery, with an excerpt from the book, a personal story Con has chosen to share, and of course a chance to win a copy of the featured book.
San Diego is a city of second chances for Jamie Carlson. His new career as a photographer is taking off, and with the support of a loving surrogate family, he’s finally putting his party years behind him. The Bailey family helped him solve his drinking problem, but there’s no easy solution to staying sober now that Belle Bailey’s dying. Her last wish is a challenge Jamie can't overcome without help.
Solving problems is Daniel Priest’s specialty. More than twenty years older than Jamie, he’s successful and experienced. He makes his living resolving corporate crises—but his personal life has been far from perfect. Now that his marriage is over, Daniel’s determined to make up for lost time. One night with Jamie isn’t nearly enough for him.
Daniel’s honest offer of help is more than Jamie expects from a one-time hookup. Even so, fulfilling Belle’s last wish is a tall order. Repairing her damaged family as she requests proves difficult when Jamie has to face his own past as well. Jamie could risk his hard-won recovery by admitting why he hit rock bottom in the first place. If he wants a future with Daniel, he'll have to address those reasons head-on.
Intro to the scene:
Jamie Carlson credits his recovery from alcoholism to the care he received from Alec Bailey and his wife Belle. They treat Jamie like one of the family to convince him sobriety is worth working for, but their close relationship infuriates their estranged son Owen.
Owen sees Jamie as a shallow promiscuous drunk, and when Belle becomes dangerously ill he takes his anger out on Jamie in public. Jamie’s date Daniel — an older man who refuses to accept he’s only one of Jamie’s many hookups — intervenes, and firmly reminds Owen that if love doesn’t discriminate, why should he?
Daniel sat back and smiled again, only this time his smile was smaller. “Yeah. Ah.” He took another sip of his drink. “How about we start over?”
Owen opened his mouth, but no sound came out.
“Or I can talk about age differences if you want, just as long as you know that Jamie’s age wasn’t what made me go look for him in the first place or what made me ditch a client so I could see him again tonight.” He turned the stem of his glass in his hand. “I just don’t see the problem. Do you, Jamie?”
Jamie shook his head. He’d stopped thinking about Daniel as older right about the first time they’d kissed.
“You’re how old, Owen?” Daniel asked.” Twenty-five?”
“Well, I was married before you were born. Several years before. Turns out that eighteen’s no age to make a rational lifetime commitment, just like it was no age to find out the girl I’d dated right through high school was gonna have a baby.”
Jamie spoke in a rush. “You don’t need to talk about that.”
“Oh, I don’t need to, but I want to.” Daniel met his eyes, and his gaze was steady. “But I’ll stop because I was listening when you told me that you don’t date. If we were dating, Jamie, I’d tell you why I wore a wedding ring for so long and why your photography resonated for me”— he glanced at Owen—“profoundly. But it’s not only my story, and I don’t share it unless I have to.”
Jamie processed what he’d heard. “You have a kid?”
Daniel nodded. “A daughter, Jo. And yeah, she’s older than either of you two. Her opinion is the only one that matters to me.” He paused before looking across the table at Owen. “So, if you’re done poking me with a sharp stick, maybe we can just enjoy this evening. You can tell me what you’re doing here in LA.”
Daniel raised his glass. “To second meetings.”
He paused before taking a sip.
“And to second chances. May we all get at least one.”
This, my friends, this is how it's done. From the first words, this book pulled me in and wouldn't let go, not even now, two weeks later, as I still reel from the impact.
It's a breathtaking work of art, painted with words. It's a brilliant piece of imagery, full of pain and heartbreak, but also hope and love.
We first meet Jamie at the launch party for Alex's magazine and are immediately reminded that Jamie, like Alex, is a recovering alcoholic. Con Riley doesn't mince words when she lets us see inside Jamie's mind and the struggle not to drink, a struggle that is made ever harder because Jamie's heart-mother, Belle Bailey, is dying.
In this follow-up novel to the amazing "Salvage", we also get to meet a different Jamie. He's been sober a while, and this Jamie, unlike the one Gabe remembered, is kind and caring and aware.
Recovery is a difficult road, a journey that doesn't end, and it's ever harder to stay sober when the people you consider your real family are hurting. When you're about to lose the woman who took you in, gave you a place to live and cheered you on each step of your way.
When Jamie meets Daniel at the launch party, he is immediately attracted to the older man, but initially only sees him as a hook-up, a way to avoid the temptation of alcohol by using sex as a distraction.
Daniel, divorced and finally able to live the life he wants, has other plans for Jamie. When he finds out what's going on, he offers his help.
The brilliance of this book lies in the realistic exploration of human nature that Con Riley brings to the table. She made a fan out of me with the first book and only cements it here. The sensitive and realistic ways in which she writes the emotional aspects of this story, not just Jamie's and Daniel's, but also Alex's and Owen's, and intertwines them all are utterly breathtaking.
The overall tone of Jamie's mind is melancholy and pained, and this feeling carries through most of the book. There is depth to the character we didn't get to see in "Salvage", and I felt like crawling into the story to hold him and tell him everything would be okay. I cried with helpless rage as more of Jamie's backstory came out, and I marveled at the strength he doesn't even know he has.
The romance between Jamie and Daniel took more of a backseat, which worked beautifully in the overall story. It's a quiet, mature kind of romance, the kind I expected Jamie to have with a man nearly twenty years his senior. It didn't smack of a daddy complex, but instead seemed to be exactly what Jamie needed - someone wise and mature enough to let him be himself, without expectations, giving and kind.
I also thought that the author masterfully described the contentious relationship between Alex and his son, portraying Owen not as evil but hurting, estranged from his father whom he blames for much of the hurt during Alex's drinking years. And yet, it felt that there was more to it than that, something that the author kept from us. Until she doesn't, and Owen's behavior, and the eventual reconciliation, as fragile as it may be, makes perfect sense. Just as Jamie and Daniel, Owen was allowed to be multi-dimensional and real.
A deeply moving, realistic portrayal of family, pain and especially love in all forms. Exceptional!
Highly recommended. Keep your tissues close by.
While this is a companion novel to "Salvage", it can be read as a standalone.
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A personal story:
I once babysat for a sculptor who forgot to come home.
I arranged to stay overnight because I thought he was going to a party for the evening, but he actually went to a music festival for three days. If I’d been older, I might have thought about calling someone, but I was a teen, and the children he left in my care were gorgeous, wild-haired sprites. I told them very long bedtime stories that the children adapted into a play the next day. I helped them to make costumes and scenery, and they staged their play their back garden. When their dad finally returned, he paid me with a flawed offcut of marble that—nearly thirty years later—I still use whenever I make pastry. I think about them every single time I use it.
That family was my first contact with the festival lifestyle, and also with new-age travellers. He thought nothing of spending weeks at a time with his family at protest sites, which was amazing to me. He cared about subjects I hadn’t ever thought about, like ecology, way before the reduce – reuse – recycle movement took hold. Some people might judge his parenting style as irresponsible. All I know is that his children were articulate, open, and so creative. I loved spending time with them.
Looking back, I can see their influence in my career working with families and children. It takes perspective, patience, and genuine interest to understand what motivates people to live the way they choose. I’m fascinated rather than judgmental, and I think that curiosity colours my writing.
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Thanks for joining us again this week. Come back next week for our Grand Finale post with info about Con's upcoming novel True Brit, a Q&A and one more chance to win a book from Con's backlist.
Until then, happy reading!!