Blue Eyed Stranger is an emotional journey for Billy Wright and Martin Deng as they struggle through individual challenges and the hurdles of a new relationship. Billy’s depression and Martin’s closet anxiety are fully third and fourth main characters in the book. Beecroft does an exceptional job of sharing the depression and anxiety for each character; I felt stomach aching pain for them both, though I had a bit more empathy for Billy.
Billy’s hurdles were largely out of his control and he struggled to find he methods to cope with those hurdles. While it can be easy to tell someone with depression that they “need help”, and it can even be easy for someone with depression to know there are resources available, there is absolutely nothing easy about the crippling despair and self-doubts one must conquer in order to reach those resources.
Martin’s challenges, in his professional, personal, and hobby lives, are more of his own choosing. He creates some of his own worst situations, and his journey follows a path focused on conquering his external fears. He’s spent most of his life fighting his parents’s expectation that a black man must be above reproach and at the top of his profession. The conversations with his family help to solidify his struggle there. It can be hard to sympathize with a character making these choices if you haven’t lived a life as a minority let alone two of them. I felt there was a good amount of “show” rather than “tell” for these issues, and it helped reinforce the sometimes extreme panic Martin often suffers from.
Beecroft uses alternating POVs in this story and they work perfectly. Billy and Martin each have multiple breaking points, and it is critical the reader see those moments from both of their sides. These moments are gut-wrenching, and I found I couldn’t stop reading until these conflicts found resolution. Much of this book was an emotional roller coaster, and that’s exactly my bag.
So what keeps this from being an A book for me? Entirely personal preference. Martin and Billy bond over reenactment type things. They have different social groups and interests, but they perform at the same venues. I can only assume the author put considerable research into this book, as there is a LOT of historical information around the reenactment societies, as well as Martin’s personal interests in history and especially that of the Vikings. Billy’s group focuses on some areas of dance and music. They manage to find ways to blend these interests which make for good relationship choices. Unfortunately for me, these parts of the story made for some slightly boring plot points. Again, this is a very personal-for-me boredom, and I’m not the audience for this bit. I think anyone with a remote interest in history or even someone not bored by the terms and detail would enjoy this aspect of Blue Eyed Stranger.
This book is the second set in the Trowchester world, but it’s by no means dependent on having read the first. There’s a brief glimpse at previous characters with no significant personal relationships between those characters and the new characters of this book. I enjoyed the first book a bit more, but I think that speaks more to the second book’s historical focus than its story or writing. I enjoy the author’s style, and I recommend the Trowchester books for most readers of contemporary m/m.