Title: And is Never Shaken
Author: Alexi Silversmith
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: M/M contemporary romance
Length: 89 pages
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
A well written May to December romance with a very likeable hero but which had the romance moving a little quickly for my taste.
Cassian Ford is a successful writer in his forties, established at the local university. Andy Havers is a book restorer in his early twenties who just moved to town. They have nothing in common, and yet somehow everywhere they go, they seem to run into each other. Despite a bumpy beginning—an exasperated Cassian accuses Andy of being a stalker—the gap in age, and their many other differences, a passionate romance develops between them. But just when Andy is convinced he’s found true love, secrets from Cassian’s past erupt into the present, and Andy realizes it might not be him Cassian wants at all….
This novella beings with a heart wrenching scene. Cassian is sitting in a coffee shop when he spots a familiar face walking by. He immediately chases after the man, catches up with him and hugs him tightly. It doesn’t take Cassian long to realise he’s made an error and he turns away from the man, embarrassed with his actions. Andy has just moved into the city and found an apartment. He decides to sign up for a creative writing class as a way to meet new people and is surprised to discover that his teacher is no other than the man who accosted him in the street a few weeks ago. He’s even more surprised to find out that Cassian is his neighbour, leading to misunderstandings followed by a whirlwind romance.
The strength of this book lies in the character of Andy, whose point of view we get for almost all of the book, except for that first chapter. He’s one of those eminently likeable people: personable, polite, intelligent, confident and, in many ways, quite old for his years. He’s secure in his homosexuality, has an eclectic, if old fashioned, taste in music and isn’t afraid to ask for help from friends when necessary. I liked him a great deal. I also liked Andy’s friend Patrick who almost stole the entire book in a very short scene. I’m hoping he gets his own story.
I also really liked the writing, especially some of the minor incidental details such as Andy’s “Best Son” mug which told a whole wealth of information about Andy in a short phrase. The descriptions of Andy’s life, his contentment with the way he’s at the start of a new path and the love he feels for his hard won independence all shone through in the vivid writing and the characterisation. The story itself surprised me in that I was convinced it was going to turn out one way, but the end was different to how I imagined, which can only be good in my opinion.
The parts that didn’t work as well were to do with the romance between Cassian and Andy. Instead of a steady build up of respect and attraction the author relies heavily on tired clichés such as instant inappropriate arousal or that the slightest touch shoots off sparks of attraction. Their relationship moves on very quickly into emotional intensity, a little too quickly for me. The two men have a lot in common, which strengthened the idea of a connection between them, but there are also great differences between them that could have been explored more effectively to make the relationship have a realistic chance of working. The story actually takes place over six weeks, but most of that time is spent ‘off page’ so we are only told of how the relationship develops rather than seeing it for ourselves. Later in the story there is a ‘sudden crisis’ which again seemed a bit of a easy way to resolve some of the problems the pair were having at the time.
Despite these problems, I felt that the strength of the prose and the character of Andy lifted this story, hence my grade of 4 stars. If you are looking for a short read and don’t mind reading about a fast moving relationship, then this book could be for you.