Superb atmosphere and character development –
Story blurb: Rafe Colman likes his life. He has a nice home, a good job, and a wonderful dog. But he’s exhausted by living a lie. When his home is vandalized because of his perceived German ancestry, he can’t even share the irony with friends.
Officer Ben Morgan falls for Rafe’s dog first, but it isn’t long before he’s giving her owner the eye. He thinks they have more in common than the search for Rafe’s vandals, and he’s willing to take a chance and find out.
If life in 1955 is tough on a cop in the closet, it’s even tougher on a refugee who’s desperate to hide his roots and fit in. Rafe knows from tragic experience how vicious prejudice can be. Every second with Ben is stolen, every kiss fraught with danger.
When Ben’s partner threatens to ruin everything, Rafe and Ben have to fight to protect what they have but they’re tired of hiding their secret light.
Review by Gerry Burnie
|Editorial comment: The Goodreads’ posting of this book comes with a caveat, i.e. “Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: male/male sexual practices,” which I find ‘objectionable’. Were this a heterosexual story with heterosexual ‘sexual practices’ would it have the same caveat? I think not. Therefore it is demeaning at best.|
This is the second of Z.A. Maxfield’s stories I have reviewed (see: St. Nacho’s, February, 2010) and I am happy to say that Secret Light [Loose ID LLC, 2011] is generally of the same well-written calibre.
Set in 1955, a period when the memory of WWII is still fresh in many people’s minds, we find Rafe Colman, an gay Austrian DP (displaced person) with his own, tragic memories of the war. These include the death of his parents and the murder of his dearest friends, a gay couple, and so he is understandably and profoundly affected by these events.
As is so often the case (it certainly was in mine) he has learned to cope by adopting a persona that ‘fits’ mainstream expectations; especially for a single man–nice guy with an eye for the ladies, friendly with everyone but seldom personal, successful with a medium-high profile. The problem with role playing of this nature is that it sublimates the real person inside, and no one can be allowed behind the scenes for a closer look.
Of course, this doesn’t prevent some busy bodies from drawing their own conclusions, rightly or wrongly, and from acting on them on account of prejudice or spite. So, when Colman’s house is vandalized because he is perceived as ‘German,’ the police become involved in the person of officer Ben Morgan; a closeted gay man, himself.
Call it “gaydar,” or whatever, the two of them come to recognize themselves in the other, and a relationship is formed based on mutual understanding, honesty and caring. It is not all cotton candy and roses, however, but at least the promise of an HEA ending is there.
While the plot circumstances aren’t particularly original, as they were in “St. Nacho’s”, the same attention to detail and atmosphere has been used to give the reader a sense of time and place. The character-development is also topnotch, which adds greatly to the credibility of their actions, and the pace allows the reader to appreciate both these aspects.
The drawback for me was the somewhat obvious story manipulation, resulting in resolutions that were just a bit on the convenient side. I hasten to add that these were not incredible in nature, but they were noticeable enough to affect my score.
Altogether, though, I have no hesitation in recommending Secret Light as an enjoyable read for all its great parts. Four bees.
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Although it was published in 2008, Two Irish Lads is still ranked #4 on the Old Line Publishing Best-Seller list. In the past, the Two Lads have also been awarded the iUniverse’s “Editor’s Choice,” “Publisher’s Choice,” and “Reader’s Choice” awards. As they say, “Them’s my boys!”
Oh, by the way, Nor All Thy Tears, is ranked #6 on the Oldline list, as well.
If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.
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Highly recommended as an endearing love story
Story outline: Cooper has spent the last three years running from a painful past. He’s currently moving from town to town, working in restaurant kitchens, and playing his violin for tips. As soon as he starts to feel comfortable anywhere–with anyone–he moves on. He’s aware that music may be the only human language he still knows. Ironically, the one man he’s wanted to communicate with in all that time is deaf.
Shawn is part of a deaf theater group at the nearby college. Shawn wants Cooper as soon as they meet and he begins a determined flirtation. Cooper is comfortable with down and dirty sex, just not people. As far as Shawn is concerned, dirty sex is win-win, but he wants Cooper to let him into the rest of his life as well.
Cooper needs time to heal and put his past away for good. Shawn needs to help Cooper forgive himself and accept that he can be loved. Both men find out that when it comes to the kind of healing love can bring, the sleepy beachside town of Santo Ignacio, “St. Nacho’s” as the locals call it, may just be the very best place to start.
Review by Gerry Burnie
For someone who apparently began writing in 2006, Z.A. Maxfield demonstrates a remarkable level of maturity in almost every aspect of her writing. Her characterization of the St. Nacho’s cantina, delivered in a very few words, captures the essence of a layback “hangout” so familiar to all of us who are reformed barflies like Cooper: the friendly but world-wise bartender; the booze stained carpet and smell of same; and the slightly melancholy atmosphere over all. The ideal setting for a story like this.
However, where her light really shines is inher characterization of Cooper, a complex mix of a talented and sensitive musician inside a cynical, crusty exterior of his own creation, and a past that he has been putting miles behind in an attempt to outrun it in his mind. Consequently, St. Nachos is just another stop in quest to find ‘nowhere.’
Enter Shawn, a profoundly deaf boy who ‘hears’ Cooper’s cry for help above the ‘noise’ that surrounds him, and in response to this Cooper is drawn to him as drowning man is drawn to a life raft. However the ride isn’t free, for Shawn exacts a price of tender love and affection from Cooper that, given his past, is not easily given.
So what’s so special about that? Well, for one thing it’s all credibly done, right down to the turmoil that Cooper feels inside; the quandary this presents to Shawn, who with limited communication must coprehend this paradox to move the relationship forward; and the faith one boy has in the other. This requires not only considerable insight, but discipline to pace it all just right.
The final test comes when Cooper’s past catches up to him in the person of Jordan, his childhood sweetheart, and who ostensibly took the rap for a child’s death that occurred with Cooper in the truck. Once again the characterization of Jordan is remarkably credible as the emotionally arrested ‘adolescent’ grasping for straws in people—particularly a smarmy lay-preacher shopping for souls—and a convenient depository for his guilt.
The story also holds together remarkably well, except toward the end with the introduction of additional characters who are not so well defined. Moreover, some of these characters, i.e. Mary Lynn the librarian and Bill the cop, don’t fit in comfortably. Moreover, their sudden appearance seems slightly contrived.
Nevertheless St. Nachos is an engrossing and heart-warming read from beginning to end, and highly recommended as an endearing love story.