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Friday, January 27, 2012

'Butterfly Tattoo' by Deidre Knight

From the BLURB:

Michael Warner has been drifting in a numb haze since the death of his lover, who was killed by a drunk driver. As the anniversary of the wreck approaches, Michael's grief grows more suffocating. Yet he must find a way through the maze of pain and secrets to live for their troubled young daughter. Out of the darkness comes a voice, a lifeline he never expected to find—Rebecca O'Neill, a development executive in the studio where he works as an electrician.

Rebecca, a former celebrity left scarred from a crazed fan's attack, has retreated from the limelight, certain no man can ever get past her disfigurement. The instant sparks between her and Michael come as a complete surprise—and so does her almost mystical bond with his daughter. For the first time, all three feel compelled to examine their scars in the light of love. But trust is hard to come by, especially when you're not sure what to believe when you look in the mirror. The scars? Or the truth?

Michael Warner’s daughter, Andrea, doesn’t call him ‘daddy’ anymore. That name is reserved for her dead father, Alex. The father she was in a car crash with, that left her with a scar running down her leg and recurring nightmares.

Michael takes Andrea to family counseling, where he is told to be patient and wait for her to start treating him like her father again . . . as opposed to the ‘left-over’ parent, the substitute.

Rebecca O’Neill is moving up in the film business. She is about to close a big novel adaptation deal that is already generating Oscar-buzz. And she has just received some good news; her parents are moving back to Georgia after staying in California for three years and nursing (coddling) Rebecca back to health. Rebecca is grateful for all they’ve done, since the stalker-attack that left her with a scarred face and prematurely destroyed her acting career.

Michael and Rebecca meet on the Hollywood lot, where Michael works as an electrician and first glimpses Rebecca in the dark . . . but they both feel the attraction.

But their heat and chemistry is a burden for both. Rebecca, because she can’t imagine someone as beautiful as Michael being attracted to her damaged self. And Michael because he was in a committed relationship for many years . . . with a man.

Rebecca and Michael can’t deny their attraction for long, though. And things become especially complicated when Michael’s daughter, Andrea, starts to open up to Rebecca about her scars and the car crash that killed her daddy. Forces are pulling Michael and Rebecca together, and all that stands in the way is their own doubts.

‘Butterfly Tattoo’ was the 2009 contemporary romance from Deidre Knight.

I admit, I was a little skeptical going into this book . . . I am an avid reader of M/M romances, and there was a small part of me that read the ‘Butterfly Tattoo’ blurb and worried this would be a book about a gay man miraculously falling for a woman (with a few not-so-subtle connotations about choosing your sexuality etc, etc). Oh, how very, very wrong I was . . .

When we meet him, Michael is barely back on his feet since his husband died one year ago. Michael is left with their young daughter, Andrea, who refuses to call him ‘daddy’ and does not talk about the accident, ever. Strained relations with Alex’s family in the wake of his death, and Michael’s own estranged father (a minister, who didn’t take kindly to Alex) mean that for the last year, Michael has felt fairly isolated in his grief. He has relied on the kindness of his and Alex’s friends, but he knows that it’s time to start returning to the living, at least for Andrea’s sake. . .

Rebecca O’Neill, meanwhile, is a lesson in slow-to-recover. It has been years since the attack that ended her career and left her face scarred . . . and in that time Rebecca hasn’t dated, she still jumps at every little noise and is wary of her TV fan-base. She is convinced that no one will want her, the way she is now.

Enter Michael, and Andrea. Michael is the local electrician on the Hollywood lot where Andrea works, and one day a black-out has them crossing paths. Michael brings Andrea along to his last-minute job, and the young girl is fascinated by Rebecca’s obvious scars, which can’t be hidden, not like Andrea’s. The two of them strike up an unlikely friendship, and Michael is awed (and even a little bit jealous). But Rebecca’s connection with Andrea is a good excuse, because Michael wants to see Rebecca again. Even though that’s nuts. He was with Alex for years, and despite his dead husband’s protests that he’s bi-sexual as opposed to homosexual, Michael is still reeling at his attraction to Rebecca.

‘Butterfly Tattoo’ is a gorgeous and sensual romance, telling the tender-tale of loving blindly and healing slowly.

What made me skeptical in the blurb is actually a rather beautiful and logical love story woven by Deidre Knight. Michael has a romantic track-record of loving the person, not their gender or their looks. This explains his and Alex’s relationship, which evolved from friendship, to confusion, and finally into a happy marriage full of love. And this explains his attraction to Rebecca – who he finds beautiful, despite her scars, and who sparks life in him after a year of drowning in grief.

And let me just say, there is a lot of grief in this book. Despite falling for Rebecca, Michael still misses and loves Alex, and Knight spends a good portion of the book examining grief and longing;

Andrea and I've spent the past year steadily erasing Alex’s fingerprint from this place. Bedroom shoes, eyeglasses, razor, toothbrush, these are the things that mark a home as belonging to someone distinct, and so long as that person is alive, you take every balled-up athletic sock, every discarded tissues and half-finished Coke for granted. It’s only afterward, when you wander through each room, that you’re spooked by the illusion that your lover might simply waltz through the ether into your bedroom, slip on those eyeglasses, and finish the novel he left cocked open bedside.

I really, really appreciated the fact that Michael didn’t stop longing for Alex after meeting Rebecca. As he is slow to realize, there will be no ‘getting over’ Alex. The pain of losing him, the joy of loving him, will remain with Michael, always. That’s a tough lesson to learn, in conjunction with falling for someone new (who is painfully aware of the hole in his life, left by his dead husband). Add onto that the fact that Michael is also battling his attraction to a woman, after being married to a man for so long . . . it sounds like it should be a soap-opera, but Deidre Knight reigns in the outlandish and focuses on the tender heartbreak inherent in the story.

‘Butterfly Tattoo’ is a gorgeous and tender novel that looks at love, from all sides, and examines the process of healing (but not forgetting). I owe a big thank-you to Mandi of Smexy Books for recommending this novel to me. I absolutely balled my eyes out through a lot of this book . . . but days after I finished reading the characters are still with me, the story lingers and definitely imprints on the heart. Sublime.

5/5

2 comments:

  1. I remember Mandi talking about this one as well. I think I need to add it to the TBR... It sounds really powerful.

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