Series: Secrets Of Neverwood
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication date: June 30th 2014
Publisher’s Page: Secrets Of Neverwood
(You can click on the covers above to see more in-depth reviews for the individual titles; this is a review of the series as a whole)
Three foster brothers are called home to Neverwood, the stately Pacific Northwest mansion of their youth. They have nothing in common but a promise to Audrey, the woman they all called mother—that upon her death, they would restore the house and preserve it as a home for troubled boys.
But going home is never easy.
Cal struggles to recover from past heartbreak, while Danny fears his mistakes are too big to overcome. Devon believes he may never break down the barriers that separate him from honest emotion.
On the path to brotherhood, they discover the old mansion holds more than dusty furniture and secret passageways. Audrey’s spirit still walks its halls, intent on guiding “her boys” toward true love, and an old mystery stirs up a new danger—one that could cost the men far more than just the house.
Secrets of Neverwood is a three book trilogy with each book following one of three foster brothers: Calvin, Danny, and Devon. The brothers, who vaguely remember and feel no brotherly love towards each other, come back to their old home when their foster mother Audrey dies, leaving her run-down family home, once a grand Victorian estate, to the three. The men run afoul of a deceptive developer who will do anything to get his hands on Neverwood and must learn to work together, trusting and opening up to each as brothers, to keep the house and carry on Audrey’s legacy of taking in gay or questioning youth who have nowhere else to go. Under the overarching storyline of keeping and bringing Neverwood back to its former glory, each book deals with the men discovering Audrey spirit is still with them, coming to terms with personal demons, and finding love.
I really enjoyed this series. Each story is easily a standalone, but work brilliantly as a cohesive unit. That being said, it’s better to read them in order, as the overarching storyline does have chronological importance to it.
Having a different author for each book in the series was really a stroke of genius as each author’s individual writing style really served to highlight to different personalities of the brothers. Each book feels fresh and original because of this, but with that comfortable, welcoming feeling of returning to an already known space and time. 5 star ratings all the way.
One Door Closes:
One Door Closes is Calvin’s story. Calvin Ware is the kind of person whose mind just doesn’t stop. He’s constantly trying to get things done and often feels like the burden of responsibility wears heavy on his shoulders – not really understanding that he’s taken most of the burden on himself. As the only of her foster children to have returned to visit and help Audrey after he aged out of the home, Calvin feels like it falls onto his shoulders to fix everything and carry on his foster mother’s legacy – starting with bringing the old home up to code since the city and a shady developer named Angus are threatening to condemn and repossess the premises if it’s not. When the contractor Cal hired shows up at his door to get the repairs done, Cal is taken back to realize it’s none other than his childhood sweetheart, Will Cabot. Already dealing with grief, an underhanded developer, and money woes, it just may be the bittersweet agony of being around his old flame that will be the tipping point for Cal.
Calvin’s mind is very cluttered and he never stops thinking, and over-thinking, and his personality is mirrored in the writing of this slow burn romance with a more literary feel to it – the prose has an almost stream of consciousness feel in parts. The intimate scenes, while kind of graphic, were treated with a soft focus filter, giving those moments a softer, hesitant quality that fit Calvin’s personality to a T.
The Growing Season:
At twenty-one, Danny is the youngest of the returning brothers and The Growing Season is his story. Unlike Calvin or Devon, Danny Redmond didn’t age out of the home, he ran away at seventeen. Life wasn’t easy for him out there and he brings the ghosts of his horrific experiences back with him when he returns home. He has no money to contribute to the restoration of Neverwood, but he does have experience as a landscaper and the memories of helping Audrey in the gardens. Danny bristles at having his toes stepped on when Sam Ignatius, a landscape architect from Seattle, is brought in to help with the grounds. Eventually Sam and Danny come to an understanding – and then more as they get to know each other, but Danny’s past is still affecting his present and Sam is dealing with a terminally ill mother and a father who’s never been happy with his son’s sexual orientation.
An overall more intense book than One Door Closes with more straight forward prose and more graphic intimate scenes. It breaks your heart in parts, but it puts it back together again with the love and understanding Danny and Sam share.
The Lost Year:
Devon McCade has been able to turn his inability, and unwillingness, to emotionally connect to others into a career as a photojournalist, where he can be safe from emotional attachment, protected as he is by the other side of the photo lens – or so he tells himself. When desperate father Nicholas Hardy sees his runaway son, Robbie, who’s been missing for a year, in one of Devon’s photos, he begs for help in locating him. Devon agrees and the two set out to find the missing boy. Along the way attraction leads to attachment and Devon fears his carefully crafted emotional shield won’t be able to protect him from Nicholas’s certain departure from his life once his help is no longer needed.
The last book in the series, this one brings it all together nicely and ties a little bow around it. The writing is somewhere between the hard-hitting straight forwardness of The Growing Season and the almost rambling, literary-ish ness of One Door Closes. The intimate scenes hit that middle ground as well, not as explicit as The Growing Season, but not as soft focus as One Door Closes where we get graphic scenes but with coy avoidance of using explicit words.
A well done series with books written by authors whose work complement each other beautifully. Although the series ends with Neverwood well on its way to carrying on Audrey’s legacy and the devious developer problem pretty much solved, there’s room for more here I think. I would love for more books to be written in this universe with more of the boys Audrey helped in the past finding love or maybe even having some newer Neverwood inhabitants aging out and following them as they enter the real world – so many possibilities and I would be first in line to read it if they came out with Secrets of Neverwood: Volume 2 🙂