Yesterday a magazine posted an article about how we should read romances during this pandemic because they are dumb and will give our brains a break. I had just finished reading Rebekah Weatherspoon’s Harbor (Beards and Bondage) and wanted to cry in frustration. There is nothing dumb about this book, and even if it were pure porny fluff, if it accomplishes the goal of helping the reader cope – it is not dumb. There are so many amazing, smart writers in romance today. Rebekah Weatherspoon is among the best of them. In Harbor, she explores complicated grief and heavy subjects with a deft hand, weaving in humor and lust, and friendships and family.
Months before she’s set to walk down the aisle, assistant district attorney Brooklyn Lewis suffers an unthinkable loss. It’s bad enough her fiancé is violently taken from her, but along with her grief she must also process the fact that the man of her dreams was unfaithful. Friends and family want to see her heal, but Brooklyn doesn’t know how to move on from trauma and deception until she discovers she’s not the only one broken by this tragedy.
Attorney Vaughn Coleman and his partner Chris Shaw have also lost the love of their lives, who was found lifeless in the same bed as Brooklyn’s fiancé, taken from them by the same killer.
Brook, Vaughn and Shaw share the experience of losing a significant other and at the same time finding out that they were unfaithful. Each of the three has to confront grief, anger and trauma in their own way. Because of the circumstances they are drawn to each other, but are also aware that while shared trauma can create an intense bond, it is not a good basis for a long relationship. Knowing this, the trio come together and retreat a few times before getting to the Happily Ever After. While Vaughn is all heart-eyes and hard penis around Brook, she has to set terms of engagement with Shaw who can hurt her with his prickly version of honesty.
Weatherspoon addresses the stereotype of the strong Black woman with Brook. She is a strong woman. She knows herself, she’s smart, she is capable of taking care of herself. At the same time, she is vulnerable. Losing her fiance the way she did makes her question her own judgement. On top of that, she has to struggle with her friends’ desire for her to be okay when she wants to be allowed to feel sad, angry and lost. Brook directly addresses the pressure she feels to be strong and the way it hurts her. She is unwilling to have a relationship with a man who will not accept her full range of being.
The sex in the book is steamy, explicit, and has light BDSM. I’ve read many menage romances, but this is one of the few that feels realistically polyamerous (I say this as a person who has never been in a polyamerous relationship, so take that for what it’s worth). Vaughn and Shaw have a romantic and sexual relationship independent of their relationships with Brook. It was damaged by the murder of their partner and they are working on it – independent of their relationships with Brook. It feels lived in. Unlike a lot of standard menage romances, the focus is not on the two men having sex with the woman, but on each of them getting their needs met – physically and emotionally.
Harbor is beautiful, sexy, thoughtful, and surprisingly funny for a book that deals so much with trauma. For all the things I bring up in the review there are many more I didn’t know how to talk about without giving everything away and then even more that I probably didn’t even see.
I received this as an arc from the author in exchange for an honest review.