I’ve come to expect a lot of internal conflict and a slower pace from Sherwood’s stories and Shying Away fits that description very well. The characters spend most of the time with little to no reason for being apart other than emotional fear and chaos. The pace is pretty slow as the characters have no external conflict and the internal source drags out. This isn’t bad usually but since the characters can’t rely on sex scenes or sadly much sexual tension the story starts to drag. Once they get together things aren’t actually much better and eventually I became pretty bored as the story just kept going without any real interest.
The plot reminds me of classic m/f romances with the charismatic playboy running from a painful past (Quinn) who meets the innocent virgin that’s determined to have more than just sex (Aaron). Quinn may want Aaron but Quinn thinks he’s too jaded and likes his anonymous sex and alcohol too much to get involved with virginal Aaron. Aaron on the other hand wants Quinn and throws himself at Quinn at every opportunity. Add in Aaron’s family who are completely supportive of the relationship, a few dark secrets from Quinn’s past and the rest of the story is made up of introspection and mental musings.
Since the plot is so character driven, it’s important that the main men engage the reader and hold your interest. Both Quinn and Aaron are decently developed and stay true to their characterization for the most part. Unfortunately they just weren’t very exciting or fresh. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing at the start of the story but it does wear over the course as the same repetitive arguments are given time and time again. You start to wonder exactly why these two aren’t having sex yet, especially since Aaron’s family makes a point to continually throw the two men together and make their acceptance clear. The mental angst and inferiority complex only go so far and then the story definitely drags.
Unfortunately once the two men get together things don’t really pick up. Almost immediately there’s a twist with Quinn’s past and family thrown in to keep the emotional problems going. These add a slight bit of interest yet they’re easily resolved and unfortunately don’t add more complexity to Quinn’s personality. He has a lot of shame and guilt, not all of which makes sense and it’s pretty late in the story to add such dynamics. Especially considering they offer no new angles to the main romance either. They’re likely meant to give Quinn depth and offer the reasons for his dependence on anonymous hookups and alcohol but they really aren’t handled in such a way as to do that.
The writing and pacing is pretty typical of Sherwood stories – if you’ve read any other books you know internal angst tends to dominate – but the lack of any other focus really hurts the pacing here. There is very little sex, which again isn’t bad, but there is very little to break up the constant repetitive introspection and frankly, whining. There is an attempt to bring the setting to life with the day to day work on the horse farm but I never became engaged or very interested in it. The descriptions feel muted and forgettable instead of vivid and eye catching. Towards the end of the book when there are several sex scenes to show the happy ending for the couple, but I didn’t really care at that point and the story had already lost me.
Perhaps for another reader this story could really sing and satisfy. It’s not very innovative but often readers like the comfort in familiar tropes and themes. This is a very popular idea (the playboy and the virgin) so those that particularly like that idea may like this. Unfortunately it just didn’t work for me but I’ll still be looking for what else Sherwood does.