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Release Review: Runner: Parker Williams

Runner
Parker Williams

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Release Date July 28, 2017
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Matt Bowers’s life ended at sixteen, when a vicious betrayal by someone who he should have been able to trust left him a shell of himself, fighting OCD and PTSD, living in constant fear and always running. When he buys a remote tract of land, he thinks he’s found the perfect place to hide from the world and attempt to establish some peace. For ten years he believes he’s found a measure of comfort, until the day a stranger begins to run on Matt’s road.

He returns every day, an unwelcome intrusion into Matt’s carefully structured life. Matt appeals to the local sheriff, who cannot help him since the jogger is doing nothing wrong. Gradually, after tentatively breaking the ice, Matt begins to accept the man’s presence—

But when the runner doesn’t show up one day, it throws Matt’s world into chaos and he must make the hardest decision of his life. 

It doesn’t happen as much as I would like, but every so often, a romance novel will start with a premise that grabs me right away, making me curious about a character or situation so much that I can’t put the book down until my brain reminds me of something like having to work the next day. Runner, by Parker Williams, accomplished this, and though I had some issues with the book, the story’s overall sincerity kept them from becoming problematic to my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

Unlike most romances I have read, the story in Runner focuses almost entirely on only one of the two characters involved in the relationship arc. It is told from the first-person point of view of this character, Matt, who suffers from PTSD and OCD so severely that he has lived as a recluse since he reached adulthood. The tragic event in his past that resulted in his mental condition is told immediately at the story’s start. Normally, I have a rule that says if something happens in the first few chapters of a book, then it’s not something that can be considered a spoiler if I reveal it in my review. In this case, however, I will refrain from mentioning more than what the blurb says because I think it plays such a pivotal role in the setup for the entire novel.

The aftermath of the event, however, is one of the things that bothered me. Matt was only sixteen when it happened, but instead of his mother doing whatever it took to get him the help he needed in order to deal with his emotional trauma, she essentially allowed him to make his own decisions about it and watched him spiral into the depths of fearful solitude. There is no reason that she should have allowed this; she isn’t portrayed as a deadbeat or anything. In fact, she desperately wants him to get help, but she simply doesn’t. If he had been eighteen, I wouldn’t have thought twice because she could not have forced the issue. Instead, it’s the only bit of the story that felt like pretense, asking the reader to believe that this could happen because the rest of the plot falls apart without Matt being in the mental state he’s in.

Fast-forward about ten years and the story gives a good description of what Matt’s life is like, consumed by his OCD and PTSD to the point where even the appearance of a stranger running past his isolated property is enough to send him to the verge of a breakdown. Despite his attempts to keep the man from cracking the physical and mental walls keeping him alone and safe, eventually the runner, a writer named Charlie, becomes part of Matt’s daily existence to the point where the first time Charlie fails to jog by at his usual time, it’s enough to create a panic in Matt unlike any he’s felt before.

As I said before, Runner is essentially Matt’s story. Charlie plays a big role in it, but with only one notable exception, the conflict in the story is all Matt fighting with himself, struggling with and dealing with his mental condition. Charlie is a lovely character, and the process of Charlie working his way into Matt’s live and slowing worming his way through Matt’s walls is adorable. A few times during this process, though, Matt’s reactions flip-flop a little too quickly, something that felt a little inconsistent based on what Matt has been going through for the previous decade-plus. That’s another minor issue, though, as the progression of Matt and Charlie becoming friends and then falling in love flowed wonderfully. I must give big kudos to the author for not setting this up as a “magic penis” story, wherein sex with Charlie magically restores Matt’s mental health, because that would have been just yuck. In fact, one of the best parts of the book is how well Charlie handles Matt with kid gloves every step of the way, pushing without being pushy, and eventually establishing the trust necessary to build what they have into a loving and sexual relationship, and eventually getting Matt to realize that he’s tired of living with his fears.

What conflict does exist outside Matt turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. It wasn’t the conflict actually—in fact, the plot twist that is the only external conflict was something I wasn’t expecting—it was how quickly Matt moved forward from it. I can’t say much without spoiling, but my impression was that it should have lasted just a little longer in order for the emotions surrounding it to be more realistic and to keep things in line with Matt’s mental state. The biggest complaint I have about the book, though, is the fact that while I have no difficulty in being able to state why Charlie is perfect for Matt, the reverse is a complete mystery. I think this boils down to the fact that the story is so one-sided, lacking any sort of major flaw or conflict for Charlie, so I never got the impression that Charlie really needed anything, that there wasn’t anything that only Matt could give him or help him overcome. It’s that point more than anything else that kept this story from being truly remarkable instead of only enjoyable.

Despite of the handful of issues I had with Runner, some of which I couldn’t mention in this review because they would have resulted in spoilers, there was nothing that pulled me out of the story enough to keep me from enjoying it. This is my first time reading a book by Parker Williams, and if it is a good representation of the types of stories he tells, I will definitely be back for more.

The author and/or publisher generously provided me a complimentary copy of Runner in exchange for this fair and honest review.
Parker Williams

Parker Williams began to write as a teen, but never showed his work to anyone. As he grew older, he drifted away from writing, but his love of the written word moved him to reading. A chance encounter with an author changed the course of his life as she encouraged him to never give up on a dream. With the help of some amazing friends, he rediscovered the joy of writing, thanks to a community of writers who have become his family. Parker firmly believes in love, but is also of the opinion that anything worth having requires work and sacrifice (plus a little hurt and angst, too). The course of love is never a smooth one, and Happily Ever After always has a price tag.


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