Reviewed by Shelley
TITLE: Scrap Metal
AUTHOR: Harper Fox
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
BLURB: Is there room for love in a heart full of secrets?
One year ago, before Fate took a wrecking ball to his life, Nichol was happily working on his doctorate in linguistics. Now he’s hip deep in sheep, mud and collies. His late brother and mother had been well suited to life on Seacliff Farm. Nichol? Not so much.
As lambing season progresses in the teeth of an icy north wind, the last straw is the intruder Nichol catches in the barn. He says his name is Cam, and he’s on the run from a Glasgow gang. Something about the young man’s tired resignation touches Nichol deeply, and instead of giving him the business end of a shotgun, he offers Cam a blanket and a place to stay.
Somehow, Cam quickly charms his way through Nichol’s defenses and into his heart. Even his grandfather takes to the cheeky city boy, whose hard work and good head for figures help set the farm back on its feet.
As the cold Scottish springtime melts into summer, Nichol finds himself falling in love. When tragedy strikes, Cam’s resolutely held secret is finally revealed and Nichol must face the truth. He’s given his heart away, and it’s time to pay the price.
My first book by Harper Fox comes highly recommended and it was quite lovely. A beautiful Scottish Island setting, accomplished characterisation and a plot designed to draw inspiration, wonder, humourand empathy too. All delivered with a poet’s flare and a bold passion for love and Mother Nature.
In just one awful year Nichol Seacliff’s life has been transformed. He’s weathered the loss of his family,abandoned a prosperous future to work the struggling family farm, endured his cantankerous bully-boy Granda Harry’s highland ways, lost his last labourer in favour of the coal bill and has just caught an intruder breaking into the barn.
Up until now life has been harsh, but Nichol bares it with unnatural stoicism and bitter acceptance …
“Rain, wind and ghosts. That was what we had up at Seacliff Farm. When the yards were empty and the house doors closed, those were our harvests.”
Enter Cameron (Cam) who breaks into Nichol’s barn to escape a storm and Nichol catches him. Poor Cam is scared, starving, obviously on the run, and harbouring too many secrets for a young man. Nichol spares him; due to his own loneliness, the fact that Cam’s hot or a real need for help he decides to conceal Cam on the farm. Lying to his Granda Harry and everyone else they install Cam asavolunteer agricultural student sent to help for the season. And with that…
“The luck of the farm returned in triplicate”
Nichol and Cam are both gay and attracted to each other (obviously) but it’s only friendship that grows with the coming spring. They dance (quite literally) around each other with appreciation despite an unspoken rule (Cam’s) that nothing will come of it. It’s frustrating and begs the question of Cam’s reluctance but also creates some smouldering sexual tension for me to indulge in.
“The more I went through with him—fistfights, tending him in sickness, sharing with him my stupid domestic griefs—the more I ached to touch him, storm his barricades.”
Harry Seacliff – the reason for most of the domestic grief and Nichol’s obligation to duty. He’s lost his family too – the stoic grumpy old codger has only his least favourite grandson to bestow his acres upon now. He’s a mean ol’ bastard that I couldn’t help but like … a lot. He has to be the stand out character of this story for me. The author knows this man, she must do. He is brilliantly brought to life, so vivid and believable I feel like I’ve known him my whole life.
The plot itself is quite a simple one. Two young men fall in love on a sheep farm – a bitter old manlearns to be nice(kind of)–an ex-boyfriend who wants not to be – the neighbouring widow who would really make a good match for Nichol, and the dangerous secrets that Cam holds too close to his chest.
What makes Scrap Metal special is Fox’s writing. Everything is brought to life with her lyrical descriptivism, the way the mood of our narrator Nichol is metaphorically reflected by nature and the weather is superb. With Harper Fox, a hill is not just a hill; a rock is not a rock. A five by five dusty utility room is not just that when passion is unleashed – it’s a dusty cell turned into prince charming’s chamber, hung with satin and silk.
And yet – I find myself warring with respectful appreciation of a brilliantly talented author and my own trivial cynicisms. This is where I hold up my hand and say: a rock actually is just a rock no matter how grand you make it seem. For me her loquacious poetic prose and lyrical descriptivism is both a treat and a hindrance to this story. Too often I found the story slowed down by overly descriptive surroundings. Yes, it looks and smells lovely, but it’s still just a tree, a hill or a sea breeze. Clearly I am one of those people who walk through thepretty forest just to reach the pub.
As much as I admire her writing, I became immune to it at the 60% mark and thus her talent is almost wasted on a cynic like me. Perhaps Harper Fox will educatereform me; she did in fact have me glued to this story till 2am so that’s saying something. But still, I found the plot itself too ordinary for my taste, too slow and wordy and too dreamily wrapped up.
This is all personal and I DO encourage everyone to read it, even the cynical buggers like me should have a read of this just for the joy of indulging in such a talented writer.
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