I love a great redemption story. And if anyone needs redeeming, it’s Gideon Ramsay, a hard-partying, famous actor who is deeply in the closet. He’s besties with Silas (Risk Taker and Oz), and Niall (his brother Milo’s partner) – with whom he also used to have sex. Confused? Don’t be – but know that Lily Morton loves connections in her novels. And while this story mostly chronicles Gideon’s transformation from closeted, hot mess to loving partner/brother/friend, the principal and secondary characters are all in each other’s pockets, and it’s helpful (but not necessary) to know who they are before reading Gideon. Despite my early doubts, Ms. Morton succeeds in redeeming this selfish, grumpy man-child, although unfortunately, the pacing of the novel is slightly off. The connection between the principals is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fast, and we know very little about Eli, the man Gideon ultimately falls head-over-heels in love with. The author’s failure to develop this pivotal character beyond his relationship to Gideon, combined with one too many twee Milo/Niall and Silas/Oz moments, detracted from my overall pleasure in this couple and their love story, even though I enjoyed it overall.
Gideon is selfish and spoiled. He’s also rich and famous, enjoys drinking to excess, drugs, and threesomes. Oh reader, he’s a gem. At the end of Milo, Gideon was nursing hurt feelings over the love match between his brother Milo and Niall, but trying to repair his relationship with both of them. But in Gideon, we learn his life has gone off the rails. He feels abandoned by Niall, he longs to be out of the closet (although his Machiavellian agent forbids it), and he’s drinking heavily and regularly using drugs. He feels terrible, looks awful, can’t keep food down or stop coughing, and he’s mentally exhausted. When he collapses while readying himself for a threesome with his current partner and a virtual stranger, Gideon’s day of reckoning has arrived.
Awakening in the hospital with Milo and Niall watching over him, Gideon isn’t quite sure what’s next. But Milo knows. After informing Gideon that he’s restricted Frankie’s (Gideon’s homophobic agent) access to his hospital room, he tells him he’s had pneumonia for the past month and nearly died from it. As a result, Milo wants Gideon to recuperate at Chi an Mor (the estate where he and Niall and Oz and Silas live and work) and since Gideon isn’t able to fly, Milo’s booked him on the first available cruise. Although he’s opposed to the plan, Gideon is in no position to argue with Milo – or an amused and enthusiastic Niall. When an angry Frankie bursts into the room and insists a nurse accompany him on the trip, Gideon tries to resist but knows it’s a losing battle. When his very handsome male nurse walks into the room Frankie, who mistakenly assumed the nurse’s name was Ellie, predictably tries to fire him. But Eli isn’t having any of it. It’s clear his patient needs peace and quiet and so he gives it to him. He escorts Frankie to the door and then closes it in his face. Gideon reluctantly decides he likes him.
Gideon is a story told in three distinct parts: Before Gideon’s collapse, aboard ship, and post-cruise at Chi an Mor, a shangri-la of sorts for the men who call it home. Pre-hospital Gideon is a disaster. Cruise Gideon is a man in transformation – forming an unlikely friendship with his sunny, ever optimistic and happy Welsh nurse, whilst pretending he isn’t also wildly attracted to him. He’s also realizing he can no longer continue the toxic working relationship he has with Frankie, or keep pushing people away to preclude being abandoned. He and Eli become fast friends, and for the first time in a long time, he begins to trust someone else with his innermost secrets. Post-cruise Gideon starts living on his own terms without drinking, drugs, or constant meaningless sex, and he mends his relationship with Milo. He also waits for Eli. Although the pair formed a bond aboard ship and it’s clear they’re attracted to each other, Eli wasn’t willing to compromise his professional commitment to Gideon. They parted as friends – agreeing to a temporary break to ensure Gideon wasn’t influenced by his reliance on Eli to care for him. They exchange emails in the interim, and when Eli finally returns to England, they immediately embark on a passionate and loving affair.
Gideon is a wonderfully diverting character. He’s grumpy and sarcastic and funny and vulnerable and damaged and hurt… and via his relationship with Eli (and to a lesser extent Milo), we finally discover why. Virtually abandoned by his parents to life at boarding school, Gideon feels left behind by everyone he’s ever loved. Niall’s relationship with Milo was simply more proof he wasn’t ‘worth’ wanting. He’s used drinking, drugs and sex to numb himself – but with Eli’s support and care, he begins to heal. They happily hide away together at Chi an Mor, spending their days in bed and getting to know each other, and Gideon finds his home; with Eli, he feels protected and safe. Their relationship is passionate and romantic, and it’s clear they’re falling in love, but it’s also clear that Gideon will soon face a reckoning between his personal and professional personas. Ms. Morton masterfully draws out their sojourn at Chi an Mor, and it’s easily the best part of this story. Then Frankie shows up and shit gets real. Fast.
As much as I enjoyed the titular character’s redemptive story arc, there are a few glaring problems with Gideon. First off, there’s zero character development for Eli. Ms. Morton barely sketches in a backstory about a tense relationship with his parents, and randomly introduces us to one of his roommates (I’m thinking he may feature in a future book), but that’s it! I wanted to know more about this apparently kind and wonderful man, but he’s a stranger. And the other big problem? Once Gideon meets Eli, he stops drinking, using drugs and engaging in casual sex seemingly overnight. With the exception of one onboard slip, it’s like Ms. Morton snapped her fingers and poof!, the problems didn’t exist. Real life isn’t nearly that easy or simple. I also struggled to accept Chi an Mor as some kind of magic cure-all, and that Gideon and Eli would be so quickly assimilated into the small, intimate community of men who call it home. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a treat to spend time with them, but a bit over the top, too. Ms. Morton likes to craft saccharine sweet happily ever afters for her couples, and this time, it was a spoonful of sugar too much.
In this latest Finding Home novel, Gideon finds his home with a gentle giant who is his opposite in every way. The story is passionate, uplifting and often very funny, and despite a few significant problems, it’s another engaging and entertaining addition to this charming series.