Fractured Hymns

Author: AM Arthur

Publisher: self

Rating: 4.5 stars

Buy Links: Amazon

Type: Novel

Received from Publisher

 

Blurb:  Still firmly in the closet at the age of thirty, Ethaniel Shockley is content leading a solitary—if lonely—life working on a construction crew with fellow military vets. After a tragic worksite accident leaves two of his friends dead, Ethaniel returns to his family home to recuperate from a spiral leg fracture and severe Post Concussive Syndrome. He may be lucky to be alive, but he hates the independence he’s lost.

Matthew “Angel” Garrett has worked at Shockley Stables for three years, content to muck stalls and polish saddles, and to be as unnoticeable as possible. Except for weekly church outings, he avoids going into town so he doesn’t see The Look. The Look that says “I know you went to prison for killing a man.”

A chance conversation with Ethaniel gives Angel hope that maybe he can have a friendship with the gorgeous Shockley sibling he’s crushed on for years. But the more time they spend indulging in their shared love of music, the clearer it becomes that they both want more. Ethaniel sees a kindred spirit in Angel, whose soul is just as fractured from his time in prison as Ethaniel’s is from war. But Angel has another, deeper secret that haunts him—one he’s positive will destroy this new song with Ethaniel before it’s even written.

 

Review:  Wow – this story grabbed me by the heart on page one and continued to take me on an intensely satisfying emotional ride. I cringed, I laughed, I cried. The author has delivered a touching, deeply emotional family saga as well as a beautiful romance. I’ve already read it twice, and highly recommend it.

Ethan Shockley and Angel Garrett are men with painful histories. Their histories are vastly different, yet produced similar damaging and lasting effects. Angel is grateful beyond words that Ethan’s mother, Ruth, believed in him at first meeting by providing him a job and a home at Shockley Stables. Ethan, having come home to recuperate from a work accident, soon befriends Angel, who is shocked, wary, and yet pleased by the attention. Ethan can’t walk without crutches due to a badly broken leg, but it’s his painful memories together with his post concussive syndrome that now cruelly rule his life. His life in the closet. Angel tends to stutter, is openly gay, and, it’s public knowledge that he was in prison for killing someone. Neither man was looking for anything other than solace, solitude, and possibly some emotional support. What they found in each other, and within the Shockley family, was so much more.

Ethan and Angel. My heart was taken equally by both of these damaged, quiet, strong, caring men. The author delivered these characters with an amazingly nuanced, raw, genuine, compelling hand. Their back-stories spooled out organically as they interacted with each other and all of the members of Ethan’s family. I absolutely adored Ruth – the epitome of a compassionate, nurturing, strong woman and mother. She plays a very key role in the story, and thankfully her pushing of Ethan to pursue more interests – such as resuming playing his guitar -comes across as gentle and from the heart rather than meddling. She may have also pushed him and Angel toward each other, just a smidge. 😉 Ruth saw each man as whole, with much to offer. She did not see them as their flaws.

While each man was frustrated with some of their own issues, neither Angel or Ethan wallowed or went on huge tangents about feeling unworthy. The romantic attraction between the pair evolved authentically- from genuine interest/chemistry at first meeting, to friendship and empathy, to further explorations of their growing attraction. Ethan was so kind and patient, first in convincing Angel to sing while he played guitar, and later while assuring Angel he was desired as he played his body. Angel, as much as he was partially unsure of the attention from Ethan – and Ruth – came across as brave, loving and stoic. His quiet nature was not hiding a pushover! Angel and Ethan connected on such a visceral level. They had shared similar traumas and were able to provide strength in facing the world as they dealt with them. The fact that Angel and Ethan grew

close, and spent a lot of time of talking and discussing both small and large issues – including Angel’s heavy secret – made their eventual lovemaking all the sweeter.

The Shockley family – Ethan had several brothers, sisters in law, and a niece he was particularly fond of – was large and close knit. Several of them played prominent secondary, key roles in the story. The sometimes wavering – yet steady – forward progression of all (Ok, most) of the relationships in this story was completely engrossing. It was so refreshing to read a story about human complexities that does not rely on contrived drama or titillation. This is a story of coping, of love, of dealing with what life throws at us – even when it isn’t pretty and hurts like hell. The distinctive nature which comprised the individuals in this book were woven together to create a rejuvenating environment for Ethan and Angel to mend, to mesh.

The use of music as a bonding, healing, cathartic agent was gorgeous. Music is such a universal force. It can speak for us when we lack other means. This story takes that concept and brings Ethan and Angel full circle to a new beginning. I was crying happy tears during an Ethan/Angel scene toward the end, picturing it and hearing it crystal clear in front of me. I’m definitely looking forward to anything more the author cares to give us about these men and this family.

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