Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist: LC Chase
Publication date: September 30, 2013
Length: 3017 pages
Reviewed by Erin
Adam Craig is burned out. Lead singer of the hard rock band Black Varen, he's tired of the empty life of groupies, paparazzi, and hotel rooms. Worse, a life in the closet. After the final concert of their latest tour, he flees the after-party in pursuit of memories of lost summers and carefree days, until he passes out on the patio of a shuttered lake resort.
Miles Caldwell is a brilliant artist, tied by agoraphobia and social anxiety to his family's lodge. Alone but for his parrot, he spends his days illuminating manuscripts and hiding from the complexities of life. When he discovers Adam asleep in a deck chair, he's furious but intrigued. Adam soon charms his way into Miles' bed, and they lose themselves in a summer idyll, safe from the compromises and claims of reality.
But Adam's life, with all its demands, is waiting for him. And Miles, uncertain of Adam's true feelings, is battling demons of his own. Somehow, the man who's never home and the man who never leaves it must find the strength to fight for a future together.
Everyone loves something different about reading books. Some love it for the escape. Some love it for the sense of adventure or romance or thrill. Some love it because it might teach us a thing or two. For me, it's about the characters. I'm as romantic as the next girl (or person), but give me fascinating characters that I can be captivated by and I'm yours. Such is the case of Illumination by Rowan Speedwell. I read it for the first time more than four years ago and Miles and Adam have stayed with me all this time. Reading it again in preparation of doing this flashback review made me fall in love even more than I was before.
Miles Caldwell and Adam Craig are two characters that I really just connected with. Not that I know any agoraphobic artists who practice illumination or heavy metal rock stars ... but these guys are so much more than what they do for a career. Miles's strength, his vulnerability and adorable awkwardness tugged on every one of my heart strings. He's this cranky, weird (in the best way), shy guy that really shouldn't mesh with a flamboyant rock star, but these two worked on every level. Don't go into Illumination thinking you're going to get the typical bad boy rocker that's tamed by the nerd (though there IS a bit of that) because what you're going to get is so much more than that. There's friendship and acceptance and an emotional connection that leaps off the page at you. The first impression you might get of Miles is of a grumpy recluse, but what you'll find the farther along you read is a man who is strong and brave and inspiring. Not to mention sexy as hell in the bedroom. There and when he talks about his art he's confident and sure and it's the stuff that swoons are made of.
“The point is that it's twisty and complicated and doesn't really make rational sense. Anyway." He drew the other, smaller book from its slipcover and opened it. "Now look at this. Visconti Hours-Renaissance Italian. Look at the bright colors, the beautiful artwork, the florals, the animals and birds and how fucking gorgeous this thing is? It's complex, but understandable. Relatable. The colors, the gold - God, Dougie, this is fucking amazingly beautiful. You can see this, understand this, appreciate this. This - this is Adam.”
In turn, Adam...the guy that has to hide who he is in order to please his fans and his band mates will really just melt your heart like no one else. He gets Miles, on a level no one else ever has. He might not understand all of Miles's idiosyncrasies and quirks, he might not get why Miles feels he can't leave his home, but he never presses. He only accepts and with his acceptance, Miles shines. What I appreciated so much in this book was how once Adam enters Miles's life--in one of my favorite meet cutes--Rowan Speedwell didn't take the easy way out and have the romance magically fix all of Miles's issues. He has to work to overcome his problems, and it's not always easy. Adam has problems of his own, some the two work on together and others they have to do alone. Both guys, but Miles especially, stayed true to their characters and it just made their relationship and the book itself that much more genuine and authentic. There is a fantastic supporting cast in the book as well. Miles's sister, Lisa was all kinds of awesome and Miles's friends, Bobby and Doug, really helped to round out Miles. My favorite though is Grace, the gray parrot, who is just delightful.
Illumination has stayed with me for all these years because it's a story that gave me such joy and filled my heart. Sexy, sweet, emotional, and angsty at times, it hits all of my buttons. I hope you check it out, I have a feeling if you do, you'll love Miles and Adam every bit as much as I do!
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