Wow. So having hundreds of books on my TBR list right now, I decided to sort by rating and read the highest rated ones. That's how I decided to buy and start reading THIS magnificent gem of a story. So glad I did!
This reminds me a little of a few other books I've read recently like "Billy's Bones" and "Where the Allegheny Meets the Monongahela" in that it's so much more than just a m/m romance book--it is a deep story that deals with serious issues and is well-written and impeccably researched.
In "Hidden Away" the issue is the imprisonment of homosexuals in concentration camps during WWII. While I'm not that attracted to historical stories of this WWII era, this one was just brilliant. It's clear the author did a lot of research, and both of the MCs, and their stories, felt painfully real.
The story alternates between the first person POV of one MC, John, an American vet who is haunted by what he saw when he was part of the force that liberated Dachau. The other MC, Kurt, was a young gay musician in Vienna who was imprisoned in a concentration camp for three years for being homosexual. The author tells a lot of Kurt's story through flashback scenes of what happened to him as he found his first lover in Vienna and then later was arrested and sent to the camp with him. The story of what happens to the two of them in the camp is heartbreaking but never angst for the sake of angst. The love they share always bleeds through. It felt like an important story to read as well as keeping me glued to the page.
The other part of the story is the slow building of a relationship between Kurt and John, who meet in Berkeley after the war where Kurt is working as a janitor at the university where John is a student. Both these men are deeply traumatized, yet John is drawn to Kurt and is compelled to try to get to know him. These two can understand each other because of their shared experiences and provide some amount of mutual healing, though the author never goes so far as to imply the things they went through can ever be erased. This romance is a fine hurt/comfort story.
5 big stars from me and highly recommended!