Return to Me by James Oliver French

The author, James Oliver French, gets it right when he says, Return to Me, is a story about love, loss, heartache, and acceptance. It’s all of those things and I’ll add determination, strength, and perseverance. This story does not have what I would call a happy ever after, but it certainly has a happy for now feel to it. Mr. French is a newly published author and thanks to the world of Facebook and bloggers, I may not have found this touching story, otherwise.
As the blurb states, Todd and Kyle, find each other during their first year at college and quickly became instant friends. It wasn’t long into the friend status that they realized they were already becoming much more than close friends. Taking their relationship to the next level just cemented what they already knew.
They were falling in love with each other. Both, virgins, take time and care with each other learning all the ways to have sex and feel good while doing it. They stumble and fumble their way through giving and receiving. It’s quite humorous and I can’t help but laugh out loud at their misfortunes trying to lose their virginity.
I lie there, patiently enjoying all the attention, but Kyle’s efforts are proving fruitless. He keeps stopping to jerk himself off, but his poor penis has deflated to a shadow of its former glorious self. It looks like he’s trying to shove a marshmallow through a keyhole. Losing your virginity shouldn’t be this hard.
Every time I read this line I get tickled, although, they probably don’t find it funny. They, eventually, work everything out but I could so relate to their distress. The nerves and fear of the unknown will play havoc with your mind but Kyle and Todd are persistent and victorious. The joy they feel is definitely contagious because you, the reader, will more than likely be smiling from ear to ear, just as they are.
The story continues from here chronicling their time together, focusing on their relationship and friends and family. Kyle, however, doesn’t have any family (none that want to see him) so he quickly forms an attachment to Todd’s family, his friends, and they to him.
Kyle is a wrestler and a good one. He travels with the team frequently and is always practicing to be the best he can be. Road trips with the team are a common occurrence so when Todd doesn’t hear from Kyle right away he’s not too alarmed. Hours later, Todd is desperate for answers. He and his friends are scurrying to find any information they can. They reach out to the police but to no avail and you just know…you just know that the story is getting ready to crush you.

The story is told in two parts…Jump ahead 15 years and Todd, now a Psychiatrist, focuses too much on his job. He has never gotten over the disappearance of Kyle, also his first and only true love. Finding dates and keeping them is not on his list of importance. He knows he needs to put himself out there but he’s not ready. If he ever will be, he doesn’t know.
I felt like the story took a slow turn at this point. The author goes into quite a bit of detail outlining the day-to-day accounts and actions of Todd, his patients, and his life, which Todd admits himself, is pretty boring. He still has close contact with Felix and Georgina, his best friends from school. They, now married to each other, are his sounding board and his voice of reason. Thank goodness, he has them both because without their help and guidance I don’t think Todd would have been as productive as he is. It’s with their encouragement and advice that Todd tries a little harder in the dating world.
The author tells us up front that Todd will have to face a dangerous amnesiac patient. You automatically assume that patient will be Kyle. I already had scenarios in my head of what would take place and how the story would play out. How I hoped it would play out. Wouldn’t that be awesome after all these years for Kyle to come back, walk into Todd’s outstretched arms, and have the life together they should have had?
Well…that would’ve been awesome but this is Mr. French’s story and he had his own ideas. The story takes on a new excitement and suspense because you don’t know, at this point, what is going to happen. Where has Kyle been all this time? What happened fifteen years ago when he disappeared? Will they eventually be able to be a couple and love each other for all eternity?
These questions will all be answered and I have to admit that even though the story fell a little flat for me in the middle it soon picked back up again keeping my attention focused solely on what was taking place. You need the answers as much as Todd does but unfortunately, just like real life, things don’t always work out, as we would hope. Todd hires a private investigator to help reach some of these answers. The author takes you on this journey with Todd and the creativity and imagination of the details as they unfold were truly mesmerizing. I felt gut-punched with the horrific accounts that Kyle, alone and afraid, had to endure.
I admire James Oliver French for writing the story as it was meant to be. It would be so easy to write Todd and Kyle a happy ever after wrapping the story up with a nice little bow. I think sometimes authors are afraid to step outside the “norm” of what is expected and do what is intended. I’ve heard authors say this as well validating my thoughts in this respect. Mr. French doesn’t conform to expectations and even though the story is heartbreaking and disappointing, at times, it was much more believable.
The overall execution of the story progressed nicely and every facet of Todd’s journey was met with consideration and care. The originality of the storyline was refreshing and unique. There were a few chapters I felt could have been left out mainly because they didn’t really add anything other than filler, but regardless, I was already hooked and couldn’t have walked away without knowing what was going to happen. The author gave the side characters such as Felix, Georgina, and Todd’s family a voice that impacted the story considerably. They all played an important and vital role in Todd’s life.
I would definitely recommend this story if you like first loves, suspense, and angst. This story is not about hearts and flowers and more than likely tears will fall. It is a story of perseverance and realizing life goes on. Maybe not as originally planned but love can be found. Todd is hanging onto Kyle, hoping for a spark, a memory to resurface, any kind of recognition, but whether that happens or not, Todd finally realizes he has a life to live. How he chooses to live, it will be up to him and I think he knows it’s time to do just that.
This is the first published book by James Oliver French and I am happy that I found it. I would definitely read more from this author.
* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review through *