“We sleep and live in dormant twilight, never knowing what it means to live, to love the bits of heaven that we can unearth deep in our hearts; not recognizing that our salvation is ever-present in those parts that we have disowned, denied, forgotten...” ~ Kay Thompson
Josh Thornton, from 'Dormant Heart' by Lane Smith, is a nice man with little self-confidence and little faith in his ability to succeed in life. Josh's self-worth was shattered in childhood by an unaccepting, homophobic father who took every chance he got to destroy Josh emotionally. Even though Josh got away fairly early, he still lives with self-doubt, constantly considering himself inferior, certain that everyone is just waiting for him to make a mistake. When his boss gives him a photography assignment he's amazed, but agrees. His boss even lends Josh his car. Josh wants to be successful in this undertaking, but, at the same time, he just knows something will go wrong. Josh is overwhelmed by the peace and beauty of the countryside around Hartley Manor. He is even more stunned by the ethereal sight of a young man, Callum, kneeling in the grass, playing with wild foxes.
Callum exists in a “dormant twilight”, hiding as much as he can, shutting out life beyond the estate he's lived on all of his life. Callum limits himself, his progress impaired by a memory loss, but one Callum is also afraid of remembering. When Josh learns that Callum is mute due to a childhood accident, he goes out of his way to communicate with Callum. Josh also learns that Callum can't remember why he climbed the tree or when he fell out. The doctors are at a loss to explain why he can't speak considering they can find nothing physically wrong. Although Josh's job is to photograph the manor grounds and the three cottages that are to be sold by his company, Josh's favorite photography subject is Callum. He ends up with tons of excellent pictures that everyone, especially Josh, enjoys.
Both men are cautious about getting involved, but sometimes fate has a way of pushing you when and where you least expect it. Josh and Callum become friends and then lovers in a short time. They seem to be made for each other. Things are going remarkably well until, after having sex, Callum's memory of his accident comes back to him in a dream. The memories are so horrific that Callum has a PTSD episode and while lashing out, punches Josh in the face. When Callum comes back to his senses, his cottage is a disaster and Josh is gone. Callum can't blame Josh for being frightened, but is desperate to get in touch with him. Callum writes a heartrending message trying to apologize and explain what happened, ending with telling Josh he's the best thing that's ever happened in his life. Josh replies, telling Callum he is frightened and confused. Josh doesn't want to be with someone who is going to be abusive. Josh doesn't completely close the door, but says he needs time to sort it all out.
This is a character driven story with most of the action taking place internally as the men sort out their problems. Josh and Callum act as a catalyst for each other, finding their special talents so they can move forward in their lives. The chapters are divided between Josh's point of view and Callum's. Since Callum couldn't verbalize his feelings, this was especially important. The feelings between Josh and Callum were intense and the physical side of their relationship, although emotional and steamy, would have been even nicer if they’d had more time to get to know each other and develop more trust. If you enjoy stories with mystery, intrigue, complicated relationships, and life on an estate, then you may like this story. Thanks, Lane, for helping Josh and Callum find each other.