I haven't been this excited about a series in a long time. I'm willing to shift aside other books on my reading list just to get to the next book in this series. Can I call it a series? Each book is self-contained. No nasty cliffhangers here. Let's just say I'm anxious to revisit beloved characters in the next Penwinnard book.
Ian Mackender runs a Boys' home where he takes a personal interest in every child he charged with protecting. He leads a trustworthy, dedicated staff and ensures the Penwinnard boys are well cared for. Consequently, Penwinnard is the best Boys home in the country. The boys thrive there and go on to lead productive lives. Each boy is unique, but none is quite like Bob. Bob comes to Penwinnard broken, battered, and abused. He's undergone horrific abuse, and his abusers are possibly coming for him. He's in great danger and Ian is charged with his safety and protection.
The Boys' home manager, Ian, is my hero. He leads the Penwinnard boys with calm assurance. Only rarely do the boys get one over on Ian, or do they? Ian seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to his boys. He might not always intervene, but he knows what's going on and steps in when necessary. The boys look up to him and respect him as a role model and in many cases the parent they never had. Ian is fair, compassionate, and consistent in dealing with the boys.
Ian is by far my favorite adult character, but I don't think I could pick a favorite among the boys. They are all completely unique. Bob, the abused young man forced to grow up before his years, shows confidence and maturity unusual in a boy that age. But, Bob's no angel--he fights, he sneaks around to do the things boys do, and he lies to protect his own identity. Jay, Liam, Gerry, and many more--every boy in this book will find some way to worm his way into your heart.
The story is absolutely endearing, but there is a dark side. McRae explores such serious issues as child abuse, child neglect, child prostitution, and human trafficking. At Penwinnard, we explore the healing bonds of love and frolic on the beach with rambunctious boys, but the author also shows us a world where men can buy pleasure from unwilling boys, where children are kidnapped and abused, and where the wealthy believe money trumps morals. We meet people who have dedicated their lives to helping children, but we also meet the bottom-feeders of society who put their own sick sexual needs ahead of everything else.
If you're looking for a well-written, touching, heartwarming novel with substance, the Penwinnard Stories are for you. I just hope the author can write these books fast enough to suit me. I have to read more.
(reviewed 6 months after purchase)