A Guest Review by Cole
Review Summary: Wow, does this story pack a punch. A wonderful example of Anne Brooke’s writing style and her mastery of the short form.
Thirty-six-year-old potter Brady Treherne is shocked to come face-to-face with his ex-lover, Philip, during what appears to be a simple job interview. Philip was both the love of Brady’s life and the man who got away, and seeing him now catapults Brady into revisiting memories he’d hoped he’d left behind.
Later that evening, Philip calls on Brady at home, and Brady finds himself having to make a choice between the man he used to love, and the new relationship he has just begun with another man.
Which man will Brady choose? And will he be able to reconcile his past with his future?
Brady’s Choice starts with our narrator Brady walking into a job interview and seeing his ex-boyfriend across the table. Brady really wants this job, though he thinks that he is probably underqualified, but he’s mortified that he might have to pass up the opportunity if he’s going to have to work with Philip, who is working on the project as a sort of liaison for a partner company. It has only been a short time since their separation, but each has started a new chapter in their lives and changed greatly. They are equally shocked to see one another, and after fumbling through the interview, Brady escapes and slowly starts to tell us the story of the slow decline of their relationship and how they came to be where they are today. The unexpected meeting throws their lives to a halt. Not only does Brady have a choice, but so does Philip — revisit the past to make a new future together, or go their separate ways and explore the relationships they have with other men?
I have long admired Anne Brooke’s stories, because she is a master of the short form. There are typically two types of short stories in the M/M genre (that I have seen), which are the one-scene sexcapade and the novel that got mashed down into one-tenth its size. Anne has a way of writing a short story with the same effect that another author would use 300 pages to tell. They are effective because they’re highly honed and there are no frivolous scenes, and in a medium where every word counts more than a sentence counts in a novel, the effect is that each scene, each bit of dialogue means more to the reader.
The characterizations in this story are what makes the story shine after you’ve considered the concise writing. Brady and Philip are two normal men who are not yet fully matured to handle a heavy relationship. Neither man has found what they need in themselves, and they look for that in their partner, which in turn begins the downfall of their relationship, and in the end, is the impetus for the coup de grace employed by Philip the is the very end of their relationship. Then, after their separation forces that maturity to grow in each character, they meet again and the old attraction takes place. Can they take a second chance? Or will it be futile to believe that those old hurts have fully healed, enough so that they’re willing to break the hearts of the men they’re currently involved with? All of these questions are raised within a 20 page short story, and a mighty fine one it is.
I do want to give a fair warning to those of you who have difficulty with cheating, though you might want to consider this anyway, as it might not be exactly what you expect. Also, I would consider this story to have an HFN, even if at times it doesn’t seem that is going to happen (any more than that and I’ll be giving everything away). This is a story that I will whole-heartedly recommend to anyone and I hope that those of you who buy this story will get as much or more enjoyment out of it than I did.