Author and Publisher: David Blyth
Cover Artist: David Blyth
Release Date: June 1, 2023
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Literary Fiction, mystery/suspense
Tropes: Sexual identity, bisexuality, forbidden love
Themes: Psychological twist, mystery, family drama
Trigger Warning: Supplementary themes involve sexual identity and a teenage incestuous occurrence: neither are covered in detail, or described graphically, as they were ‘incidents’ rather than relationships, though they have an impact on the development of the narrative.
Heat Rating: 2 - 3 flames
Length: 95 000 words/362 pages
It is a standalone story and does not end on a cliffhanger.
It has a HEA of sorts - it fits vaguely into the romance genre with a lot of psychological suspense and mystery interwoven.
Paperback also available from Barnes and Noble
Paul Somerfield, a young journalist for Planet Earth magazine, shares a brief friendship with the enigmatic Mike Stokes during an assignment in Devon. It leads to a disruptive fascination and a reluctant complicity in events that evolve from Mike’s tragic past.
On a journey where emotions influence his brittle control, Paul pursues the truth. But the truth has many disguises which disrupt his relationships, his rationality and his life.
A reminder of how fragile the stability of love and trust can be: a journey that follows fear and doubt as they steer lives into a downward spiral of destruction.
(To place in context: Paul (the main character) has just taken a trip over the moors (Dartmoor, Devon, UK) with Mike (the mysterious second character) who he met just a few days ago and befriended).
After a few minutes, with the sun transferring energy to untanned skin, Paul plunged forward to swim towards the opposite bank. Standing up in the shallow water, his gaze rested on his friend still stretched out below him. Mike’s eyes remained closed, the gentle rise and fall of breath the only movement in his body. He could almost have been asleep, but Paul knew he was not, and equally certain of Mike’s awareness of a close observer, perhaps another gift to them both from the custodian of the paradise who chose to share it. Paul was neither embarrassed nor aroused by the hedonic posture, which perfectly balanced the equilibrium, complimenting the setting. He only felt gratitude.
Time slowed to allow appreciation of the scene. Eventually, with reluctance lest the spell be broken, Paul spoke again, “You need another cold dip, mate.” The words were an intrusion. He strained to speak at all. An atmosphere of expectancy subdued his responses.
Mike remained silent. As he turned his head, his eyes filled with a remote but compelling vision. Paul was a prisoner to that gaze. The surroundings drifted out of focus as the man held out a hand in an undeniable gesture of reception.
The sensual element formed a command. With water lapping knees, he leaned as fingers enclosed one arm in a soft grip. Mike’s eyes held a silent appeal. It defied refusal. Legs felt weak, folded, he fell forward, his free hand placed near Mike’s shoulder.
“Mike....” Words came like sobs from his lips, “I … I don’t ... I can’t....” He took shattered breaths, which formed around, “I’m sorry….”
Steady hands cradled his bowed head in a gentle caress. Wet hair supplemented the tears that unmanned him. The softest touches of Mike’s fingers smoothed them from his cheeks.
“Get out of the water, Paul.” Words almost whispered, close to his ear, with barely disguised authority.
Paul responded, unconsciously, climbing onto the stone.
Lines of sweat blurred his eyes. The atmosphere, heavy with anticipation, directed his senses, regulated his responses. Or, a will projected from a powerful force far below him, buried in the rock beneath. The body below him appeared able to harness that power without the need for physical participation. Paul, aware of the reaction of his own body to so sensual a situation, was powerless to subdue it. His skin absorbed the life below with every touch. Nerves ignited with every caress. His senses stimulated by conduction from another’s, as the strained form below him ascended the pinnacles of climactic rapture. Salt tears and sweat, sun warmed skin against his lips, shared breaths of confined desire; the noise of life pounding at his ear, the considerate grip of passion embracing him with a bond of impregnability. All volition was gone.
Suddenly, as though perpetrated by a violent act upon the man below him, the body became still. Only Mike’s relaxed breathing convinced Paul he was innocent of such a deed. Time was striving to catch up with its unnatural stagnancy. A stale memory of desire stained his mind like a contamination of his thoughts; the fruit of an unguarded crop of passion, which left behind the bitterest aftertaste.
Paul stared at the slope they walked down earlier. Then he stood, turned, and dived back into the water. He held no immediate aspiration to emerge from that tranquil medium, doing so only when the pain in his chest forced him to return to reality. Thrusting his feet towards the bed of the stream, he launched to the surface, gasping for air. The vision that met his eyes when his violent breaths had calmed was of a dream shattered. The picture was not as it appeared earlier. The sky painted a tormented brown. The breathtaking scene, transformed to a bleak and forlorn landscape. Air and water around him, tainted with pollution.
Turning his eyes across the water, he saw Mike walking up the slope wearing his shorts, boots held by their laces in one hand, his T-shirt trailing from the other and dragged along the grass. Swimming to the bank, reaching his clothes, he fought jeans over a wet body and slipped on his shoes. Grasping his shirt and camera bag, he stumbled up the slope in his haste. “Mike! Wait!” he called in a weak voice, breathing hard. The man did not respond to his cry. Catching up as they entered the trees, he reached out to the man’s shoulder, halting his progress.
Mike turned, a hard, almost pitiless stare, as he looked deep into Paul’s eyes.
For a moment, Paul was unable to speak. So intense a visage, it took away what little breath he had left. “You bastard! Don’t walk away from me as though your dignity’s been bruised.” He dropped his shirt and bag to his feet, and braced both hands on his knees. Breathing heavily, he waited for some reaction.
“Don’t lecture me about dignity.” The man answered, sharply.
He felt a consuming fury growing within. Standing again, Paul received a harsh look of accusation. As anger conquered instincts, he swung a clenched fist towards the man’s head. The punch found its target, striking a heavy blow to the jaw. Mike made no attempt to avoid the impact; blood soon appeared between his lips, trailing down the side of his chin. He stood motionless, looking into the eyes of his assailant. Paul remained poised, as though prepared to deliver another attack. Yet, in reality, he’d been stunned by the recognition of his actions. Mike’s eyes never flinched as he reached towards the fist, then enclosed it in a strong grip. Paul stood, mentally helpless and physically defeated, as the man lowered the arm back to his side.
“Paul, let’s go home.” The expression on his face softened before he turned to walk ahead.
About the Author
David Blyth was born in Staffordshire, in the UK. He graduated from Nottingham and Wolverhampton Universities.
He lived for many years in South Africa, where he witnessed the political and social transformation during and after apartheid.
His interests, apart from writing, include anything that helps him to stay relatively sane.
The Scars of Life was written during a two-year overland exploration of southern, central and east Africa; much was achieved sitting under the shade of a huge mango tree on the shores of Lake Malawi, always with a beer near at hand.
Separate Development, which is in fact his second novel, though published first, was written at his home in the English Midlands.
He is currently working on his third.
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