A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: This fitting sequel to The Night Porter brought Max and Robert their satisfying, well-deserved happy-end.
****This review contains possible spoilers for the first book, The Night Porter****
The Blurb: The first time Max laid eyes on Robert Armitage, he knew exactly what he wanted to happen. But Max was just a night porter and Robert a guest at the hotel before his wedding, and Max knew even as they slept together that in the morning he’d have to send the groom on his way. Max’s heart was broken when Robert left, and so he ran home to Texas. When Robert’s marriage failed, Max waited for Robert to come looking for him, and waited….
A year later, Max’s dreams come true and Robert finds him, but there’s a catch, and Max has to decide if he wants Robert enough to be satisfied with hiding their relationship.
The Review: In my review of the prequel to this book (it’s here), I said that it felt like the middle of a book, a separation scene without the happy ending for a change (which, by the way, added up greatly to my enjoyment of The Night Porter). The first book is a Bittersweet Dreams title that ended with the main characters forcefully separated, with barely any hope for them to ever meet again. But apparently, the author took pity in Max and Robert and gave them their happy reunion at last. Light of Day could be read as a standalone, there’s enough backstory in it, but in order to fully enjoy this book and to understand where the characters, especially Max, come from, I’d advise to read both books in order.
To the book: Light of Day starts one year after The Night Porter, and Max is back in the States, working as the day manager of a middle-class chain hotel and thinking about going back to school and aiming for a degree in hotel management. His heartbreaking experience with Robert back in London apparently was what he’d needed to shake him out of his drifting through mundane jobs and meaningless one-night-stands. But while Max is outwardly about to make something of his life, he’s still very much hung up on Robert and what could’ve been. In Max’s dreams, Robert choses him over his actress fiancee, and Max’s waking thoughts also revolve around Robert, to a point where Max obsessively watches Robert’s show and even turns to stalking Robert on the internet. Learning that Robert’s marriage failed after only a few months fueled Max’s hopes again. But there’s been no word from Robert since, even though the divorce was several months ago, and Max slowly sinks into despair. How big is his surprise when the man of his dreams, his hopeless crush, turns up out of the blue in his mother’s garden! At first, Max even tries to refuse seeing him, but Robert won’t take no for an answer, after all the lengths he’s gone to in order to find Max again, and Max can’t resist for long.
However, as happy as both men are to be reunited, there are new obstacles to overcome. As a popular actor, Robert can’t be open about his relationship with another man, or he’s likely to lose his job. Max, on the other hand, strictly refuses to be Robert’s “filthy little secret”, as he puts it. Will the love that brought them together against all odds stand up to reality, or will their mutual reservations break them up before their relationship ever sees the light of day?
This sequel didn’t appeal to me quite as much as the first book did.
Not that there was anything wrong with this book. It was smoothly written and well-paced, and I found it estimable that things didn’t just immediately fall into place for the loving couple. Both had to compromise, and both did, once they realized they had to in order to make the relationship work for both of them. I also found the character development nicely done. Both men remained true to what they were made out to be in the first book, while maturing over the course of the story, in a way that fit their respective personalities and made them plausible as a couple.
But therein also lay part of my problem with this book. Max is at once the more realistic person and the dreamer he always was. For a start, while he was pining away for Robert, waiting to hear from him, Max didn’t bother with making himself findable for Robert. It was pure coincidence that Robert stumbled upon Max’s friend Chris one day, which put things in motion for them eventually. And once they worked out their future life, I couldn’t help thinking Max ended up with the heavy end of the haul due to his incorrigible blind confidence.
Robert on the other hand struck me as quite the opportunist. Once he’d won Max back, Robert just expected Max to play along with his closeted act, with no prospect for an openly shared future? No wonder Max put down his foot at that. And it wasn’t Robert’s conscious decision to leave his wife for Max in the first place; here, too, the hand of fate was needed to push him forward. Despite Robert’s eventual promises, I couldn’t take him entirely at face value. In the end, Max put more trust in Robert than vice versa, leaving their relationship somewhat off-balance to Max’s disadvantage.
However, I’m aware that the very things that bothered me about Max and Robert might be what others appreciate the most about them, so I’d advise to take what I said above as my personal taste and opinion – with the smallest grain of salt.
So did I love to meet Max and Robert again? Sure. Was I was pleased to see them reunited in a loving relationship? Absolutely. But while the first book went straight to my heart with its sad beauty and unveiled realism, this offer appeared shallow in comparison. They had their problems, they struggled, but too many lucky coincidences were needed to work in their favor, and in the end they shoved it all into place with a shrug and wrapped it with a nice bow.
All in all, this wasn’t as intense and moving as the first book, but it was still an enjoyable, satisfying read, and certainly inevitable for those who wanted closure for Max and Robert.