Awakening by Terry O’Reilly

 Awakening by Terry O’Reilly


Jonathan Carver, a young Puritan school teacher, meets the handsome Nathaniel Morgan, master cooper. He comes to recognize the longings he has had all his life as desire for the love of another man. Nathaniel provides that love.

Their love must be carefully guarded as they live in Colonial America at the time of the call to Awakening of the Puritan spirit. Knowing that the penalty for their love is dire, they strive to keep their affair secret.


This is an interesting book and tackles the problems inherent for homosexuals in a historical, puritanical setting. Unfortunately the afterword left a bad impression and thus has soured my outlook on the book so I’ll attempt to separate the book from the afterword. In this case as with some others that feel the need to include something more, less is more and additional scenes are not always beneficial to either the reader or the story. The actual story itself was absorbing and interesting with well defined characters. The combination of a historically accurate and appropriate ending and the characters’ inherent meekness may cause some not to be satisfied with the story. So know that going in and it’s a chance the author has to accept writing such a story, but he does offer numerous conciliatory gestures to readers including the promise of a sequel with a happy ending.

The premise revolves around Jonathan Carver falling in love with Nathaniel and becoming engaged on the day of their meeting. This duality epitomizes the choices and lifestyle expected within a rigid belief system and historical American setting. There are very few surprises within the plot and every turn is easily predictable, but that doesn’t lessen the impact of the story and its interest. The writing is concise and seemingly accurate, but lacks an emotional connection. The often simplistic prose fits well with the puritan setting, but lacks a vitality and vivid descriptive quality which reads dry and staid. The details given create an atmosphere but very sparse with only hints of color or contrast. Interesting characters and the inherent star crossed lovers theme keep the story moving.

Nathaniel is the stronger of the two men, older and wiser not only in the rules society dictates, but in his sense of self and identity. Nathaniel accepts his desire for other men and has no interest or desire to conform to another image. He fears discovery for the very real consequences but he will only bend to a religion he doesn’t believe so much. Although often too accepting of Jonathan’s weakness, he ultimately shows his courage in the ending, which was appropriate not only for all involved and the setting but especially so in keeping with Nathaniel’s character. His gentle demeanor hides a clear emotional and mental strength that unfortunately Jonathan never gains on his own.

Jonathan is clearly a product of his environment and young age. At twenty, he is innocent, naïve, and sheltered. Easily led and manipulated by most forces around him and lacking any clear backbone. He does show his courage in one or two scenes but overall, he’s very willing to live as he’s expected and finds comfort in the normality of the rules and demands of puritan faith. He doesn’t fight and struggle against his homosexual desires but neither does he fight for those he loves either. He may not be a likable character with his weakness but he comes across as very typical for the time and age. His decisions are often agonizing, taking the path of least resistance that he finds the most comforting and expected, but again as a product of his upbringing Jonathan simply lacks the strength of character that Nathaniel has.

Various secondary characters added interest and depth to the story from Robert to Rebecca and even Samuel. But the focus was clearly on the instant romance between Nathaniel and Jonathan, in addition to the historically accurate sex scenes. These numerous scenes fit with the writing and the time being awkward and sometimes painful but concentrate on the emotion between the men. The story on a whole wasn’t bad and certainly interesting if not exciting and page turning. While it doesn’t have a happy ending, the romance stands on its own and has no need to add more.

Unfortunately that brings us to the afterword, which is a fictional scene between the author and his husband as they play in the park and discuss the book’s ending. Not only is this completely random, ill-fitting, and out of nowhere but the entire lengthy scene speaks of the author justifying why there is no happy ending and the husbands’ pleas to include one to satisfy romantics. Here, I admit I was baffled why this was included but more so, angry that the author chose not to include a happy ending (fair enough, and very fitting IMO) but then chooses to basically apologize and justify his reasons; all of this while showing there WILL be a happy ending in the inevitable sequel.

The scene between the author and his husband was undeniably cute, but the reasons for it are angering and bothersome. If you’re going to add a controversial aspect, then going on to explain why and justify either shows your insecurity in the story or educating your readers on how the book should be read. Neither of which I appreciate in a story. This soured how I felt about the book, which until then was slightly positive. I was looking forward to a sequel to see how Nathaniel moves on in his life and was left with a conciliatory gesture from the author – almost an apology.

My recommendation is if you read the book – skip the afterword. It’s not needed and adds nothing to the story itself. It’s a cute look of the author and his husband and if you needed to know that Nathaniel and Jonathan have a happy ending with the setup for the sequel, the bits of information are all laid out nicely to appease the angry romance masses. Funny how I wasn’t angry or disappointed until I read that.

Anyway, that’s my take. Get it HERE!


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3 thoughts on “Awakening by Terry O’Reilly

  1. *furrows brow*
    Afterword sounds as though it would be rather jarring. Perhaps the publisher wanted it, to appease and advise that a HEA (of HFN) ending was in the works?
    I can’t imagine someone choosing (all on their own) to sort of shove the readers out of the book’s universe and across a couple centuries or so… *shrugs*

    • Well I can’t say for sure but I think the author chose to add the afterword. Like I said, it’s a cute scene between them but it reeks of an apology for the ending. I think the author wanted to make sure everyone knew there was a happy ending, but he couldn’t add it and be historically accurate.
      I think it really speaks to the genre with it’s almost necessary HEA so much that authors are afraid to venture away from it. On the one hand, that HEA ending is a hallmark of the romance genre.
      I am trying to separate the book from the afterword though.

  2. The really sad thing is… I can’t even begin to tell you how many publishers say in their submission guidelines that they publish ROMANCES and won’t even consider putting out a story without at least a HFN ending.
    Maybe that had something to do with it, as well. Hmmm… *ponders*

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