Complex, poignant, worthy, and satisfying! This author packs more into a short novella than some authors can achieve in a five hundred page novel. As my second outing with the author, but in a whole different genre, it was almost like starting fresh. But then I happily heard the familiar writing style and settled in for the promised story.
The story opens with dreary, gray, and flat Edwin Tully learning that his neighborhood in Oxford is under flood advisory. Edwin has been going through the motions for the last few years since his partner of a decade walked away from their life together. Edwin’s love was not returned and it left him more than bereft. He had love and no object for it and he has not recovered. Oh sure, he goes through the motions of work and home, but does not engage with the world around him. A severe stutter has been with him his whole life and has been worse since Marius left.
But now, with the rising river waters and rain, comes the hint of change. Edwin doesn’t even recognize it as such seeing only a big, rough, yet caring stranger who comes from the agency in charge of flood management. Adam’s wholesome and honest acceptance of Edwin’s quirky social skills and stutter even while he genuinely is interested in Edwin starts to work on him. But Edwin has been burned- and badly. Adam’s presence is restoring feeling and, after numbness, feeling hurts and dredges up old feelings of fear and inadequacy as each hour brings the flood waters higher and closer to the home he loves. Edwin was not enough for Marius so how could he hope to hold a rescuing hero type like Adam?
Alright, so this is a shorter piece, but it is a fully developed, well told tale. Edwin is the sole narrator and the focal character of the story.
In fact, only Adam and Edwin’s old lady neighbor along with a phone call with his ex’s mom and a brief howdy-do with a newer neighbor break up Edwin being alone with his thoughts. And I thought that was a brilliant move. The narrowness of the setting and limited amount of characters and interaction forcefully paint the picture.
Because that is the point at the beginning- Edwin is dismally alone. The reader feels all the pain of his rejected love and the isolation that his tied-up tongue has brought him. Adam is the catalyst. Edwin starts to consider braving up and leaving his isolation.
The relationship is tentative and fragile not even really there for most of the story. Edwin has to have his ‘dark of the night’ epiphany moment before anything else can happen. But just when the romance lover in me was starving for something good and special for Edwin? The author didn’t let me down. Oh, and that choice for the ending. Sheer brilliance!
I’m going to interject here before the end with a late preface. I don’t see this having universal appeal particularly if the reader is in the mood for or expecting a standard romance even in short story format. This is more of a man’s personal, internal journey to finding himself, to knowing himself. Edwin is not the smooth, easily engaging hero. But for those who either are open to something different or can adjust to it, this will be a quietly triumphant story that does lead to love and happiness.
As to the narration, Alexander Doddy was a first encounter. This was a story set in Oxford and I thought his narration of the Brit accent (no idea if it was the proper local accents that would require more than this ignorant American ear could detect) and in particular his narration of a man with a stutter was unexceptionable. I felt he captured the spirit of the story and the moods. His pacing and timing were excellent. I would definitely listen to more of his work.
All in all, this was another excellent, strong outing with the author and I will return for more of his books. I would recommend this one to those who enjoy thoughtful, character-driven, gently paced M/M Contemporary Romance.
My thanks to Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to listen to the book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #200 LGBT
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