Callum Black works at the English country estate and lives there in an isolated cottage. Left mute by a childhood accident, he’s more comfortable in the company of animals than people. But when Josh—literally—crashes into his life with his camera and his friendship, Callum realizes his peaceful solitude has been more than a little lonely.
Josh’s affection for Callum deepens even as he’s consumed by doubts over Callum’s sexuality and whether Callum could ever love him. And Callum is haunted by the secret that stole his voice—a secret that keeps him tethered to Hartley Manor. When the past comes hurtling painfully back into the present, Josh and Callum have to overcome their fears and breathe life back into their dormant hearts in order to have a chance at their own picture-perfect future.
So many feels.
And the feels in this one were just the way I like them. Enough to thaw my cold, dead heart, but not so much that I wanted to kick stuff because it was just too damn much. The balance was just right for me. I appreciated the author gave me drama and reasonable angst without overdoing it, making this story and the relationship between Callum and Josh believable.
I need to talk about Josh now. OMFG, I love him. He’s a charming and fabulous eternal optimist. He did not have it easy growing up. His asshole of a father never accepted him and his mother did not do her job to protect her boy. That pissed me off to no end. Josh didn’t wallow in miserable detail though, he accepted the hurt and what he could not change, and he went on with his life. He’s not one to stay down for long and his snarky and self-deprecating inner voice had me smitten in absolutely no time at all. Even when his whole morning goes to shit, he can say, “slowly but surely, I cheered up.” That’s just him and I want to be his friend in RL.
The first half of the book is told from Josh’s POV. When he was sent to the Manor on a photo assignment for his employer he “meets” Callum. He’s completely enchanted by Callum as soon as he sees him. Actually he’s enchanted by the whole experience, Callum, the woods, the manor and the rest of the residents there, including the daughter of the owner, Heather. I liked Heather a lot. It’s always refreshing to read a female character in an MM romance that you can get behind and truly like.
The two of them hit it off right away and he’s comfortable enough to ask about Callum and it was refreshing for Josh to engage with someone who spoke with him, not at him.
“Where I came from, no one took the time to ask why anyone did anything – they only bothered about right or wrong. Praise or punishment. Acceptance or rejection.”
Josh learns that Callum has been mute since an accident when he was about 8 or so. Callum has no memory about what happened that day, and that’s the crux of the mystery of the Manor. The two of them develop a tentative friendship and these two are a perfect match for one another. Josh loves to talk and Callum loves to listen to him. Josh can read Callum well and I totally bought into their connection even though only one character was using any verbal communication. Callum does have his notepad and pencil, but he didn’t really need it all that often with Josh. Josh is very open about his sexuality, as he does love to talk. Callum is a mystery though. It’s obvious he has no issues with Josh being gay, but Josh assumes that Callum is straight, mostly to protect his heart. I loved the time they spent together at Callum’s little cottage and the surrounding woods. Josh takes more photos, and the whole time they were together had a real fairytale feeling to it. I loved it.
The second half of the book is told from Callum’s POV. I’m not going to lie, I was initially a little bummed. Nothing against Callum, I just missed Josh’s voice. After getting to know Callum through Josh and by Callum’s physical cues alone it was good to get into his head though. It was really the only way to fully flesh out his character and give him his own “voice”. The story did get a little darker as it progressed, it had to given that it’s Callum’s story at this point. But, I got to read what he thought about Josh and that just killed me to death with the wonderfulness of it all. Josh needed this and reading about Callum “telling” Josh how he feels and their exchanges from here on out got even better. Reading about Josh being a smitten kitten made me happy.
Like I said though, the story did get darker but it was not overdone. Callum finally remembers what happened and it was awful, but it was reasonable. That sounds shitty, but let me try to explain. You know how some books will give you a damaged character that has been gang raped by rabid bikers, lived eleventeen years in a damp basement, made to crawl through broken glass naked and then gets kicked in the head? At that point the alpha male swoops in with his magic penis and everything is all better and everyone’s heart is healed. You know those books? This is not that.
Callum remembers, miracles do not happen, but now it’s time for him to really live. His revelations put a serious strain on the budding relationship he has with Josh. But, even though only one of them can speak, these two have better communication skills than a lot of other MC’s I’ve read.
The majority of the story is relatively quiet, and that’s not an attempt at poor humor to Callum. It’s a story told in moments and it eases the relationship of Josh and Callum into the story. Even though the two of them only knew one another for a week when shit started to get real, it felt like much longer because the author did a good job of building their characters and their connection. I bought it, took it home and ate it up.
Once the lid was blown off the mystery the story sped up considerably. It wasn’t unreasonable, it was just a different pace from the rest and I felt it while reading. But, that was the point I suppose too. Once the box was blown open, it was time for Callum to live and to love. The final chapter was perfect. It felt right even though everything didn’t end up wrapped in a pretty, perfect bow. I’m glad it wasn’t because the ending felt like a real beginning for Josh and Callum and that’s what I wanted for them at the end of it all.
For more information and to purchase Dormant Heart, visit Dreamspinner Press.
**a copy of this story was provided for an honest review**