Once upon a time, in a land far, far away there was...

Asylum - Robert Winter

No this isn't a fairy tale and while it is a work of fiction sadly and I say sadly with all sincerity it is based on real life events...things that never should have happened, did.

 

In writing this story the author has accomplished a few things...one he's told us a story that for the most part is interesting, entertaining and a testament to the strength of the human soul and it's ability to endure.

 

Hernan is a young man born and raised  in El Salvador until he comes under the scrutiny of a gang known as 'Cuernos del Diablo (Horns of the Devil) for being gay. Hernan has struggled with this all his life knowing that he dare not tell a soul about himself...being gay and living in El Salvador is not good for a person's continued existence. Unfortunately Cuernos del Diablo doesn't really ask if a person's gay they just decided. After being stabbed by members of Cuernos, Hernan is forced to flee his homeland. With only his Tio Juan (Uncle) to help him Hernan undergoes a journey that no one should have to experience.

 

Finally arriving in America, Hernan begins life as an illegal immigrant fearing only the long arm of Cuernos but that of ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement). If he's caught it means being departed back to El Salvador where he's sure he'll meet with certain death. 

 

Hernan doesn't trust people and truthfully I wouldn't if I was him either. What he doesn't count on is meeting a man who's honorable and simply wants to help him.  Colin Felton knows that he's lived a blessed life. He's been raised amidst a level of privilege that few can truly lay claim to. He also tries to keep this little fact about himself from becoming public knowledge.  He just wants to do his job and live a quiet life...maybe, meet someone he can share that live with one day and one day is coming sooner than he realizes when he goes for a walk in P-town following the wedding of his best friend Brandon to his fiance David. It was fun seeing the men from September again...well, except not so much with Gerald and Ethan...I really can't say I've missed these two, but we did decide that they'd be a really good couple, however, I'll pass on that story thank you very much. 

 

It takes more than a little effort on Colin's part to convince Hernan that not only can Colin help him, but Hernan can also trust him. 

 

This one started out really good and we were loving it...yes, I say we, not the royal we or even the 'hey, she's got a few screws loose we', no by we I mean my Buddy Read Besties...Josy, Simone and Christelle...the awesome ladies who continue to go on book adventures with me and we had not one...not two...but three stalkers... I mean cheerleaders...yes, cheerleaders...no actually they were awesome friends who stopped by from time to time to visit. A big thank you to Anne, Shile and Ariana your insight and shared thoughts only made things that much more enjoyable.

 

So for most of this story I was looking at 4 stars not a problem...sure there were a couple of things that maybe felt a little problematic for me but over all I liked what the author was doing here. You see Hernan's experience is based on the real life experiences of two young men who have lived through circumstances similar to what happens to Hernan and these are stories that need to be told...if for no other reason than to remind those of us who are luck enough to live in countries where not only can we speak our mind but we can be who we are...we can be gay, straight, bi, trans...we can be a rainbow and we can celebrate that rainbow. 

 

I think I got a little further along in the story before things started to tank for me but sadly they did. One of my biggest niggles was Colin...or more accurately his money...all the money...for me it felt like he started out rich and...well, I believe what I said to my friends was I know he's a trust fund  baby but it feels like he started with 'money' and then he had 'Money' and suddenly it was Colin has 'MONEY!!!' and yes, I know Colin didn't want people to know how rich he was, I get that but nope, sorry I just can't reconcile this with how it all came out and more importantly that his best friend seemed to be more concerned that Colin kept this from him than with the fact that his best friend was possibly in a great deal of danger, but hey, even though it didn't feel quite right, it still didn't spoil the story for me.  It takes a lot to really spoil a story for me...I mean full out make me feel like I want those hours of my life that I lost reading that story back spoil and that wasn't happening. 

 

I know a couple of my friends were bothered by a life changing event that happened to Hernan and/or how it played out at a point where he should have been feeling safe, feeling like things were finally going to get better and while I agree that it was unfortunate I think we all agree that it was almost inevitable...sadly, the writing was on the wall for this to occur.

 

Now, here's the part that took me from 4 stars to well...a rather shaky 3.5...please bare with me on this. I'm going to ramble a bit. I love a good HEA as much as the next person...hell, there are times that I live for them, but and this is a big but for me...I really, really need to feel that HEA, it has to be believable and real. I want to feel it in my heart. I want happy tears, I want to be able to sob and think 'Oh thank heavens. Hernan got to be happy, he found that person who deserved his love and whose love he deserved. They fit, they work in a way that is real. Sadly that wasn't how I was feeling by the end of this...somewhere along the line my happy ending turned into a cookie cutter Disney romance where Prince Charming...played by Colin Felton rode to the rescue of the Princess (in this case another Prince named Hernan) and his fairy godmother (Colin's father) waved his magic wand (got out his 'black' credit card...because black is the color that says "I am rich beyond your wildest dreams bitches!) and fixed everything...well everything except for the fact that while I was willing to overlook  a lot of the niggles in this book that weren't feeling quite right for me because there was a bigger picture story that needed to be told and it was real and at times brutal and gut wrenching and for so many people too many people it's so very real because somewhere in there were words that resonated with them...suddenly it just all turned into a fairy tale. I'm sure if most of us think about it we'll realize that we've known more than one immigrant in our lives and I have to say the ones that I've known have been incredibly strong and amazing people... 

 

Men and women who were doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers and held other well educated and high paying professional positions in their homeland and now...well now they get to drive cabs and work as home support workers, waiters, generally as unskilled labor and even then there's still some kind of course or training that they need to take, so yes, while much of Hernan's story felt real and brought out my protective instincts and had me sitting on the edge of my seat and praying...praying that his ordeal would end soon. that he'd be ok, he'd get his happily ever after. When it came to the ending where he got his prince and they rode off into the sunset in their golden carriage on behalf of the immigrants that I've had the privilege to know both legal and illegal...I have to say I'm sorry but I can no longer suspend my disbelief. 

 

Maybe, this was someone's happy ending but somehow on top of all the other amazing things that happened to Hernan...and yes, I realize he also endured a great deal of tragedy...the ending for me rather than being enough...was just too much and maybe that's the cynic in me having a bad day...I know, let's call it that and move on because at the end of it all this was a story worth telling and mostly, worth reading.

 

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An ARC of 'Asylum' was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.