Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Length: Novella (72 print pages)
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Tj
Summary Review: Josh Lanyon made me cry. He made my heart ache, and soar with joy. And I loved every second of it. And then went back to experience it all a second time and loved it even more.
The Blurb: Two and a half years ago, travel writer Timothy McShay let NYPD Detective Luke O’Brien talk him into hiking into the New Jersey Pine Barrens to face down a monster.
Now Tim and Luke meet again under very different circumstances. The old attraction is still there — but so are some of Tim’s monsters. Is it too late to find their way back to each other?
(This never before published short story is the sequel to In a Dark Wood.)
The Review: There’s something happening with Josh Lanyon. He’s always been a very talented writer, but his work this year has something new, something extra, something hard to put a label on. I sense a freshness, a new energy in his writing. Perhaps it’s the result of experience and maturity, which I’m sure factor in, but personally I believe it stems from his new work habits and (from what I’ve read) following his muse rather than some deadline schedule, which is how creative endeavors should be pursued. But whatever the reason, Mr. Lanyon has raised the bar for the entire genre.
The latest example of this comes in the form of a simply lovely novella The Parting Glass, a sequel to one of his earlier works, In a Dark Wood. While it would certainly magnify the impact of this story if you’ve read the first book, there is enough explanation given within these pages that you could enjoy the story if you haven’t. But I do recommend taking the time to read In a Dark Wood first. It’s a wonderfully scary tale and it will add so much to your enjoyment of this sequel.
Mr. Lanyon’s opening scenes are always clever and original, drawing you into his world, which he demonstrates again in the well written start of The Parting Glass wherein Tim and Luke from In a Dark Wood meet again after years of separation. Mr. Lanyon’s words so wonderfully evoked the unbridled joy that one feels when unexpectedly meeting someone who you never thought you’d see again. It’s that feeling that just uncontrollably bubbles up from deep inside – that unguarded moment when you forget to filter yourself and allow others a glimpse into your deepest feelings – at how truly thrilled you are to see this person. I’ll let Mr. Lanyon demonstrate how that feels. I dare you not to smile at their encounter.
We stared at each other. Stared and stared and couldn’t look away. Disbelieving happiness surged through me.
After all this time. Happiness was too thin, too watered down a word to describe that wellspring of feeling. Joy. That was the word. A blaze of delight that almost defied definition. His startled face was alight with it, and I guess mine must have been too. People around us were smiling as we grabbed each other.
”My God. Tim. I can’t believe it. You look…”
I could feel their sheer unadulterated joy, and the longing that surely was at it’s core. The depth of emotion that Mr. Lanyon elicits with his words, with what his characters say and equally importantly what they don’t, or rather can’t say is masterful.
I was grinning like a fool while reading, like one of the lucky people in the ticket line watching this scene unfold. That’s how strong these emotions were – too overwhelming to be contained by two people. They radiated out like the heat from a blazing fire on a Winter’s day, melting even the coldest of hearts. This is what I was trying to explain above. Josh Lanyon took an oft used theme – the reunion of lost lovers and made it fresh, exciting, heart-wrenching and so very real.
Mr. Lanyon recently tweeted about his new “angsty little cocktail with a dash of bitters and a splash of sweet”. I can see why one might call his creation angsty, but that misses the mark. For me, angst carries a connotation of somewhat over the top, and frustratingly extended, unresolved situations. Granted there are strong emotions at play here, unresolved feelings and a few old misunderstandings, but they’re presented with subtlety, lightly sprinkled with humor and weaved among strands of hopeful prose ultimately resolving in a realistic way. All combined to move this beyond what could have been “angsty”, to more of a bittersweet and emotional tale of second chances, making amends and to quote John Mayer*, learning to simply “say what you need to say”. We’re dragged to the emotional edge, but never pushed over the line where frustration starts and the situation presented stretches credibility.
I confess to being easily frustrated with angst-filled books, but that was not the case here. From the first words I was pulled in, expertly seduced into caring about Tim and Luke, subtly coaxed to experience what they were feeling and then taken on an emotional journey that has stayed with me and probably will continue to do so for some time.
I ached for Tim and Luke, ached for their lost time together, the missed chances. But also there was something more going on, something beneath all that joy at their reunion. You don’t feel that strength of emotion without some kind of deeper feelings lying beneath. I could sense a spark of their not quite extinguished love. And that spark, that flicker of hope is what kept me frantically turning pages, yearning for any hint that possibly they could make it this time.
So do yourself a favor and pick up The Parting Glass, a beautifully written story that will take you to an amazing place. And once you’ve been there, you’ll want to go back again and again. And if you’re not reading through a veil of tears when you get to, what was for me, one of the most emotional final scenes that I’ve read in many years, then it’s time for a trip to see the wizard to get a heart. And yes, you’ll be quite satisfied with the ending. Highly recommended.
*lyric quoted from the song “Say” by John Mayer