A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: An enjoyable if meandering Mary Calmes’ world romance with an older main character than usual, but all the other recognisable and oddly comforting details are present and correct.
Blurb: Forty-five-year-old English professor Nathan Qells is very good at making people feel important. What he’s not very good at is sticking around afterward. He’s a nice guy; he just doesn’t feel things the way other people do. So even after all the time he’s spent taking care of Michael, the kid across the hall, he doesn’t realize that Michael’s mob muscle uncle and guardian, Andreo Fiore, has slowly been falling in love with him.
Dreo has bigger problems than getting Nate to see him as a potential partner. He’s raising his nephew, trying to leave his unsavory job, and starting his own business, a process made infinitely more difficult when a series of hits takes out some key underworld players. Still, Dreo is determined to build a life he can be proud of—a life with Nate as a cornerstone. A life that is starting to look like exactly what Nate has been seeking. Unfortunately for Dreo—and for Nate—the last hits were just part of a major reorganization, and Dreo’s obvious love for Nate has made him a target too.
I find Mary Calmes’ books a somewhat guilty pleasure, somewhat akin to my occasional addiction to rose flavoured Turkish Delight- a sweet treat. Yet I have come to accept quite happily – living with addiction phase one – that I will always check out and probably buy the new Mary Calmes’ offering. Some I find more successful, within the rather narrow stylistic range she inhabits as a writer, than others.
I usually have more fun with the longer works. Acrobat is a good length but develops in a very leisurely way. For the most part I enjoyed suspending my disbelief and getting to know Nate, family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, in fact everybody who could add lustre to Nate as the most popular and loved man ever….ok familiar ground….Mary’s idealised heroes are always very well loved. I was well entertained by Nate’s interactions with Michael and his teenage social life. However there were deviations on this journey of romantic self discovery that even I found self indulgent; the scenes with his ex wife’s suspicious and drunk husband was unnecessary as was all the stuff about choosing wine…charming strangers over your ability to read a wine label…please. There were similar scenes with present and ex students all designed purely to build Nate’s already very, very well established kudos as a extra special guy.
However I did like Nate…..going with the majority here….and I rather enjoyed that he finally recognised his acrobatic patterns within the relationships for what they were. I thought the false trails of potential partners were nicely done, if somewhat negated by the blurb. Along with Nate I was very surprised by Dreo’s ambitions. Nate’s occasional default position as an unreliable witness to his own thoughts was a touch irritating, as in Dreo’s case he went from Micheal’s unsmiling uncle, a mere acquaintance, to hot appealing guy very quickly. However the suddenness of Nate’s realisation of this new powerful attraction worked well as the catalyst that jolted him out of his previous well worked routine behaviour. Moreover together Nate and Dreo certainly set the pages alight.
Dreo’s life and work added a colourful if cliched conflict to the mix which gave pace to the tension subplot, though there did seem to be excess of made and unmade men of Italian descent swaggering on and off stage clutching offerings of food for Nate’s approval. What the hell….. I enjoyed this in the spirit of a self indulgent comfort read and will probably continue to reread it with a side helping of sugar powdered Turkish Delight.
I thought the forward by the writer and the artist Anne Cain, about the painter Steve Walker, whose work Parallel Dreams inspired them both, was an interesting and moving note.