Review: Lavender by Xavier Axelson

Following the sudden death of his father, Lawrence "Law" Crow must not only comfort his bereaved mother, but also find the strength to continue running the family business, a local and beloved lavender farm in the mountains of northern California. At first, consumed with his own grief and struggling to find meaning in life, Law indulges in his vices, mainly by surrendering to his sexual urges with numerous men, all in a desperate battle to forget his pain and to end the emotional turmoil tearing him apart.

But when a stunningly handsome and passionate Spanish soccer player named Garbi suddenly crosses his path, Law discovers light in the possibility of love. Does Garbi have the ability to heal Law's shattered heart, provide him with purpose, and help him fully embrace the joy of living once again amidst the beautiful and fragrant lavender fields?

One of my all-time favorite books is Lily by Xavier Axelson. It wasn’t what I was expecting when I read the blurb, it was so much better and I really fell in love with the author’s writing style. It stuck with me and Lavender is much the same. The author does not write your typical hearts and flowers or perfectly perfect characters. His MC’s are flawed and their encounters are gritty. It’s different and I appreciate how he can pull all the rough edges together and give a plethora of emotions in a few words.

Lavender starts out rough and sad. It’s set against an idyllic backdrop and the contrast made the heartache the characters were feeling more pronounced. Our MC, Law and his parents have made their lives on a lavender farm in northern California. The setting is intrinsically romantic and the bits of backstory about Law’s parents adds to the mood. When we meet Law and his mom, they are consumed by grief though following the death of Law’s dad. It was obvious he was the anchor for this small family and both Law and his mom are grieving hard.

His mom deals with her loss by escaping back home to France where the original lavender plant that started the whole farm came from. Law deals by fucking his way through every willing man he can get his hands on. His rage boning comes from a place of impotent anger where he’s either going to fight or fuck his way through his heartbreak. Both are equally dangerous and frankly, Law just doesn’t care. His interactions with other men are rough, dirty and desperate. He works his way from one to the next with complete disregard for anything other than releasing something and forgetting for a brief bit of time.

At the same time, he works his way through getting the farm back on track bit by bit while avoiding dealing with his father’s final wish to have his ashes spread throughout the fields. The whole mood in the book to this point is unsettling and melancholic. And while Law is not at his finest, I really liked the guy and my heart broke for his angry loneliness. Even if he did get more action than any man on a lavender field has any right to.

But then he meets Garbi and he starts to feel a little something beyond anger. Garbi is a soccer star traveling with his team through Law’s town. I wouldn’t call their first interaction anywhere near a meet-cute, because cute is not something that is done in Lavender, but Garbi does leave an impression and Law knows he wants more. The two don’t waste any time getting together, because waiting is also something that is not done in Lavender, but the two had a serious connection that neither one of them could deny.

The best part of the story is reading about the changes Law undergoes with Garbi. They’re subtle, but that’s how Law is. He’s not one for declarations and Garbi is a good match for him. He’s got that European sensibility about romance that Law needs. Garbi has no shame in enjoying life and he’s very good at expressing himself in few words. Law no longer feels the need to conquer and is ready to give, he needs to with Garbi and he loves every minute of it, even if he doesn’t totally understand it. He knows Garbi can change his life by showing him how to love, but he also know Garbi is only in town for a short time. It was a really bittersweet time and I loved and hated it in turn.

The author doesn’t leave his readers hanging though and the ending it easily one of the better and more optimistic HFNs. Don’t go expecting a book that matches the cover. While the cover is beautiful, it is a little misleading in that the cover fits an expected MM romance that is safe and lovely. Lavender is not safe and it is not typically lovely. It’s raw, tough and honest and I liked reading something outside the norm, it was refreshingly dirty and sneakily romantic. The ending is a little abrupt, but it fit with the mood of the whole story. So, while I wanted just a smidge more of the conversation and where it was going, where it ended wrapped up Law and his journey just right. 

Candles flickered super romantically. It may be corny, but I’ll admit, candlelight adds something to a bath. 

“Why are you smiling?” Garbi asked. 

He’d put his feet on my thighs and slid deeper, so water swirled around his neck. 

“No reason,” I answered, rubbing the arch of his right foot. 

“Is romantic” 

“I’m not romantic.” 

“I am,” he said, unashamed. “Why do men deny this?”

**a copy of this story was provided for an honest review**

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