Author: Amy Lane
Cover Artist: Dan Skinner/Cerebus Inc.
Buy Link: Clear Water
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Length: 230 pages
Rating: 5+ out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: Befuddled by ADHD, the delightful Patrick is rescued from a life of rat bastard boyfriends by unlikely hero Whiskey in a funny and poignant romance.
Blurb: Meet Patrick Cleary: party boy, loser, and spaz. Patrick’s been trying desperately to transform himself, and the results have been so spectacular, they’ve almost killed him. Meet Wes “Whiskey” Keenan: he’s a field biologist wondering if it’s time to settle down. When the worst day of Patrick’s life ends with Whiskey saving it, Patrick and Whiskey find themselves sharing company and an impossibly small berth on the world’s tackiest houseboat.
Patrick needs to get his life together—and Whiskey wants to help—but Patrick is not entirely convinced it’s doable. He’s pretty sure he’s a freak of nature. But Whiskey, who works with real freaks of nature, thinks all Patrick needs is a little help to see the absolute beauty inside his spastic self, and Whiskey is all about volunteering. Between anomalous frogs, a homicidal ex-boyfriend, and Patrick’s own hangups, Whiskey’s going to need all of his patience and Patrick’s going to need to find the best of himself before these two men ever see clear water.
As I read Clear Water, in my head I began to hear Springsteen’s Human Touch with it’s own distinctive gravelly-voiced demand for hope and change, it seemed a very appropriate anthem for the characters here. Once again Amy Lane has imagined some delightful people in this book, which are, as often is the case, a mixture of nonconformist individuals. However one of her main characters is both troubled and more than a little damaged.
Patrick spills from the page, a beguiling combination of Bambi on ice and a gay Mowgli with a twist of back chat that hurts with its revealing honesty. He is struggling valiantly with his ADHD, which he describes in ways which communicate his problems with absolute clarity. His behaviour in the story further illustrate his daily difficulties, phone throwing frustration, inattention, hyperactivity, clumsiness, are all added to both verbal and thought repeat loops. The first few poignant pages as Patrick interacts with his awful boyfriend and unbelievably insensitive father had my maternal instincts on military alert. Luckily this level of anxiety for such stomach clenching vulnerability disappeared when Whiskey appears in his life.
If Patrick reminded me a little of Mowgli then Whiskey is Balou, gruff, down to earth, patient and loving. A bisexual scientist living for his work in the field with his closest friend Fly Bait, another great personality. They have been friends for seventeen years, but have both reached a point of change in their lives. Irascible Fly Bait aka Freya has realised that she wants to settle down with her long term girlfriend. While itinerant Whiskey at thirty six is starting to look for a home. Enter Patrick, half drowned, generally befuddled but totally adorable. He wants to have a proper life; a little pharmaceutical help, yoga and discreet reminders could combine to allow him manage his behavioural difficulties. So that he can study, work and eventually have a career, no longer dependent on his beyond wealthy father Shawn.
Whiskey is the first person to listen to, understand and believe in Patrick. His long history of truly awful boyfriends have all contributed to his lack of self esteem, which is at the level of ocean trenches. Patrick’s speech on the unpleasant intimacies of male gay sex which he inflicts on a mortified Fly Bait is very funny but not free of pathos. It becomes obvious that sex has been for him nothing more than some kind of bleak negotiation for any moment of affection. Lucky for Patrick—and us—he has very patient and totally gorgeous Whiskey to put it all to rights. This can only happen when Whiskey has got over his own misgivings about any such developments.
The relationship between them is beautifully evolved over quite a short period of time, but it felt totally understandable. It is also nicely established that for all Patrick’s problems, Whiskey needs him just as much. Moreover in the interests of balance, while Whiskey gets to play “goddamned hero” in the first part of the book, later it is Patrick’s physical strength and determination that helps save both Whiskey and his father. The plot development that sets this adventure up worked quite believably and added another level of intensity to their relationship. The six month separation of our hero’s is necessary in order to allow Patrick to reconcile his family life and for him to consolidate his successes away from Whiskey.
This book has all the qualities I enjoy about Amy Lane’s writing; there is a love of language, wordplay, extended metaphor generally concerning frog anomalies not abnormalities and great dialogue. Although I was amazed by her other recent release, mind blowing A Solid Core Of Alpha and would have given that five stars, they would somehow have been a very different five stars to those I think this one deserves. This fills all my criteria for a frequent comfort reread and they seem rare these days. Amy Lane often and eloquently deals with questions of friends as family in her books. In Clear Water she expands this to the concept of home—this, it appears with unashamed sentimentality, is where the heart is.