Blue-Eyed Stranger by Alex Beecroft 4 Stars!
Billy Wright has a problem: he’s only visible when he’s wearing a mask. That’s fine when he’s performing at country fairs with the rest of his morris dancing troupe. But when he takes the paint off, his life is lonely and empty, and he struggles with crippling depression.
Martin Deng stands out from the crowd. After all, there aren’t that many black Vikings on the living history circuit. But as the founder of a fledgling historical re-enactment society, he’s lonely and harried. His boss doesn’t like his weekend activities, his warriors seem to expect him to run everything single-handedly, and it’s stressful enough being one minority without telling the hard men of his group he’s also gay.
When Billy’s and Martin’s societies are double-booked at a packed county show, they know at once they are kindred spirits, united by a deep feeling of connectedness to their history and culture. But they’re also both hiding in their different ways, and they need each other to be brave enough to take their masks off and still be seen.
This is a well done romance between two compelling heroes: Martin and Billy.
We get dual points of view in this book and that gives us deep into Billy’s depression and Martin struggles with being fully out.
The depiction of depression is especially vivid and just as vivid is the love of history and place that inhabits the story. I love learning as I read and this details of Morris dancing and Vikings as well as early music are a treasure.
I also like how Billy’s mental health issues are not make more powerful than Martin’s layers that get revealed as the book goes on. Each of the men’s troubles are as much a part of them as the rest of who they are.
Even though both Billy and Martin have groups of friends through their activities they are both loners. It would have been a richer book with some others that the heroes were close too and the romance could have bloomed a little more but it is a good pace of falling in love. and a good book.