A guest review by Buda
Summary Review: This lovely novella is more of a wonderful addition to the best of gay literature than it is a traditional romance. Readers who love character growth will get it in spades here.
Can the idyllic simplicity of a garden change a life forever? It’s a question three men on a vacation to the small seaside town of Beechwood will find the answer to when they stay at a B&B with an expansive and breathtakingly beautiful garden. A garden with an air of the supernatural. Jerry’s there for love, Doug’s there for sex, and Tony? Well, Tony is practically dragged along against his will. A comedy of errors ensues as the three men cling stubbornly to their self-destructive ways; can a cook named Anna Magnani, a roller-skating drag queen, and the magic of the garden tame the tempest and prevent love’s labors from being lost?
(Full disclosure: My first, almost-finished review disappeared into the ether of WordPress Hell, so if this one doesn’t flow as well as usual, please forgive me. I can be only eloquent once!)
Tony, Doug and Jerry have been close friends since college. Now 29, and five years removed from the accident that changed his world forever, Tony is emotionally unsettled but physically trapped–his income derives from his disability pay. Because of the precarious equilibrium that requires the use of a cane, he doesn’t get out much. That is, until Doug literally carries him, fireman-style, out of his apartment and into a grand adventure.
Doug is a sex machine. His entire life–and his workout routine–revolves around the hunt for the next warm male body to rub up against. He is a muscle boy constantly in search of his next conquest, all the while trying not to think too much or look too deeply at himself.
Jerry is the invisible one. He is Doug’s shadow and total opposite. Where Doug is muscle and brawn, Jerry is thin enough to have been mistaken for anorexic. He is a reader; Doug is the action hero (horizontally speaking, of course). Doug and Jerry hooked up several times in college and Jerry still hasn’t gotten over his infatuation with the glorious muscle boy.
The three men are painted so vividly, so independently, that they quickly seem like old friends. As I (re)write this, the skies above my home are the color of steel, sucking the joy from the day with the unholy mix of stinging sleet and swollen snowflakes. Here is a first-page description of Tony:
Tony longed for something poetic, something beautiful. It was an everyday longing, but there seemed to be no way out of the life he had been given. He wanted out of the gray but felt weighed down. “How am I supposed to start my day,” he wondered aloud, “when even the sky looks lazy?”
The three arrive at the bed and breakfast, called the Manor House, after dark, having endured a long, slow drive through the rain. The next morning, Jerry awakens and is overcome by the beauty of the multi-level gardens in the back of the house. The lush descriptions made me want to experience the place.
Jerry was only a few feet onto the stone path, which was interspersed with tufts of green grass, when he started feeling light-headed. Everything around him seemed too much and too beautiful. He was vanished by it all. Quite invisible. He had not gone five feet from the steps, yet he was lost. Lost in the thriving, wild, still-wet beauty of the gardens around him. The green was the greenest he had ever seen, and the trees reached for the sky as proud and significant as if they were soon to take to marching. They were not threatening; quite the opposite. The trees hardly noticed Jerry at all. He was insignificant to them. His awe of them was not important.
The nature of the plot, three grown gay men on vacation in a heavily gay populated beach destination, easily lends itself to hilarious hijinks and/or over-the-top melodrama. It is a credit to the author’s skill that, while we are treated to a bit of both, neither is too much. Indeed, the rollerskating possibly-transgendered (I was never quite sure) drag queen waitress seemed perfect in her place. Each of the three men experiences tremendous, dramatic (in the good sense) character growth. Tony learns that he is more than his disability. Doug discovers there is more to him than his whatzit. And Jerry figures out that he has the ability to control his invisibility switch. None of this is easily or painlessly learned, nor is it necessarily easy to read (Doug’s chocolate waffle breakdown was painful but more than a little amusing). Never fear: there is romance within these pages, but it is not the main focus.
If I had a niggle about Another Enchanted April, it is that some of the description was wasted on me. The gardens and the Manor House are vividly described, sometimes in more detail than I can wrap my mind around. I wanted to skip over the parts that seemed overly descriptive, but I was mostly successful in taming that impatient streak in me. Those of you who love descriptive prose will be in ecstasy in these gardens.
This book brings to mind the classics of Gay Literature, resonating as much as Andrew Holleran’s Dancer from the Dance or In September, the Light Changes, as much as Michael Cunningham’s A Home at the End of the World. No, this is not the traditional boy-meets-boy romance. It is so much more than that, all while being wonderfully accessible (Arvin loves to drop pop culture references) and, at times, wickedly funny. Recommended.