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New Beginnings: Abel's Journey

Narrated by: Adam Gold
Series: Healing Hearts, Book 2
Length: 10 hrs and 48 mins
Categories: Fiction, Gay & Lesbian
4.5 out of 5 stars (40 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Life is beyond our control. It can bring joy, laughter, and happiness, then turn around and rip your heart out of your chest without warning. 

Abel Matheson received a cold dose of life's reality six months ago when the man he loved most lost his fight against cancer. 

Free-spirited, easy-going Abel doesn't know how to cope with the rotting, festering grief growing inside him. What was once an easy life has become a struggle to put one foot in front of the other. 

His grades are slipping, his job is suffering, money is tight, and the nightmares plaguing his sleep are relentless. Something has to give. He can't keep going like this. 

Desperate to end his suffering, Abel falls back on old habits. Self-destructive habits he knows are wrong. Every time he tries to stand, he ends up face-first in the mud. 

On the advice of a counselor, Abel makes attempts to find a support system to help him handle his grief. Unexpectedly, during his quest toward healing, Abel makes a connection with the most unlikely of people. 

His mind wants to rebel against the man who stands before him. Run far and fast in the other direction. But his heart forms a bond that annihilates his fear. 

Why this man of all people? 

Sometimes you find help and love where you least expect it.

This audiobook has been written as a follow-up to No Regrets. WARNING: This audiobook includes self-harm, substance abuse, grief and loss, anxiety, and depression.

©2017 Nicky James (P)2018 Nicky James

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    4 out of 5 stars
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New Beginnings

Ahh this book, I am glad we didn’t have to be present for the death. This was more the aftermath. It was powerful and emotional. Grief is personal to everyone and it affects us all in a different way. No one griefs the same.

The downward spiral Abel finds himself in really is hard to listen to sometimes because you want him to be ok and he isn’t he is trying so hard but he just isn’t ok.

The counselor sees through some of the stuff Abel hinds and he really means well but I don’t think he understood just how deep into despair Abel was. The friendship he finds with Kieran I completely believe was through the hands of Landon because Able needed someone who understood and Kieran needed someone who understood.

The way it happens is organic and meant to be it never felt forced and for that I am thankful.

The narration is really great but again Michigan accent sounding Boston not going to lie that threw me a LOT. But I loved his Kieran voice so it evens out.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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So worth the pain and tears!

4,5 stars

If No Regrets terrified me, I don't even have words to describe my level of trepidation going into this book. I knew it was going to be painful. I knew I was going to get my heart ripped out, trampled on, mangled and that I was going to bleed - a lot. But I still had to listen to this story. I needed to know what happened to Abel after losing Landon. I needed to see him happy. So I stocked up on tissues and started listening...

We are thrown into the thick of it, it's been six months since Landon passed and Abel is grieving. Floundering. We were there when they fell in love, every step of the way and it was wonderful. Only now we have to deal with the consequences, the aftermath of losing a loved one. The pain of have fallen for Landon and losing him all too soon.

This book is divided into two parts: Falling and Rising. Falling is painful in so many ways. It deals with Abel's grief. We watch him spiral further and further down, become more and more self-destructive. He's drowning in the loss of Landon and the only way he knows to numb the pain is with alcohol. We watch him turn into someone we don't recognise and keep hoping that he will have the strength to pull himself up from the despair. The charming and funny guy we fell in love with in book one, has been replaced by a drunk who cares for nothing and no one. The pain Abel feels is so real, you feel it in every word and every moment. It wrecks you and you hurt right along with him.

The second part of the book, Rising brings hope, light in that dark despair. After hitting rock bottom, we see Abel slowly starting to live again, accept that life does go on. That even in the darkest of places there is hope, light. His came in the form of Landon's ex-boyfriend Kieran. The only one that seems to understand and share his pain. Kieran helps him to start over, and putting back the shattered pieces of his life, heart and mind back together. Not only that, we also watch them slowly falling for each other. That from all the grief and sadness, love can still grow. And it was beautiful. Bittersweet, but still beautiful.

Adam Gold puts a lot of emotion into his narration and he did a wonderful job capturing Abel. The pain he felt, the despair. But also confusion and hope. He made it real, made the characters real. However, at times when there were longer paragraphs without any dialogue to break it up, the narration could be a bit stilted didn't feel quite natural or effortless. It wasn't all the times, but it was noticeable when it was there.

This book could probably be read as a standalone, but then you'd miss out on the wonderful journey that started all this. Miss out on falling in love. The pain will be there regardless, but at least you'd have some happiness before dealing with the inevitable loss.

Like I told you in the beginning; I was terrified of starting this book. I knew it was going to be painful, that I was going to use a lot of tissues. And it was, and I did. But what's more, it was all absolutely worth it. To grieve for Landon, but above all to see Abel start over and find happiness and love again. So worth all the pain and tears.
Highly recommended!

A copy of this book was generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review for Love Bytes.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Pain, healing, and two wounded souls

This is going to be a hard review to write. I read Book One in the series knowing that although the book was not about death, one of the lead characters was dying. If you haven’t listened to or read ‘No Regrets’, I suggest you do. Not because you can’t pick up ‘Abel’s Journey’ and just dive in, but because ‘No Regrets’ was a poignant, beautiful, and wonderful read. No, Landon does not die in the book, but his death is inevitable and although the book was more about his journey and desire to pack as much living as he could into his short time left, it was Abel I fell in love with.

Ms. James has, on several forums, tried to warn readers that although ‘Abel’s Journey’ is a romance, it is also a painful…well…journey. That, in some ways, this book is more heart-wrenching than the first. How can that be, I wondered. I mean, Landon’s death was inevitable, while Abel’s happy ending is guaranteed. Again, I don’t feel that I’m overly sentimental, so I believed I could deal with the emotions this book might evoke. Three days later, as I am writing this review, I am crying.

But you have to listen to this book!

And, if you’re smart, keep tissues close.

Now, since Ms. James’ trigger warnings are clear (and if you choose not to read them, consider skipping the next 2 paragraphs. They do not contain spoilers, but they do touch on themes from the book).

First, I’ll open up and tell you two things – I was once suicidal in my long-distant past and I lost a friend to suicide in my early twenties. So although there are no suicides in the book, even ideation and contemplation is hard for me. That it is handled so carefully and truthfully, and its rawness and immediacy, speaks to Ms. James’ talent as a writer.

Secondly, I lost a very good friend to cancer. I’m sure many of you have as well since the incidence of the disease is only increasing. Innovative and traditional therapies are great and many lives are saved, but Stage Four diagnoses don’t tend to end well with certain cancers. Now, I’m not a doctor, so I’m not saying all Stage Four cancers are a death sentence, but in my friend’s case, it was. Pancreatic Cancer, Stage Four, they told me. Prepare myself, I was warned. But how can you? My beautiful, vibrant, happy, and deeply loving Heather died Christmas Day. Thirty-five days after diagnosis and a mere six months after I had been maid of honour at her wedding.

I never even got to say goodbye. I’m an atheist, but I do believe her spirit lives on in the people she loved and the friends and family who had the privilege of knowing her. So, even all these years later, it hurts. All deaths hurt the living, even if the end is a mercy and that person’s suffering is now over. For those of us left behind, the grief is real and tangible, and at times, crippling. That I still miss her is natural. That thinking about her death can still reduce me to tears is heart-breaking. Especially since she would KICK ME if she were here.

Landon would have that same reaction, if he could see Abel’s suffering. Landon, who had put in such a valiant effort to cut off all friends except G-Ma, his beloved grandmother. In fact, he spent a good part of ‘No Regrets’ trying to keep Abel at arm’s length or, better yet, out of his life entirely. But Abel wouldn’t be deterred. He fell in love with Landon and, even knowing he would lose the love of his life eventually and inevitably, married Landon and did his best to help Landon check every item off his bucket list. The Bucket List was the reason Abel met his ‘Spidey’ and their love story was powerful. Canada’s Gord Downey from The Tragically Hip rock band, as well as my cousin’s husband, died from Stage Four brain cancer. It is a devastating disease and knowing Landon went through that pain and Abel was by his side gutted me.

‘Abel’s Journey’ picks up six months after Landon’s funeral. Abel is back at school in Michigan after having taken a sabbatical as Landon’s end drew near. Abel is now reluctantly seeing a counselor because his grades are tanking and his brother Soren is worried. I like Soren. I always have. Despite having witnessed their parents kick Abel out of their house for being gay, Soren told them the truth about his sexuality and was turfed as well. Abel opened his small apartment, giving Soren the couch while the younger brother got back on his feet. I think Soren is almost on his feet, but has stayed because of his deep concern and love for Abel. Watching an adored sibling so mired in grief that alcohol is the only way to numb the pain is devastating. Even the most caring and understanding brothers have their limits.

Soren insists Abel go see a counselor. The counselor is a good guy, but when he can’t get Abel to open up about Landon, he suggest Abel find someone who knew Landon and with whom he can share his memories.

Providentially, Pearl, Landon’s grandmother and the woman Abel affectionately calls G-Ma, invites Abel up to visit her. Mired in his own pain, Abel has pushed away the one person who loved Landon as much as he did and who was also just as devastated. He goes up to Petrolia in Canada and shares dinner with her. Unable to cope with more than that, he lets her pay for a room in a hotel so he can stay in town instead of making the long drive back to Michigan.

In the morning, despite his better judgement, he heads to the cemetery. Although he was there for the interment, he wasn’t present for the installation of the headstone.

Okay, so this was a tough scene for me. Abel talking to Landon just about broke me. The precipitous arrival of Kieran is the only relief. Kieran was Landon’s high school boyfriend, but they drifted apart and even though they lived close, it was only the cancer diagnosis that pushed Landon to seek Kieran out. But Landon pushed Kieran away, just like he did everyone else. Kieran made a brief appearance in ‘No Regrets’, but I thought it was only as a passing secondary character (and a man who would make Abel possessive and jealous).

I did a similar grieving circle with friends of Heather, sharing all our good memories. So when Abel and Kieran find each other, I knew it was for good. Up until then, Abel felt unsafe talking about Landon. His father’s voice is still in his head, saying boys who cry are pussies. If I hadn’t hated Abel’s parents before, that would have been the final nail in the coffin. But Mr. Matheson is expressing what many men – and women – believe. That men are weak if they show emotions. That they are snowflakes if they show empathy.

Wrong.

Abel spins his wedding band whenever he is nervous or upset. Needless to say, he is spinning it most days. That Kieran notices speaks to the man’s ability to empathize. Abel is finally able to open up. But Kieran says, “…seeing your pain is killing me and I don’t know how to help you.”

How many of us have seen family or friends (or coworkers or even strangers) and desperately wanted to end their physical or psychological pain and not known how? Man, I knew what Kieran was going through.

By design or by happenstance, he and Abel finally has someone he can share his memories of his husband with. Kieran has many regrets when it comes to Landon, such as letting Landon push him out of his life, especially when Kieran, as a nurse, could have helped. Landon was in Kieran’s hospital during those last few weeks, but Kieran always respected Landon and Abel’s need to spend as much time together as possible before the Landon’s death so he only stopped by when he knew Abel wouldn’t be there, but those were the times when Landon was usually asleep.

While I felt I knew Abel fairly well before starting this book, he is a different man in this story. And while I knew virtually nothing about Kieran, by the end, he was a man I adored. At times I wondered about his selflessness, until I reminded myself that Abel had been the same way with Landon. There are good people in this world and the fact two of them found each other was perfect. As Kieran says: “I think Landon wants me to help you…I couldn’t unlove him…I knew him inside and out. Call it whatever you want, but I think he brought us together.”

Yeah, like that didn’t make me tear up.

I’m at a loss to identify the exact moment I stopped trying to hold back the tears, but when I actually laughed out loud, I knew I would be okay. I knew that not only would Abel survive losing Landon, but with Kieran’s help, he would be able to remember the good times. And, of course, when Kieran proclaims, “I want to f- you until you scream. I want to turn your world inside out and leave you trembling. I want you to give up all your control and let me take care of you”, I had happy chills. Kieran was exactly what Abel needed. This book is the definition of slow burn and that worked perfectly. Neither man was ready for something more in the beginning and it wouldn’t have felt right if Kieran had taken advantage of Abel who was in such a vulnerable place.

Instead he turned the Abel who “just [doesn’t] want to be here anymore”, into a man who could share the Messy Twister story (minus the sex) with the man who loved Landon as much as he did. Kieran even held Abel’s hand when Abel contemplates getting a tattoo while insisting he hates needles. And since alcohol is out of the question, a sober Abel has to decide if he can overcome his fear enough to get a permanent reminder of Landon on his body.

And it was the little things. Kieran taking Abel’s hand whenever Abel fidgeted with his wedding ring, understanding those were the moments when Abel’s anxiety was ratcheting up. Kieran challenging Abel’s perceptions of himself as instilled by his homophobic father. Man, I loved Kieran. I was so happy when they made their relationship official because I knew by then that Abel could take care of Kieran just as well as Kieran cared for Abel.

Humour? How about Canadian idioms? It’s a chocolate bar, people, not a candy bar. (And a quick nod to the universal healthcare system in Canada that ensured Abel and G-Ma had no medical bills to deal with after Landon’s passing.)

I also want to mention there is a scene of pure catharsis where Kieran knows just how Abel can physically work out his pain and grief – and I’m not talking about sex. (Although that comes later.)

Oh, and I’ll leave you to wonder what happens when two Tops get together (because neither man is a ‘submissive bottom’.)

Adam Gold is the perfect narrator for this story. There are the occasional mispronounced words, but I was never pulled from the story. Adam nailed Abel’s Michigan accent as well as the neutral Canadian of Pearl and Kieran who live in Southern Ontario. I loved how Adam brought this book to life.

Soren’s book is next and although I understand I will have to wait for the audio, that is okay because I will be reflecting on this book’s impact on me for a while to come. I have an author friend who lamented that reviewers don’t come in ‘neutral’ when doing a review. Many of us try, of course, but we are human beings who have lived often colourful lives before we find the courage to share our opinions with others. As I said at the beginning of the review, I came into this audio from a place of pain, but I feel like making my way through it has made me stronger. I was able to face some of my own demons, my own memories, and I found solace with Abel and Kieran. The book will have a lasting impact on me, staying with me for a long time.

So take a risk. Put yourself in a vulnerable place so you can experience the true meaning of love.

And learn how two men who loved a third man found love again.


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so many tears!!!

This book WILL make you cry! It picks up 6 months after Landon’s passing. Abel is just trying to get through each day. He turns to alcohol to try and get his brain to slow down. This is a heart wrenching story that had me crying for the first half of the book but it does end with Abel finding peace and happiness
Adam Gold does an amazing job narrating this story. His portrayal of Abel is heartbreaking. He really put a lot a feeling into the narration of this story!!!

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Omg the emotions

I can’t even begin to describe the emotions Nicky James brings out in me while reading her books. Add Adam and I’m a blubbering mess! When he said “hey spidey” I had to take another break... that part in the book was so emotional for me because I love Landon. I loved everything about his character and the way Nicky James wrote him was magical. All her guys are so special and she chose perfectly when she chose Adam to be the voice of her guys! Gosh what a talent! Loved this book and the audio so much! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

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another great audio by Adam Gold

I absolutely love this book. When I first read New Beginnings, it took me days to get out of my book slump.
When I heard that this book was going to be available on audio, I was excited and a little bit nervous.
I knew that this would be a hard book to listen to as this story deals with life after the passing of a loved one.
ADAM GOLD DID AN AMAZING JOB WITH THIS AUDIO!!!
He put so much feeling into his narration that I felt that I was right there along side Abel as he went through his lows and eventually his healing.
I was first introduced to this narrator when he did No Regrets (book 1) and I knew that he would do Abel's Journey justice with his narration.
Well done Nicky James on another outstanding book to audio and well done Adam!!!