Title: For The Living
Author: L. A. Witt
Publisher: Self Published
Cover Artist: Trace Edward Zaber
Buy Link: Amazon (Second Edition)
Genre: Gay/ Contemporary
Length: Extended Novel (79k words)
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: This book’s premise gave reason to expect lots of angst, which it did deliver nice and proper, but I couldn’t really warm up to either of the main characters.
The Blurb: For the last year, Jay Warren has struggled to find the nerve to tell his wife he’s gay. He’s ashamed of hiding it all this time and he doesn’t want to hurt her, so every time he gets the chance to tell her, he freezes up. The guilt has been almost unbearable, but when his wife dies suddenly, Jay’s conscience threatens to eat him alive.
Funeral director Scott Lawson deals with the bereaved every day of his life, and he’s also all too familiar with the inside of the closet. He offers Jay some much-needed compassion and understanding, and from that connection comes a friendship that quickly—perhaps too quickly—turns into something more.
But are grief, guilt, and loneliness the only things tying them together? Or will Scott get tired of being used as an emotional crutch before Jay realizes what he has?
The Review: The premise was original and grabbed my interest immediately. Jay’s wife dying unexpectedly was already awful for him – but her dying when he’d JUST worked up the nerve to reveal his big, horrible secret that he was so sure had to hurt her to hear but he had to tell her anyway? Recipe for disaster. How will Jay live with the guilt and grief? No wonder he turns to the first sympathetic soul who comes his way – who happens to be funeral director Scott, who has the professional training to interact with the newly bereaved. Scott also happens to be out-and-proud gay. Both facts together make Scott the perfect person for Jay to become friends with, despite the circumstances surrounding their first meeting. It doesn’t hurt that both men are physically attracted to each other.
Scott has seen many of his earlier relationships fail because of his job – the hours, the unpredictability and the overall creepiness people seem to affiliate to the fact that he works with dead bodies. Jay knew up front what Scott does for a living, and he doesn’t care, caught up in his own personal tangle of emotions as he is. There’s the guilt about Misty, his wife, fueled by the fury and disappointment Misty’s mother unloads upon him once she learns about Jay’s predicament. On the other hand Jay is slowly taking his fist tentative steps into his new life as an openly gay man, and while this is scary, it’s also exciting and wonderful, especially once he re-discovers sex with another man. Which, predictably, leads to even more guilty conscience on Jay’s part, since he feels as if he’d only waited for his wife to be out of the way in order to “allow himself to be gay”.
This story dealt sensibly with some serious issues. It unwrapped slowly, in tune with Jay’s slow coming to terms with himself. I liked that Jay and Scott took their time getting to know each other before making any commitments, and I liked the erotic chemistry between them. Having said this, I had still problems warming up to both main characters. While I could appreciate Jay’s dilemma, and how his inner struggles were made comprehensible, I could unfortunately not get myself to like him. He struck me as weak from the beginning. Without Scott practically carrying him along, Jay would’ve remained stuck in his self-deprecation, despite the fact that almost everybody was incredibly supportive of him.
Apropos supportive, I found it somewhat convenient how things just fell into place for Jay after a while. As if everybody, even the most unlikely party involved, was set on helping him to forgive himself. Actually, this was where the book almost lost me, or at least, Jay did. With the all around condoning, his continued unwavering remorse and self-flagellation started to feel whiny. Fortunately, Scott eventually put his foot down with Jay, it was about time he did!
In comparison to Jay, Scott remained a bit pale, to a point where his part in the story appeared to me narrowed down to that of a supporting character. He’s always there, always patient, listening to Jay, there for Jay, giving Jay space… this might be only me, and I can easily see where others might love how perfect Scott was for Jay, but I also couldn’t really fathom what Scott saw in Jay, other than fodder for an overdeveloped helper syndrome. At times, their dialogue didn’t actually feel like two guys getting to know each other, more like psychotherapy. Which, although fitting the story flow, also made it drag.
Their HEA, nice and sweet as it was, left a somewhat stale aftertaste with me. It seemed pretty far fetched to me, almost forced – I couldn’t help wishing for a more tentative solution.
If you are partial to heartbreak, angst, tragedy and raw emotions, though, I’d recommend this book. You’ll find your preferences here in spades, well-written, and leading to a comforting romance to boot.