Reviewed by Donna
TITLE: Paper Kisses
AUTHOR: R.M. Grace
PUBLISHER: Self Published
LENGTH: 353 Pages
RELEASE DATE: February 13, 2016
“So you want to hear a story?”
“Depends. It isn’t a love story is it? I don’t want to hear a love story—they’re all diluted by cliches.”
“It’s not a love story. It’s about two people coming together under complicated circumstances to find they can care for one another.”
“Sounds like a love story.”
“Well, it’s not. It’s more a tale of survival. Do you want to hear it?”
Dark Winters, an eight year-old from Coventry, is set to go on holiday with his parents. In a rush, they pack their bags and head into the storm in search of The Jurassic Coast’s warm beaches.
They have only been driving for twenty minutes when they hit something in the road that changes their lives forever.
Dark finds himself in a strange building with no idea how he got there and, to his growing horror, his parents are no longer with him. But when he hears movement above his head, it dawns on him he is not alone . . .
After enduring over nine years in his new home, the last thing Dark wants is to develop feelings for his captor. Yet, he is helpless to prevent his feelings–it’s almost as though fate is at work. Now, all he has to do is find a way to get the deadliest person he’s ever met to notice him.
I didn’t actually intend to start reading this book yet, but after reading a few critical reviews on Goodreads which referenced the first 10% or so of this story, well, I had to see what all of the fuss was about. At 5am I finally put the completed book down and cried myself to sleep. I still don’t know what I really want to say about Paper Kisses. I don’t know if I loved it or hated it. But there’s no denying that it’s one of the most enthralling books that I’ve ever read.
The story is told in three parts, the first part taking up around 60% of the story. It begins with eight year old Dark being bundled into the car at midnight by his parents, who tell him that they’re headed for the beach. It’s obvious to us that something isn’t quite right about the situation, but it isn’t until much further through the story that we discover the truth. All we know at this point is that when their car hits serial killer, Travis, their night doesn’t go as planned. However, Travis’ plans also go awry, as he acts on instinct and instead of killing Dark, he decides to pick him up and carry him home. And there he keeps him, a prisoner, for almost a decade.
I should probably assure you right off that Travis isn’t a pedophile, but although he never sexually abuses young Dark, he doesn’t see any harm in hitting, punching, burning, or knocking out teeth. But just as I’m unsure of my opinion on the plot, I’m also unsure of my opinion of Travis. While the author does provide a “reason” for the man being like he is, at no time does she try to excuse his behavior. He’s a serial killer with an anger management issue, who is more than slightly unhinged. But we see the way he changes as the years with Dark pass. We discover that in an odd way he rescued Dark. And we can see that Dark, as a young man, needs Travis to love him – and we want Dark to be happy. I think I was hoping that the author would somehow redeem Travis, but she doesn’t give us that easy out. I think that you, as a reader, need to decide if you can forgive or even just understand Travis enough to wish him happiness with Dark, and I think that that will be a key factor in whether some readers enjoy this book or not.
This book isn’t a romance, although the relationship between Travis and Dark does actually head in that direction. The love that develops between them is hard to understand, yet fascinating at the same time, and whatever the readers’ opinion on whether or not it was “real” there’s no denying that both men believe it in their own damaged way.
I think the ending is going to be the hardest thing for some readers to deal with. I won’t write any spoilers here, but if you’re like me (and want to know how a book ends before you begin) then read through the tags at the bottom of the review and you’ll know.
I know that I said I’m unsure if I loved or hated this story, but I need to acknowledge the fact that this is a superbly written book. Whether it’s my kind of story or not is my own personal issue. The actual writing and attention to detail deserve to be recognized. I doubt that I’ll ever sit down to read this book again, but at the same time I know that I’ll never forget Dark and Travis’ story.