A guest review by Jenre
A doctor doesn’t have much trouble finding partners, but Keith Hoyer, M.D. questions whether people like him, his credentials, or what they think is in his wallet. Since most of the men he’s meeting are patients and therefore off limits, he goes home to his big gray tabby cat, Harpo, and dreams.
Keith’s ready to relinquish care of Dr. Dante James, just as soon as he’s treated the nasty case of cat scratch fever. He’d love to ask Dante out, but first he needs the vet’s professional expertise for the injured Harpo. There might be trouble ahead for them in the form of mismatched expectations and racial differences, but at least Keith doesn’t have to wonder if Dante likes cats.
I’ve really enjoyed the longer books I’ve read by P.D. Singer, so when I saw that she’d written a sip I jumped at the opportunity to read it. I wasn’t disappointed.
Dr Keith is a new doctor in a local practice. His first patient of the day is vet Dante, who turns out to be suffering from cat scratch fever. Keith finds Dante very attractive and considers asking him out on a date but isn’t sure that Dante is gay so chickens out at the last minute. Fortunately fate in the form of Keith’s fearsome cat, Harpo, throws them together once more.
In many ways this is the story of the beginning of a relationship and all the awkwardness of that first attraction and the getting to know each other. Then there’s one potential complication in that Dante is black and Keith is white. Neither men mention it during the story, except for one challenging comment by Dante that contains hints of defensiveness, but Keith is aware that interracial relationships can be problematic and it’s a niggling worry at the back of his mind. I really liked this aspect of the story because all too often interracial romance stories either make too much of the differences or pretend that it’s not a problem. In the case of this book the balance was just right. It acknowledged that there is a difference in colour, and therefore experience, between the men, but didn’t allow that to overwhelm the story.
As this is written in the 1st person, we only get Keith’s thoughts, but he is a likeable and sympathetic narrator. Keith strikes me as a very thoughtful and careful man who has been burned by lovers in the past. This makes him cautious, but he’s honest with himself about his physical attraction to Dante which is based on all aspects of Dante from his colour through to the warm and caring way that he deals with the animals in his care. In fact it was the development of Keith’s feelings for Dante which was the highlight of this short for me.
Dante is a bit of an enigma. He’s a hard working vet and has a compassionate way with the animals that he treats, but there are also hints of past hurts and problems. There wasn’t time to explore these in such a short book, but these hints allowed some depth to Dante’s character.
The plotting is gentle with the focus very much on the relationship with no action or thrills, unless you count the sexual ones. Instead, the story is focused on the emotional journey and on the build up of the characterisation. I liked this very much and found myself drawn into the life of Keith and Dante as they take those first steps into a relationship.
If you like strong character based short stories, then you can’t go wrong with On Call: Afternoon. I highly recommend it.