Author: Aidan Wayne
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: September 12, 2016
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 88
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 2.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
John loves his job as head rigger for Cirque Brilliance. The heavy scarring over half his face makes it a little hard to meet new people, but John’s got a good crew and a nice found family, and he’s content with his lot in life.
When Cirque hires talent for a new show, John meets Bao, a bright, ever-cheerful acrobat. Bao seems drawn to John and becomes a constant presence at his side—talking to him during downtime, spending time with him at lunch, and generally seeking out his company.
John doesn’t know what to make of this. Sure, he likes Bao—maybe a little too much, honestly—but he’s had enough experience to know that Bao couldn’t possibly like him back. Or so he thinks, anyway. Fortunately, Bao seems determined to prove him wrong.
John started as a sideshow act and worked his way up to chief rigger for all Cirque Brilliance shows, meaning he handles the logistics for the stage layout and safety for the performers. Bao is a hand balancer and general gymnast at Cirque, performing for the first time outside of China. This short story is very much a character study of John and Bao, how they meet and become friends, and their first tentative steps into a relationship.
John’s nickname is Phantom (think Phantom of the Opera) because of the scars he bears on his face, arms and hands. He is uncertain when Bao starts seeking him out and afraid of misinterpreting Bao’s interest. Neither John or Bao are particularly well-fleshed out, but Aidan Wayne does a nice job of piquing our interest with these two characters – one so uncertain about love and/or relationships and the second doing his best to express his interest to someone who is skittish and scared. The pace of the story is gentle and very low-angst with no explicit sex scenes, but it suits the character-driven aspect of the story and while the ending is just really the beginning for John and Bao, this novella is a sweet tale that feels very satisfying.
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