“I have no right to say or do anything that diminishes a man in his own eyes. What matters is not what I think of him but what he thinks of himself.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Author: Susan Mac Nicol
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
Pages/Word Count: 256
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Abused horrifically as a boy, Nick Mathers has come to terms with his existence as a man. Mostly. Other days life seems a little much.
On those days his thoughts turn black. He walks the Norfolk coast and considers the frigid embrace of the waves. And then, one stormy night, he finds someone who’s tasted just that. The beautiful stranger on the beach is near death, and Nick rushes him home to slowly nurse back to health. As he does, he finds a love unlike any other. Owen Butler’s body is as warm as the sea was cold, his heart as big as an ocean. And Owen is a man who swears to repay the favor. Nick can yet be saved from himself, and he will see that he is indeed a man… worth keeping.
Review: Writing about victims of abuse is never an easy task. It takes a remarkably gentle hand as well as a compassionate eye to relate a story of a man who has suffered horrific acts of violence as a child and young teen. Careful research should always be done and writing a story of this type and magnitude must be approached with such caution. It goes then, that I must begin this review by thanking author Susan Mac Nicol for not only her incredible restraint in writing a story that never pandered to violence for entertainment’s sake but also for not glossing over the real pain and endless nightmares that abuse victims deal with the rest of their lives.
Worth Keeping is a story of both innocence lost and hope found. While Nick Mathers lives out his future still firmly gripped in his tortured past, he desperately seeks to reach beyond the life he knew and embrace one where he can feel loved by another man. Rescued after a near deadly beating from the pimp his mother sold both her and Nick’s body to, Nick now lives in a remote coastal village, manning a historic lighthouse. While strolling the stormy cliff-side and contemplating suicide himself one evening, he spots a body washing ashore and goes to rescue it. Owen Butler has been grieving for two years at the violent loss of his lover, Jules, and, in despair, has finally decided to end his own life. After being rescued by Nick, the two men begin an oft times tortured and angry dance, slipping rapidly into feelings that leave them both scared and breathless.
Love does not come easily to Nick. He has been battered too often, his latest at the hands of a sociopath lover whom he narrowly escaped from just a short time before Owen came into his life, but Owen is steady and sure and certain that Nick was meant to be loved, and by no one other than himself. As these two men bind themselves to each other and push their way toward healing, violent reminders of Nick’s past will begin to surface and threaten to pull them under once more.
I will honestly tell you that this story is not for the faint of heart. There is very real trauma here, but there is also overwhelmingly tender love and gradual healing. Author Susan Mac Nicol weaves a fast paced story that introduces unique secondary characters and sub plot lines that feed into an incredible climax near story’s end. Throughout the story she allows us to see both Nick and Owen’s point of view, and never once was that confusing or weak—rather, the story grew stronger and more interesting as the inner workings of each man’s heart and mind were drawn out on the page.
Never once did I feel there was less than respectful handling of the abuse and its effects on Nick’s psyche. Ms Mac Nicol did not rush in to save her characters; rather she allowed their angst, their turmoil and their fear of never being worthy of love to play out in this novel, making it incredibly poignant and real. I was pulled time and again into the anger and despair that Nick felt as he attempted to push Owen away, watching in horror as Nick’s need to inflict pain on himself, by denying the love he wanted, reared its ugly head over and over. I felt such empathy for Owen as he fought back each time to rescue Nick from his internal demons. This was such powerful writing—pulling deep emotional responses from me, the reader.
Worth Keeping by Susan Mac Nicol is a powerful story of love and hope. Carefully crafted, painstakingly developed, lovingly written, Worth Keeping is a story that will resonate in your heart and mind well beyond the last word on the page. I highly recommend it to you.