Book Title: Hiding Place
Author and Publisher: Jackie Keswick
Cover Artist: Avery Daisy Book Design
Release Date: March 31, 2023
Genre: Contemporary M/M Mystery Romance
Tropes: Opposites attract, hurt/comfort, murder mystery
Themes: grief recovery, letting go and starting over
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 43 000 words
It is a standalone story and does not end on a cliffhanger
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Can a house with a secret bring two grieving men together? After losing his bandmates in an accident, songwriter Zach Hellig looks for a place to hide and a distraction from his grief. He finds both in a dilapidated Pele tower in a corner of Northumberland and in a sexy neighbour, whose smooth facade hides an old, painful secret that appears to be tied to Zach’s new home. Are the rumours of an unsolved murder the reason for Robert Ludlow’s reluctance to sell Charnbarrow Pele? Should Zach try to find answers to a thirty-seven-year-old mystery? And having just experienced the pain of loss, should he risk his heart for a man who struggles to come to terms with his past?
A 43k m/m mystery romance, featuring a neglected old house in need of TLC, an unsolved murder, a grieving musician looking for a distraction, and his stern, intense neighbour who really should smile more.
“Whoever said that house hunting was fun can’t have done that much of it,” I muttered as another stack of envelopes from my property search agent flopped onto my doormat. Paper slid over paper with a soft whoosh like messages skating in freeform. “Unless it’s the hunting they enjoy, and never mind if they find a house or not.” That’s where we differed, I supposed. I wanted to find a house, not spend my time hunting for one.
Cradling the stack of clammy envelopes I returned to the living room, where property particulars covered the surface of my dining table, neatly sorted into ‘absolutely-not’, ‘no’, and ‘maybe’ stacks. An empty space, the space for the ‘yes’ pile of particulars, glared accusingly from the centre of the table.
Maybe the house I was looking for didn’t exist.
Or it existed only in my mind.
Ever since the night the police had knocked on my door, I’d yearned for a hiding place. Somewhere nobody offered sympathy or told me what I should do next. Where I didn’t have to put on a brave face and be Halcyon songwriter and keyboard player Zach Hellig.
I yearned for a place where I could grieve in private.
There was no such place, of course.
The paparazzi found me sooner or later. As did the fans, though—to my surprise—they’d proved unexpectedly compassionate after that first insane outpouring of grief.
Many expressed the wish I would continue writing the music they had loved us for. Or that I’d start over with a new band. I had no answers to give them, but as I started to process the aftermath of the accident, my need for a place to grieve had turned into a wish to rebuild my life in a shape and form it hadn’t had before.
I’d dissolved my contract and had set about finding a house for myself.
My requirements had seemed simple: a house with a largish garden in a remote location, maybe in need of renovation. I hadn’t expected this to be a challenging brief for any self-respecting property search agent.
Apparently, it was.
In the last four months, I’d seen a score of houses all over the country. On the surface, they all fulfilled my requirements. I just couldn’t imagine myself living in any of them.
“This lot won’t make a difference either.” I settled in the armchair under the window, envelopes in my lap. The agent could have emailed me the particulars, just as I could have spent my days on the various property sites, hunting for suitable houses myself.
It wasn’t how my mind worked, though. I wanted the madness in my life to slow down and I was hoping that doing things the old-fashioned way—hiring an agent to help me find a suitable house and scrutinising potential homes on paper—would help me do that.
Or, as my counsellor had suggested, I was avoiding both people and the internet.
I picked up the first envelope and felt a tiny spark of something bright in the back of my mind. A promise? A touch of hope?
One after the other, I opened the envelopes and scrutinised the contents. One after the other, the sheets fluttered to the floor.
Until the last of the offered properties had me sitting up in my chair.
The brochure described the house—Charnbarrow Pele—as a 17th century farmhouse with courtyard, stables, and walled garden, attached to a 14th century fortified tower.
It fit the list I’d given the agent, but what gave me the fluttery feeling was the photo on the front of the brochure: A house sitting lost and lonely, waiting for an injection of life.
No doubt I was being fanciful. I’d also seen what could be achieved with a few photoshop skills.
None of that mattered. Hopeful for the first time in months, I placed the brochure in the empty space on my dining table.
Then I reached for the phone to call the agent.
4 out of 5 (very good)
Independent Reviewer for Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!
Zach buys a Pele tower that needs fixing up, in an effort to hide from the loss of his bandmates. Said tower belonged to Robert's grandfather. Someone died in that tower, murdered, and it was never solved. Can Robert and Zach find some answers with what Zach uncovers? Or will Robert's past eat away at him too much.?
Now, if you follow my review, you'll know I'm ALL about sharing of the book feels, right? And I have one overwhelming feeling about this one:
I wanted Robert and I didn't get him.
This book is told entirely from Zach's point of view, in the first person. While I liked Zach well enough, it was ROBERT who held my attention for much of the book and I wanted to hear from him, badly. I needed to know what he felt about his grandfather doing what he did with the tower. What he felt about Zach, cos, in the beginning, Robert sure did blow hot and cold! And just what was going on in his head when he finally gets it all out and tells Zach about his birth. It wasn't pretty, reading Robert telling Zach, but I wanted in Robert's head then the most.
It's quite clear early on, to me anyway, whodunnit, but just not HOW. Zach's discovery in the loft explains that though.
I know I shouldn't have, but I had to chuckle at the bit when Zach was sick and Robert wanted to get some medicine down him. Benylin is cough syrup, and the only and correct way to take said syrup is to swig out the bottle, and Robert says that to Zach, have a swig of Benylin! Made me laugh that did!
So, while I really enjoyed this book, I still felt that Robert might have made it a 5-star read, but I didn't get him, so...
4 good solid stars
** same worded review will appear elsewhere **
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *
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Valerie Ullmer | Romance Author
Jackie Keswick was born behind the Iron Curtain with itchy feet, a bent for rocks and a recurring dream of stepping off a bus in the middle of nowhere to go home. She's worked in a hospital and as the only girl with 52 men on an oil rig, spent a winter in Moscow and a summer in Iceland and finally settled in the country of her dreams with her dream team: a husband, a cat, a tandem, a hammer and a laptop.
Jackie loves unexpected reunions and second chances, and men who write their own rules. She blogs about English history and food, has a thing for green eyes, and is a great believer in making up soundtracks for everything, including her characters and the cat. And she still hasn't found the place where the bus stops. For questions and comments, not restricted to green eyes, bus stops or recipes for traditional English food, you can find Jackie Keswick in all the usual places.