Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review by Jodi: Isle of Waves by Sue Brown

Author: Sue Brown

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Rating: 4.5


The Isle Series: Book Three

Wig Tobias and Nibs Tyler have been together for a long while, but this year their love is about to be tested. Their business, the Blue Lagoon Restaurant on the Isle of Wight, is vandalized, and it may or may not be a coincidence that the neighbors want to buy them out. Making matters stickier, the police don’t seem interested in investigating until a friend of the couple, an out of town copper, prods them to take action.

Their friends, Paul and Olaf, Liam and Sam, and the whole Owens family come to help Wig and Nibs in their time of need. But Paul and Olaf may need a nudge from Wig and Nibs to keep their relationship alive. Meanwhile, a dear friend falls gravely ill. And if that’s not enough, Nibs has been hiding his own medical problems from Wig. When a gale strikes the Isle of Wight, the Blue Lagoon and its owners could be facing the end — unless they and their friends can unravel the knot of misfortune one hitch at a time.


“Life isn’t always explosions, babe. Sometimes life just carries on.”
-         Nibs Tyler

          Liam and Sam, Paul and Olaf, and Wig and Nibs are “Six gay men and all of them in love, causing a stir among the tourists.” While there are many characters in Sue Brown’s Isles series, these six men are the heart and soul of the books. With a heavy dose of realism, Brown wraps up this series with the third book, Isles of Waves.

          Brown does a great job melding fairy tale romances with real life in this series. These three main couples have been through a lot of drama, but in Isles of Waves, it seems everyone will have their happily ever after without much ado. The book begins with the wedding of Liam and Sam on the Isle of Wight, the place where their romance began. The Owens family in all its glory is in full celebration mode, and Wig and Nibs, the established couple of the group of men are catering the event. Wig and Nibs are tired and happy as they head home to the Blue Lagoon, their residence and restaurant for a good night’s sleep. While they were out, their livelihood has been vandalized.

Rage built inside Wig as he watched Nibs pick over the shards of blue and white china scattered over the floor with the gentleness and despair that was uncharacteristic of the large man. Nibs had been in the same position since they had waked into their restaurant to discover it had been trashed while they were at Liam and Sam’s wedding. Twenty minutes of mourning over their shattered world. Nibs hadn’t spoken at all.

          Nibs and Wigs have been together for years. Physically they are complete opposites. Nibs is large and intimidating. Wig is smaller and more effeminate. Their love for each other is strong, but as William Shakespeare wrote, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” The vandalism seems to unravel Nibs, and not only he is not forthcoming with his feelings, but he pulls away from Wigs, who is clearly vulnerable and upset. Add to that the fact that Nibs is keeping a pretty big secret from Wigs and you have some undeniable tension between the two men.

Debating on whether they should stay and rebuild, or leave and start some place new, Nibs and Wig are unsure what to do. As they are prone to do, the Owens’ family storms in and takes over, offering help, protection and their business skills. As a temporary measure, the multi-generational Owens family comes to the rescue helping with the investigation, running the restaurant and helping Wig and Nibs try to obtain some type of normalcy.

For the first time in months, Wig enjoyed working in the restaurant, smiling and joking with the customers and being himself. The old ladies fluttered under Sam’s charm, the teenage girls drooled over Paul, and more than one man and woman blinked when Skandik walked out of the kitchen. Wig laughed under his breath. Six gay men and all of them in love, causing a stir among the tourists.

While Wig and Nibs are convinced their neighbors are perpetrating a hate crime against them, the police are not persuaded. There is no proof that their neighbors, Indian businessmen, are behind the violence, and the overt actions the businessmen have taken in an effort to destroy the Lagoon seem to focus on the family wanting their property, even though they are resorting to underhanded tactics.

When a second break-in occurs and Wig and Nibs realize their lives may be in danger, the two men decide maybe selling their prized restaurant is the best thing to do. Business has been declining and the two men are working way too many hours.

The break-in probably signified the end of their life here. They could replace everything, but what was the point? A thriving restaurant a year ago, even before the break-in it was barely worth opening up each day. Eighteen months ago, new neighbours had moved in next door and opened an Indian restaurant, the Royal Taj. Initially the new neighbours – Ghuram Sawar, his parents, and his cousins – had been pleasant, and Wig and Nibs had enjoyed more than a few meals in their restaurant. After a few months, however it because clear Ghuram Sawar wanted Nibs and Wig’s place, the Blue Lagoon restaurant, so he could knock through to make one massive restaurant. Initially he had offered to buy Nibs and Wig out at a more-than-generous price. Wig and Nibs gave it serious consideration, but they were happy in Sandown, on the Isle of Wight, and didn’t want to move. After their polite refusal, the relationship with the Sawars had turned icy, and that had been the start of an insidious campaign to drive away Nibs and Wig’s customers that had left the Blue Lagoon almost on its knees.

Brown does a wonderful job developing these characters throughout the series. Although readers have met Wig and Nibs in the first two books, Brown’s concentration on this couple in the last book helps the readers understand not only Wig and Nibs, but also all of the characters better.

Wig and Nibs, a decade apart in age, have been lovers for a long time. Their relationship is complex, and like real-life couples, they sometimes butt heads and are not always honest with each other. Brown explores this part of their relationship and highlights the affection these two men have for each other. As opposed to the other two books in the series, this book brings the reader into an established relationship that provides a catalyst for the other couples.

 Through writing skills and a bit of plot manipulation, Brown contrasts the relationship of Wig and Nibs, two men, with Jim and Mattie, the matriarch and patriarch of the Owens clan; Paul and Olaf, the newest couple; and Sam and Liam, the newlyweds. Between the couples’ actions and words and the sage comments of Rose, Brown develops a chaotic and loving family dynamic.

Although all of the aspects of the series are not neatly tied up with a ribbon, (as Brown notes immigration laws can be long and tedious) Brown has done a great job putting the proverbial cherry on top of the Isle of Wight series. The open ended resolve to some of the conflicts, the angst, and, of course, the sadness of a death, adds an element of realism to the story.

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