Title: Who Better Than Canyon
Author: D.C. Juris
Publisher: Breathless Press
Length: short story (17 k words)
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: A sweet and beautiful love story about two men who are actually perfect for each other – were they but to realize it.
The Blurb: When Canyon’s ex-lover, Robert, dies, he leaves behind a last request that Canyon take word of his passing to Simon, an old friend on the east coast. Canyon reluctantly agrees, and soon finds himself falling for Simon, despite the nagging belief he shouldn’t. Canyon is plagued by guilt over his part in the accident that claimed Robert’s life. But Simon knows something Canyon doesn’t: Robert’s death wasn’t an accident, but a suicide, and Robert’s intent was for the two men he left behind to come together. But Robert’s plan didn’t account for two things: Simon’s disbelief that anyone can truly love a soon-to-be-cripple, and Canyon’s staunch decision that the next man he gives himself to will give him a wedding ring first. Can Canyon and Simon set aside their own issues long enough to see what lies between them, or will they both miss out on their happily ever after?
The Review: First off, this story surprised me – though in a good way – as it was so different from many other m/m romances I’ve read recently. Although the erotic tension between the main characters grows almost palpable over the course of the story, the “customary” closing sex scene I had half expected didn’t happen- and rightly so, this story could very well go without. It’s all about the spine and bones of a relationship: getting to know each other intimately, down to the respective quirks and hangups, and loving each other despite them. The sex, though part of it, is the whipped cream on top, not the foundation of the relationship.
Back to field one: Even though Robert didn’t want to give up his wife, Canyon loved him and conducted a relationship with him for years until, eventually, they broke up over that fact. Six months later, Robert showed up on Canyon’s doorstep, wanting to get back together. Canyon refused, and Robert ran off angrily and died the same night in a car accident.
Guilt-ridden because he feels responsible for Robert’s death, Canyon isn’t surprised when Robert’s widow denies him access to Robert’s funeral. He is surprised, though, to learn that Robert not only remembers him in his will, but asks a last favor: Canyon is to convey the news of Robert’s death, together with a letter, to Robert’s old friend Simon. Instead of just mailing the letter and calling Simon, Canyon decides to travel all the way from Arizona to California to deliver the letter in person, like Robert suggested. This is where the next surprise awaits in the person of Simon, to whom Canyon feels instantly attracted. Simon is self-confident and independent enough to trigger Canyon’s need to follow, but he also has physical weaknesses that call out to Canyon’s caregiver nature. All Canyon ever wanted in life is real commitment, someone and somewhere to belong. He feels that Simon could give him that, but he also feels inferior to Simon – what could a successful, worldly artist possibly want with a big oaf like him?And there’s also the matter of Robert to consider – getting together with Simon feels like cheating on Robert to Canyon, all the more so because he feels still responsible for Robert’s death.
Simon was Robert’s lover once, and broke up with him for the same reason Canyon did, because Robert didn’t want to give up his wife. Now in his fourth decade of life and suffering from arthritis and some other diseases, Simon has experienced rejection for the sake of his sickness from more than one previous lover. Upon meeting Canyon and realizing he feels attracted to the much younger man, Simon decides to rather reject him beforehand than being the one left behind once again. But whatever Simon throws at him, Canyon takes. As Simon finds himself more and more drawn to Canyon, his fear of rejection grows, to a point where he feels that he might very well be torn apart by losing Canyon.
The two men dance around each other, two steps forward, one back, both mindful of their emotions from fear that the other might abandon him at some point, and still unable to remain unattached the better they get to know each other. Without really realizing it, they slowly build a relationship, sharing each others joys and breakdowns and quiet hours of everyday life. The only thing that’s missing is outspoken commitment – and this is where the catch is. Because waiting for the other to come forward isn’t enough, both need to give a little in order to gain the prize. But while they wait for the right moment to come around, it might just slip through their fingers.
Canyon must be one of the most positive characters I’ve ever come across. Though he has gone through a lot of bitter things in his life already, he is sweet and giving almost to the point of naivete. I must admit that, at first, I found his dream of being a husband a socially awkward choice for a man; it even struck me as ridiculous. But reading on, I found myself ashamed by my own prejudiced view on gender roles. It’s just what Canyon is: a natural caretaker and nurturer who revels in taking the load off the one he cares for. Once he commits to someone, he does so uncompromisingly, putting his loved one’s needs first while still retaining enough of a personality to refrain from becoming a doormat. On a more personal note, I found the author’s choice of making one of his main characters this type of personality corageous and eye-opening at once. Furthermore, this personal trait of Canyon’s is just what makes him so perfect for Simon.
Simon, on the other hand, starts out quite a prick, so busy wallowing in self-pity and protecting his own feelings that he doesn’t realize when he steps on Canyon’s feelings along the way. But Canyon’s quiet patience and unconditional affection changes Simon, and in the end, he might just be able to crack his shell far enough open to let someone else in, even at the cost of becoming vulnerable again.
Not much happens in this story, it’s very much all about character development. It’s also about abiding by who you are, and the bravery it takes to reach out for what you really want in life. If I had one niggle, it was the fact that the story dragged some in the middle with all the pushing and pulling of emotions between Simon and Canyon; I found it a tiny bit repetitive over time.
Overall, this is a heartwarming, romantic and poignant love story that I set aside with a smile. I’d warmly recommend it as a comforting, positive read.