Light and Water

 Title: Light and Water
Author: M King
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com 
Genre: M/M Contemporary
Length: Novel (approx 107,000 words/352 pdf pages)
Rating: 
3 stars out of 5

A guest review by Leslie S

Review Summary: Beautifully written but emotionally cold and paced too slowly to hold my interest.

BLURB

Venice is supposed to heal Dan’s heart-not make him lose it all over again. 

After breaking up with his boyfriend, London-based photographer Dan takes a trip to Venice. All he wants is a little time alone, and to lose himself in the city he’s dreamed of visiting for years. He isn’t looking for a holiday fling… until he meets shy, closeted schoolteacher Cesare. The attraction between them is undeniable but, as flirtation gives way to passion, both men are drawn to each other with an unexpected intensity. 

Once the dreamy, hedonistic days of Venice are over, neither really wants to let the other go, but can the fantasy they lived ever become truly real?

REVIEW

I read the book last night and while I’d like to say it was great… it wasn’t. Good things first: the writing is excellent and it’s nice to see sex scenes that are a bit different (between the thighs rather than the same-old, same-old). Everything else was a bit of a let-down.

I was expecting more of the book based on the blurb. The main POV character, Dan, is not looking to heal a broken heart as the blurb says. He’s split up with his long-term boyfriend Paul and is surprised by how much he’s not bothered by the split. He has a hook-up with a guy at a club but spends the majority of 60+ pages sightseeing in Venice. I kid you not, it’s that long (the book is over 300 pages but even so I thought 60 pages of scene setting was excessive). The author has clearly had a fantastic holiday in Venice and wants to share every little detail. I’m all for descriptions giving a good feel for a place but this wasn’t immersive, it was like reading a travel guide! Especially as on one occasion this stuff is fed to us by a concierge talking to Dan about where to go and what to do and on another occasion Dan is actually on a tour. It slowed down what was admittedly already a very slow plot and I was bored. TBH if I wasn’t going to let you know my opinion of the book, I’d have stopped reading a third of the way through.

Things pick up slightly when Dan meets Cesare, the very closeted Tuscan schoolteacher who has had his heart broken in the past by a married lover. Dan and Cesare have a fling but Cesare wants more and asks if he can stay in touch. Dan is a bit reluctant but agrees. Dan goes back to London and drifts back into the relationship with his ex. In the meantime he exchanges emails with Cesare, who is pining away for Dan and hoping he’ll come back to Italy.

Eventually Dan discovers that Paul is cheating on him and moves out. Again he doesn’t seem too bothered by the end of the relationship and realises he was only with Paul because it was easy. He decides to go to Italy and stays in Cesare’s very traditional little Tuscan village. He meets Cesare’s family (who have no idea that Cesare is gay). Dan feels uncomfortable lying about their relationship, especially as Cesare wants more. Much angst ensues and Dan leaves Italy, giving Cesare the ultimatum to either come out or lose him.

I didn’t really connect with either of the main characters. Cesare is a bit too whiny and clingy for my taste but it’s Dan that I had most problems with. He just drifts through the story and doesn’t seem to be bothered about very much, and his reluctance to get involved or engage with anything or anyone beyond a superficial level means that I found it very hard to believe he’d fallen for Cesare. I mean, this is really true to life, and maybe that’s my problem with it. I know people who are exactly like Dan. He’s an unremarkable, ordinary guy. When I read a book, even if I’m reading about ordinary people, I want them to seem extraordinary in some way. I’m thinking of TC Blue’s books, for example – Blue also writes real life/slice of life but does so in a way that makes the characters interesting (Blue’s books are humorous, too, whereas Light and Water felt as if it was taking itself too seriously).

As Dan is the main POV character it’s a problem that I couldn’t stand the bloke. There are a few scenes from Cesare’s POV but the split is probably 80% Dan, 20% Cesare, which felt uneven and weird. The only part of the book that held my attention was when Cesare told his parents that he was gay. Also, I didn’t feel there was any real resolution to the story. The way it ends is very true to real life and something slightly literary mainstream, but not IMO a good ending for a romance.

So I think if you enjoy ‘real life’ books that have vague literary pretensions (every chapter starts with a quote about Venice), if you’re in the mood for something beautifully written but very, verrrrry slow-paced, then try it. It didn’t work for me on any level, unfortunately. I can see what the author was trying to achieve but there was simply too much exposition, two unlikeable leads, and it was just really slow. The story could have been cut by a good third without losing anything.

11 comments

  • Great review, Leslie. I just read this book, and while I liked Dan a bit better than you did, I agree that the book moved along way too slowly. It took me a couple of weeks to even finish the book because I kept getting bored and putting it down. I finally ended up skimming to the end just to see what happened with the 2 guys. And, like you, I felt like I was reading a travel guide. I’ve read other M. King books that I liked, but this one just didn’t work for me.

    Reply
    • Hi Nichem, glad I’m not the only one who felt this way about the book! It’s also good to know that you enjoyed other books by the author. I did like her way with words so I’ll try something different from her in the future.

      Reply
  • Great review Leslie! I have to admit that I was a bit unsure about this book when I saw how long it was. The blurb sounded nice, but it didn’t seem like the book was about much but maybe a sweet vacation romance. And I thought to myself, “That sure does seem like a look book for that kind of story.” So I’m glad to hear that I didn’t waste my money. If it had been an author I like and already trust, I might have given it a chance. But in this case, I’m glad I passed it up.

    Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Hi Cole, yeah the blurb is a little misleading I think. The more I’ve been pondering this book, the more I think -despite the sex – it’s not really a romance but more of a mainstream gay title. Which is fine if you’re looking for that but it kind of threw me!

      Reply
  • Thanks for the excellent review Leslie. This one had been on my radar because I do like M. King quite a bit. Your description is perfectly on tune with most of her writing. I can’t stand such a slow book though. 350 pgs is too long to drag – I especially would get bored with 60 pages of Italy description.

    Thanks for the help deciding on this one.

    Reply
    • Hi Kassa, this was my first time reading a book by M King and I did like the way she wrote, so I’d definitely try something else from her. This one just didn’t work for me.

      Reply
  • Thanks for this review, Leslie.

    This book interested me because I have recently been to Venice and find I’m reading everything in sight which is set there. To what extent does the city itself play a part in this book.

    Reply
    • Hi Rachel, Venice itself plays a big part early on, and since you’ve been there recently the travel guide stuff might not bug you as you’d probably be reading and thinking ‘hey I went there, I did that, I ate that!’. The story then switches back to the UK and later we see a village in Tuscany, which is nicely described, so you may enjoy that aspect, too. There’s less ‘page time’ of Venice than I thought there’d be, but the first third or so of the book is set there so you might want to give it a try just for that 🙂

      Reply
  • MMMM, I am in doubt. I do not mind slow. I have read Scandinavian thrillers were nothing happens for almost all the book but the writing is so good that I keep reading.
    I love travelling but 60 pages of scene setting sounds a bit excessive indeed.
    I think I will put this on the maybe list.

    Reply
    • Hi Ingrid, I’ve no doubt that many people will absolutely love this book. I think if I could have connected to the characters a lot more, I wouldn’t have minded the slow pace. But I just couldn’t warm up to Dan especially :/ Please give it a try though, M King’s writing is lovely!

      Reply

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