Review: Saving Sean — by Con Riley

SavingSeanOther Reviewers: Goodreads

Intro:

There are several topics and scenarios in romance books that are difficult to write about: serious illnesses (like HIV/AIDS, physical dismemberment/scars, and mental illness).  Usually when we read a romance story, the characters are perfectly beautiful and if there are any type of physical problems they are solved in the ending.  But, in those rare books, we find authors who are brave enough to write about imperfect characters.  For example, if you have a one-handed giant (like in Brute) how do you make him Alpha strong and not see him as a weakling?  Or make scenes intimate and romantic with both characters that have HIV (like in Living Promises).  In Con Riley’s Saving Sean, we have a character, Sean who deals with his father’s mental illness and we are left wondering if Sean is an apple that has not “fallen far from the tree.”

Basic Plot:

As Peter returns to Seattle after traveling for work, he gets a call from his friend Theo for help.   Theo’s coworker (Maggie)’s brother has avoided her contact and might be in trouble.  Would Peter go check on him at their recently deceased father’s remote cabin?  Oh, and by the way, Sean, the brother is a bit touchy.  Once Peter and Sean meet, there is chemistry, but will both of their pasts hamper their future?

Background:

This book is written in only one perspective, Peter Morse’s, whom we saw in book 1 of the series, After Ben.  Now, Peter continues a friendship with Theo, who requests help.  While I would not say it is required to read that book first, I think that you will miss some serious character development with all of the secondary characters, thus diminishing your enjoyment.

Peter Morse:

I found Peter extremely riveting in book one of the series; in fact, I had hoped Theo and he could have gotten together.  Peter is a paramedic, although now he has a job requiring travel within coastal cities (in California, Oregon, and Washington) to train new emergency medical techniques dealing with suicide calls, etc.

Peter explains why he always talks out loud, because of his habit to confer with team member.  His blurting out his thoughts at inopportune moments is some of the funniest scenes and it adds a level of endearment to his character.

With his thumb still firmly in his mouth and his hair a tangled fucking mess, Sean looked like a moody kid, his expression so belligerent, he was almost begging for a spanking.

Sean’s suddenly wide eyes shot away from the candy bar to meet Peter’s.  Realizing a little too late that he’d spoken aloud, Peter watched intently as Maggie’s brother slowly pulled his thumb from his mouth before speaking.

“Is that what they’re teaching paramedics nowadays?  Spanking?  Whatever happened to ‘first do no harm’?”

I found the scenes between Peter and Sean extremely touching, each of their insecurities and foibles clearly illustrated and defined.  We see in Peter a person who is always the caregiver with his friends and in work.  He struggles with his familial relationships and his recent immersion into Theo’s circle of friends has helped him learn about letting friends into his life.

Sean Reid:

Because we only have Peter’s perspective, we discover Sean’s character through Peter’s observations and commentary from Sean’s sister.  There is a great of character development of Sean, but to thoroughly describe these events would give away much of the plot action.

Theo filled Peter’s grudging silence.  “Maggie says that her brother Sean is an act first, think later kind of guy.  he hasn’t signed the papers relating to their late father’s will yet, and that’s holding up money.  He won’t talk to her.  I’m not even sure they get along.”

Great.  A family feud.

What is interesting about Sean is that we see an impression of him from others’ perspectives first, such as Maggie.  This perspective is not validated by what Peter uncovers with his interactions with Sean.  This leads us to question who Sean really is and how so many individuals misunderstand him.  To generalize a person’s behavior is to chance committing a disservice to the individual.

Theme Summary:

As previously stated, these two characters have strengths and weaknesses that complement each other.  In Sean, Peter discovers someone who he can trust and who is weak enough to value Peter’s inner strength.  But at the same time, Sean is not someone who is useless, but is highly intelligent and with a strong sense of right and wrong.  In Peter, Sean finds someone who understands him and can support him and his decisions.

But, for me, the theme comes illustrated late in the novel by a thought Peter has:

Peter trained EMS crews to do their best and to recognize their own limitations.  It turned out that doing so in real life was hard for Peter.  Real hard.

Even if you want to save everyone, sometimes you can’t and it’s all right to lean on others.  Having moments of weakness does not make you weak.

Strong Points:

As with the first novel, the writing was strong and compelling, with many highlighted quotes in my e-reader.  I enjoyed the return of the supporting characters found in book 1, After Ben and how we are introduced to the conflicts to be seen in book 3, Aiden’s Luck.

I especially enjoyed the relationship of Sean and Peter.  Peter is uniquely qualified and capable to understand Sean’s perspective and frame of mind, something that the other characters apparently are not.  We find through their interactions that Sean is someone who is highly misunderstood and brings insight and perceptive that helps Peter understand where his life must change.

I respect the author by how well she portrayed someone with a mental illness that is so severe it becomes debilitating.  Sean and Maggie’s father so obviously should have had some sort of help and the years isolated in this remote cabin did not help.  While we never see him, his character reminded me so much of John Nash from the movie A Beautiful Mind.

Peter cradled the small frame, wondering what made a man smash up images of his family.  Why had Sean’s father done this?  Had his wife’s passing been the straw that broke his OCD back?  Had he kept all of these pictures up on the walls until Maggie and Sean both left home?  There was no doubt about it; his hoarding had started way, way before that time.  The level of anger—or despair, perhaps—required to ruin all of this, though… Peter shook his head, looking closely at a picture that described a small boy determinedly digging with a trowel.

I have personal experience with family members and mental illness, so how Con Riley described the unexplainable actions of someone with mental illness was remarkable.  I knew exactly what imageries, experiences, and emotions she attempted to portray.

On a completely separate note, I loved the beauty of the cover image.  I have found in the past 3 months, so many duplicate covers and images.  It was refreshing to find an original and lovely cover, while I love the male body sometimes it is nice to have a cover that doesn’t just two naked bodies.

What could be better?

The only problem that I have can be said in one word:  Maggie.

I am not sure if this is to be blamed by poor writing and foresight by Riley, or the author intended this character development of Maggie.  In After Ben, she was a strong-willed, dependable friend of Theo who helped him overcome his grief after the loss of Ben and later Morgan.  She is someone whose friends and family can rely on her level head and comforting heart.

But in this book, her personality does a complete 180-degree, as I said in my Goodread’s review it was as if she was brainwashed by aliens and replaced.  Now all of a sudden she has no compassion for Sean or their father and will not listen to Sean.  Maggie does not believe anything that Sean says, as if any of her previous experience with him is void.

What the hell?  I have no respect for Maggie and quite frankly could not care a bit if her life is harder. Boo hoo!  While I understand her emotional issues and trauma from her childhood obviously has affected her current emotional state, I cannot see how it would completely change her personality.  It will be interesting to see what her personality will be in book three.

Conclusions:

I found within this book, more than just a simple love story.  It is a book about loss, grief, and the bond of trust and determination.  It is important to realize that sometimes you can not fix everything and you can ask for help.

I had thought to give it a 3 star after I read it for the first time back in October.  But after this second read, I have altered the grade to a four star.  While, I did penalize for the drastic change in Maggie’s character, it was not two stars worth.

Bea

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