Unlocking Brynleith
by D.A. Mayes

"You've always been my best beloved since I first saw you."

When Tayte Murdoch's son is stillborn, it's the catalyst to leave a loveless marriage with a controlling husband. She visits her second cousin, Adam Leith, who runs the Brynleith property in New Zealand. He's a taciturn, reticent man who unfurls during her visit, although there are plenty of secrets he keeps close to the vest. Tayte thrives in the beauty of the New Zealand landscape and the welcome from the people. Exploring the bush near the property, she meets the reclusive Rua, who's indebted to Adam for more than money, and the illiterate but beautiful young man Boy, a gifted visual artist considered "retarded." In spite of Adam and Rua's disdain, Tayte, a talented teacher by trade, determines to help Boy learn how to navigate the world and use his gifts. Adam's death and his revealed secrets, closely tied to Boy's past, drive the two even closer.

Mayes fashions a bold, intricate tale that manages to be both quiet and passionate. Her own teaching experience shines through the dedication and detail Tayte uses as she guides Boy to grow into himself on emotional and intellectual levels, while encouraging his innate talent. The New Zealand setting is a character, breathtaking, beautiful, and lush with sensory detail. A few passages skimmed over in narrative would have worked better as active scenes. Adam's flashback after his death, when the other characters never learn the full truth, is jarring because the other chapters have such a focused point of view. Strong characters are the core of the piece. The growth of the relationship between Tayte and Boy reads like a dance, with the slow build of trust, then a leap, a move apart, then another build. Overall, the book's quiet beauty and strength in the characters makes it a memorable read.

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