Brushed With Love
Fearne Hill’s Brushed With Love is a charming and sexy opposites-attract romance featuring a pair of captivating central characters, a well-drawn, quirky secondary cast and lots of genuine warmth, humour and feels.
Clement Constantine Church wrote an award-winning novel in his late teens which was then turned into an Oscar-winning movie – but hasn’t been able to write anything new since and now spends his time ghost-writing autobiographies. Introverted and just a little bit neurotic, Clem has inherited his late grandmother’s cottage in the seaside town of Woolacombe in Dorset, and had hoped that being away from London might have given his muse a prod – but no such luck.
Ragnar Aleksander Sigurdson Eggebraaten – Eggy – is a six foot five Viking God-of-a-man who was thrown out of the family home in the Lofoten Islands at sixteen when his dad found him fooling around with another boy and packed him off with a thousand kroner and the clothes on his back. As, like most Scandinavians, he could speak English well, that’s where he headed and now, at twenty-five he and his best friend Fifty (I won’t spoil it by telling you why he’s called that – I laughed when it’s revealed) live in their two ancient camper vans, travelling around Europe and spending the summer months in Woolacombe where they work for Fifty’s uncle’s decorating business and spend their spare time surfing – and, in Eggy’s case, shagging. He’s unapologetic about his revolving door of one-night-stands of both sexes – “I can’t help it. I’m genetically programmed to raid and plunder and sow my seed throughout the entire northern hemisphere.” But all that changes when he meets the gorgeous, dark-haired, green-eyed Clem (he’s decorating Clem’s cottage) and is instantly smitten – and not just because he wants to get Clem into bed. Oh, he does want that, but there’s something about Clem that appeals in other ways as well, and Eggy finds he wants to get to know him better. Before long, their chats over tea and biscuits have become the highlight of Eggy’s day, even if he does feel somewhat intimidated by all the books lying around the place (he’s severely dyslexic) and envious of Clem’s ability to read them and block out the rest of the world whenever he wants to.
Clem’s current project is the autobiography of Dame Margarite Le Cornu – think Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Helen Mirren all rolled into one and then some – a veritable National Treasure of stage and screen. Her well-intentioned plan to find Clem a suitable boyfriend leads to Eggy stepping up and offering to pretend he’s Clem’s boyfriend, and not only does he then proceed to charm the pants off Margarite, he also stuns Clem (who at this point, believes Eggy is straight) with the ease with which he slips into the role and how comfortable and naturally affectionate he is with another man.
Clem and Eggy are like chalk and cheese and perhaps shouldn’t work as a couple – but they do, and splendidly so. They’re sweet and charming and likeable, and even though neither of them has much experience of relationships, they don’t let that hold them back and decide to make the most of the time they have together before Eggy and Fifty up sticks at the end of the summer and head off to start their surfing school in Fuerteventura. As their feelings for each other deepen however, it becomes clear to both of them that this is no summer fling – and never really was – and that one of them has a big decision to make.
Both men come from less than ideal family situations and their backstories are moving; Eggy’s is particularly heart-rending as he recalls the events that led him to England and to Fifty’s friendship, and the sense of loss he feels at not being able to be there for his younger brother is palpable. I loved both of them, reserved, snarky Clem who struggles with self-worth, and boisterous and outgoing Eggy, the Nordic surfer-dude with a heart as big as his stature.
The secondary characters are well-written with very clear individual voices and important parts to play, most notably Fifty, the stoner surfer-dude who loves to quote Point Break. The superbly written friendship between him and Eggy has been going through a rough patch, but is nonetheless solid, Dame Margarite is a theatrical luvvy with a heart of gold, and even though he appears only briefly, I already love Eggy’s brother Otto and am really hoping he’s going to get a story of his own.
I’m not a fan of the Big Mis as a way of introducing conflict, but here, it works in context and feels in character for who these people are. It’s also thankfully short-lived and leads to some important soul-searching and necessary decisions, discoveries and emotional moments. (I definitely teared up a few times while reading that section.) My one main niggle with the story as a whole is that Clem’s belief that Eggy is straight feels contrived; the scene where the matter is cleared up is excellently done, but the misapprehension goes on for too long.
This is only the second book I’ve read by Fearne Hill; unfortunately, the first didn’t work for me but I’m really glad I decided to give her another try. Brushed With Love had me grinning, laughing and sniffling; it’s a wonderfully warm, poignant and uplifting story about two people finding something they never realised they needed in each other, and it was a joy to read. I’m eagerly looking forward to book two in the Surfing the Waves series.