• Dublin Bay by John Patrick

Dublin Bay by John Patrick

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Dublin Bay, by John Patrick

Book Info

Book Series
Tides of Change, Book 1
About the Author
John Patrick lives in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, where he is supported in his writing by his husband and their terrier, who is convinced he could do battle with the bears that come through the woods on occasion (the terrier, that is, not the husband).

John is an introvert and can often be found doing introverted things like reading or writing, cooking, and thinking deep, contemplative thoughts (his husband might call this napping). He loves to spend time in nature—“forest bathing” is the Japanese term for it—feeling connected with the universe. But he also loathes heat and humidity, bugs of any sort, and unsteady footing in the form of rocks, mud, tree roots, snow, or ice. So, his love of nature is tempered; he’s complicated that way.

John and his husband enjoy traveling and have visited over a dozen countries, meeting new people, exploring new cultures, and—most importantly—discovering new foods.
Publication Date
October 26, 2021
Available Formats
Mobi, EPUB
Content Warning
 scenes of war, including: bombings, violence, concentration camps; mentions of past trauma and sexual assault, torture and experience in prison camps; historical homophobic attitudes, shell shock. Vague descriptions of the Blitz, and Pearl Harb
In 1939, the world tumbles toward war and the lives of two young men will be forever changed.

James Brennan grew up in the poorest of Dublin’s tenements, turning adversity to advantage wherever he could. But he’s nearly a man now—with a good education at that—and wants more from life than what he can get as a day laborer, or following his father into the factory.

Otto Werner is the privileged son of a German diplomat stationed in Dublin. Otto is destined for great things in the new Europe sure to arise after Germany’s victory in the war. But he’s a lonely young man, living in Ireland with only his father for company, cut off from friends and family back home.

The two teens meet by chance, and each sees in the other a means to advance his own interests. But they quickly become friends, and then—surprisingly, dangerously—more. As the globe spirals deeper into chaos, the love between the young men deepens; but their world is not a hospitable place for forbidden love.

As war comes closer and closer to home, everything they believe—about themselves, about each other, about the world around them—will be shattered. Will their love for each other survive the pull toward destruction in a world gone mad?

Editor review

1 review
Enchanting Journey
 1st person POV
 Themes: war, WWII, politics, poor vs rich
 Genre: MM, LGBT, Historical, Wartime, WWII, Romance

World-Building: ★★★★★
Heat: ★★★☆☆
Chemistry: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Romance: ★★★★★

 Dublin Bay is an enchanting historical romance, set during WWII in Dublin, Ireland. Tackling one of the most difficult periods of history – for many people, of many countries – Patrick manages to put a human face on the tragedies that shook the world.

 The story focuses on the little-mentioned fact (at least in my school education) that Ireland was neutral during WWII, and German diplomats were stationed there throughout the war. Beginning in September 1939, on the very cusp of the war, it continues throughout, sometimes in real time and sometimes in monthly instalments, until 1942.

 Our two main characters are James (aka Jimmy), an Irish boy who lives in Dublin, and Otto, a young German who has travelled to Dublin with his diplomat father. There's also a secondary cast of James' family, Otto's family, and a teacher who comes to tutor Otto, Howard.
 In terms of importance, James' sister, Bella, is a constant source of support, friendship and family ties, with a clear view of what's important and some wonderfully feminist values. James' brother, Liam, is a member of the IRA, who is desperate to climb up the ranks, and isn't afraid to use his family to get ahead. Even when they don't agree with his actions or the IRA's bombings. Howard is the one who opens James' eyes, and gets him to expand his thinking beyond what he's been taught. Allowing him to question everything he's ever known to be real.
 Despite how little he was on page, I was touched by Hans' story, by his subtle strength. I appreciated and admired Otto's father for his ability to turn a blind eye to what was going on under his roof, and what he didn't want to face head-on. Despite burying his head in the sand about a lot of things, he eventually proves he's a father first and diplomat second.

 I loved both James and Otto, in different ways.
 From the very beginning, James was my favourite. Probably because we were in his 1st person POV for the entire book, it was easier to get to know him, to connect to him, and to share his emotions. But, as the story progressed, I saw Otto's personality shine through more clearly.

 To start with, James was very much an uncertain teenager, who didn't know which way to turn. He was questioning a lot of what he'd been raised to believe in, and struggling with an attraction he couldn't make sense of, that went against his beliefs. Struggling with his Catholic faith, a brother who was acting against his beliefs, and a new romance, it was no wonder he initially didn't want to question Ireland's neutrality in the war. The lack of Nazi/Reich propaganda that reached Ireland – because of the Emergency, a blockade against media related to the war – meant he had little reason to challenge their lack of participation in the war. And little reason to believe it would be as serious as it became, trusting Otto's insistence that the war would be overly quickly, once the countries surrendered to the Reich's power. Until Howard came along, with a wider view of war in general, he had no reason not to trust that Otto was right about the war being a minor, quick inconvenience.
 In personality, he's brash and fun, poor but proud of his family and achievements. He worries about taking advantage of Otto's generosity, but knows that his family badly needs the money. He stands up to his alcoholic father, and protects his mother and sister, aware that his brother's work with the IRA is wrong. Even when he begins to learn about the reality of the war, he feels ashamed for benefiting so much. Fiercely independent, despite his age, he puts his family first, knowing that, without the war, Otto would never have come into his life, and his family's fortunes would never have improved. Despite struggling to keep his faith, while his feelings for Otto grow more intense, he manages to find acceptance through widening his knowledge of the world.

 “I had already delivered my soul into hell, but Otto had just slapped a padlock on the gate and swallowed the key.”

 Otto was an enigma, to begin with. A posh, intelligent teenager, who seemed to be more astute and aware of current events than James, he was hard to pin down. He knew he way paying too much for services, but didn't care, knowing people like James needed the money more than he did. He was aware of the war, and what his father was doing as part of his war effort. Aware of being German in a foreign country, during a war, and careful to be smart about how to behave appropriately.
 Cute and sweet, he's flirtatious and happy to push James' boundaries, right until the end of the book. Over time, he becomes a questionable character – either indoctrinated to the Reich, or ignorantly loyal to his country; either smart and calculating or manipulative and sly; either well informed and perceptive, or fully immersed in the war efforts.
 There is so much scope for questioning whether Otto is too good to be true, or the perfect match for James. And I loved that ambiguity. How it was never certain if they would get their HFN, never mind an HEA.
 I really felt for Otto, as he began to question his loyalty to the Reich. His feelings of helplessness, as the news became progressively horrifying and more opposed to what he'd always believed, was touching. The way James took care of him, sympathised with him, and helped him find way to salvage what little faith he had in his own country, was beautiful to see.

 “My whole country is complicit, James. We're the ones who are letting this happen, whether we're flying the planes of minding our business, looking the other way.”

 It was easy to forget these were two teenagers, barely sixteen when the story began, and not long eighteen when it ended. The issues they deal with, the mature way they handled the war, and how they navigated real-world problems showed their character clearly. Otto, who was in control and decisive, opinionated and crafty. James, who was staunchly supportive, strong and independent. Together, they encouraged each other's good traits and helped change their negative traits, becoming a strength and support for each other.

 The story eases you into the reality of the horror of WWII, through an innocent teenage relationship and friendship. Through the eyes of two teenagers, discovering their identities, challenging their beliefs, and exploring new friendships, while discovering with increasing tension that they're on opposing sides of the war.

 Initially, James is fully immersed in the idea that Ireland is neutral, not taking sides in the war. He maintains that mentality for a while, despite his brother being entrenched in the IRA and the Irish Defense Force. The fact that Ireland had a long-standing feud with the English (as we Scots do) it made sense for him to flounder and not form an opinion, at first. As he meets Otto, he's given a reason to remain neutral. Their flirtations make it hard for him to see the worst of Germans, especially in the beginning.
 Patrick does an incredible job of showing Ireland's neutrality – and how logical it seems to James, on the outside of the war – while becoming progressively, but subtly, troubled by that neutrality. Ireland's disinterest in the war is clear, at first. A stark, but realistic “if it's not happening to us, it doesn't matter” attitude that many people have in the wake of an unprecedented life-changing event. Something we all saw recently, with the Covid pandemic.

 “I knew the Irish press were heavily censored as part of the Emergency, but sometimes it felt like Otto and I were seeing two different wars playing out.

 Yet, the distant, unaware view of the war is considered a lesser of two evils. An “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” situation. Then the London bombings start, and the intensity of the plot begins to rise. The reality of the war becomes stark and clear, in a way it hadn't been before. I had a lump in my throat, when the bombings started, remembering the stories from my grandmother, the documentaries and movies over the years, of the Blitz.
 Then the Belfast Blitz happens, on page, in great detail. Shocking James to his core, and making the war more real than he'd ever known it to be. And suddenly that awareness of the history of the war became tears, for how the Belfast Blitz shocked James out of his neutrality. That event really shows the difference between knowing something and experiencing it. How he deals with it, and the aftermath, is both entrancing and touching.

 I appreciated how cleverly Howard was used to show the neutrality, and eventual participation of the American troops and intelligence. Through him, multiple plot devices are possible, and he helps both boys explore their own country-loyalty, and cultural identity, through the scope of the wider world.

 “Howard became despondent, claiming no one back in the States would listen to what was happening, or worse, they chose not to hear.”

 Patrick does an incredible job exploring the intricacies of WWII and the ways it impacted the characters. Managing to expose the reality of war, without drifting from the main plot.
 Subjects like the homophobia of the Reich, the fact young German men were expected to join the Nazi party upon their eighteenth birthday, and be conscripted into active service at eighteen. How, if they didn't, they would face terrible consequences. The exploration of James and Otto's relationship had mostly been religious until it became clear that the Reich would not tolerate homosexuality, any more than it would the feeble, weak or old. The reality of the Reich's plans for Jew's across Europe, the concentration camps, the prison camps, and how the camp guards abused and tortured their prisoners. Everything was dealt with in a gentle, sympathetic way, that revealed the horrors to James and Otto without them having to experience it, or having the issues explored in graphic detail.

 Yet, it's also very clear throughout the plot, that German and Nazi are not synonymous. A man can be a German but not a Nazi. And – as history has taught us, and as is explored in the book – not all Nazi-sympathisers are German. It also explores the reality that some German citizens, especially men, became Nazi's or supported the war from loyalty, fear, misguided understanding of what the Reich planned, coercion, and some through being raised with specific ideals and beliefs. It was never a clear-cut matter of German = Nazi.

 Similarly, I felt Patrick was able to sympathetically show how divided Ireland was, during this time. One half was peaceful, with the IRA even working with the Germans, while the other half was suffering the bombings and fear of invasion. One half were of the opinion the Germans were no different to the English, and the other were sending troops and aid to the war effort. Yet, when the war came to one side, they remembered they were all Irish at heart, and worked together.

 The story was told in a first person POV, through one character. It was also written in a semi-autobiographic manner, where James provided brief hindsight remarks, as if recollecting the story many years later. I haven't read many books like this, only a handful, but the ones I've read have all managed to find a fine line between telling the story and adding these hindsight elements. This one was no exception. The balance was perfect, sometimes providing the right touch to avoid a startling or jarring switch of event.

 The extensive, methodical, intricate historical research that must have gone into this book – from timeline, names, dates, places, and uniform descriptions – is mind-boggling. The story is far from insular, though it takes place only within Ireland, managing to explore the multi-faceted, interconnected aspects of the war.
 Through James, we see how the war affects Ireland and the Irish people. Through Otto, we see how a German teenager deals with the reality of the war. Through them, and their interactions with other characters, we see how information is withheld, found, and the shockwave when the reality sinks in.

 The writing was engaging, emotive when it focused on the characters, and honest but factual when it came to the historical elements. I never felt disengaged, even when the stark realities of the war were explored, no matter what the characters were feeling or experiencing.

 Both main characters are teenagers for the entire book, between the ages of 15-18, and they begin a relationship quite quickly after meeting. They do end up having a sexual relationship. The sex begins off as fade-to-black, more often vague and implied references, until they're older, and then it begins to get a touch more detailed. I wouldn't say there's anything too graphic, as it's still a historical novel and they're teenage boys who don't know or use the right words for things. However, it's worth remembering that these events take place in Ireland, in the 1940s, during wartime. The rules tended not to apply for many things, back then, and the general age of consent in Britain has been 16, so it's not uncommon for a British-based book to explore sexual relationships at this age. Especially during this time period, where the relation begins as 'exploration with a friend' to 'maybe I'm a homosexual'.

 Dublin Bay explores a teenage romance through the scope of a war, pitting religion vs homosexuality, war vs love, and loyalty to their country vs being in love with the enemy. Subtly intense and captivating, I was enthralled from beginning to end, and devoured the entire book in one day.

 From the characters, to the historical detail, to the progression from “wichsen time” to full-on romance, I loved every minute. There were multiple tearful moments throughout, from the Blitz, to James' experience in Belfast, and the last few pages. Everything about the journey of these two innocent, young boys growing into strong, independent men finding their way in the world, was engaging.

 Though the story deals with some terrible moments in our history, the very real, relatable characters of James and Otto gave it heart. Every page turned was another adventure, another step forward in their friendship. The timeline progression was cleverly devised to show us each pivotal moment in their shared lives, while following the war through three years of a six year war. It never lost sight of James and Otto, of how they were the main characters, or how the war and the events going on around them would impact their lives and their relationship.

 The story takes place between 1939 and 1942, and I would have loved an Epilogue to complete the picture, seeing the characters celebration the end of the war, with relief. WWII lasted until 1945, and due to this being a series, I totally appreciate and anticipate that this ending means there will be an exploration of the last three years of the war, eventually. Whether based on these same characters or not, I will happily be first in line for the next book. (Though, I'm really hoping for a story for Hans!)


 Favourite Quotes

 “He was my Eve.
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