Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets.” ~ Paul Tournier
Bryson Franklin, of 'Buried Secrets' by Hank Edwards, hasn't had an easy life. His alcoholic parents resented him because he is the reason they ended up in a loveless, destructive marriage. Bryson tries not to believe the messages he receives from his parents, that he's not good enough and doesn't deserve to be happy. The only love and nurturing Bryson ever receives is when he comes to his grandparents’ farm to stay for the summer. When they die, Bryson inherits their farm, giving Bryson a chance to start over in a place where he's felt safe and loved. Bryson might be leaving the city behind, but he brings his negative, self-defeating image with him. Unless Bryson can learn to love himself, he will continue to feel unworthy of anything good that may come his way.
Being at his grandparents' farm brings with it a sense of peace he's not felt in years. The townspeople loved and respected his grandparents and many of them remember Bryson from when he stayed with them in the summer. Even the town deputy sheriff, Sam LeClaire. is kind to him and more friendly than he needs to be. Yet, Bryson's inner voice tells him that Sam couldn't possibly be interested in him and dismisses the positive signals he gives Bryson. When he meets Daniel, it's immediately obvious that Daniel is the town's “bad boy” so his inner voice reasons that it's okay for him to be with Daniel, no matter how badly he treats him. Bryson figures he doesn't deserve anything better. Though Bryson is unhappy with Daniel's behavior, he still doesn't have the resolve to end it, reasoning that even negative attention is better than none at all. Bryson's self-defeating attitude causes him to be lulled into Daniel's web of deceit and permit his manipulative behavior, with it going far beyond what Bryson would ever dream of doing. Before he knows it, Bryson is in way over his head. After a tragic incident, Daniel's hold on Bryson is tighter than ever and they are bonded with a secret so terrible, it threatens to destroy him.
Sam isn't happy that Bryson is involved with Daniel because he knows what kind of a man he is. Sam likes Bryson and he's always been a good judge of character. He thinks that Bryson is a good man who deserves someone better for him than Daniel could ever be. Sam wants to be that man. He stands back and watches as Bryson becomes tangled in Daniel's web, but Bryson is so secretive that Sam doesn't know exactly what is going on. When Sam sees Bryson has pulled away from Daniel, he takes a chance and invites Bryson for coffee. At first Bryson can't believe it, but he accepts. They have an enjoyable time together, Sam knows something is bothering Bryson, but he has no idea that he is desperately trying to keep a horrible secret. When Bryson doesn't continue to keep in touch with him, Sam is disappointed but not deterred. There's something about Bryson that attracts Sam to him and he's not going to give up on him until he's absolutely sure Bryson isn't interested.
This is a very intense, character-driven story filled with lots of unexpected twists and turns. I knew that there was more to it than I was being told and slowly, but surely, began to piece the clues together that Hank so expertly interspersed throughout the action. Hank did a marvelous job of capturing the emotions of his characters, especially Bryson. I don't think I've cheered for someone so much in a while, but Bryson was such a tragic figure, yet obviously, deep down, a good man. Although his thinking was somewhat twisted, due to his parents' neglect and disdain, Bryson wanted to do the right thing. He just didn't always know what that was, especially for himself. Sam was a great guy who I loved immediately. I wanted Sam and Bryson to get together, even after it seemed very unlikely that they would do so. If you enjoy stories with strong characters, great writing, mystery, suspense, and intrigue, you may enjoy this book. Thanks so much, Hank, for the intense reading experience.