This story is set in a contemporary-feeling world in which everyone has some sort of "gift." Sometimes it's something useful, sometimes it's not. Hal's gift is the ability to talk to doors. He can convince just about any door to open without a key. Although being a thief would probably have been a more lucrative profession, Hal opted to become a locksmith instead.
After finishing a job in a nasty part of town, Hal is about to leave when he spots a gorgeous guy with auburn hair in a window. The guy, Micha, asks for his help escaping. Hal is skeptical and suspects some kind of scam or trap, but when Micha tells him to come back at midnight, he does. After seeing a scary-looking biker climb up to Micha's window, Hal tries to get to Micha's room by more conventional means, only to discover that his room isn't reachable by any doors. With his gift effectively useless, Hal will have to figure out some other way to save Micha.
Even knowing this story was written by JCP and was therefore probably good, I still hesitated to buy it. Several reviews stated that it was too short. Since that's a common complaint I have about short stories and novellas, it was a good bet I'd feel the same. Still, when a sale came around, I bought it.
While it was certainly as readable as everything else by JCP that I've tried, it really was too short. I got a brief look at the story's world, I got to know Hal a little, and I got to meet Micha and get the barest hint of what he was like, assuming he was telling the truth. Then it was over.
The best parts of the story were the world it was set in, the moments when Hal got to use his gift, and Hal's “voice.” Every character had their own gift, and I enjoyed getting to find out what it was. I loved that Hal didn't just tell doors to open – he had to convince them to open. Every door he touched had a personality of its own, suited to whatever it was part of. Hal's car door was protective of him and didn't like to open for anyone else. The door at a sewing factory had a strong work ethic and wasn't inclined to open without a key. In some ways, Hal reminded me a little of that door. He just wanted to do his job, with a minimum of fuss.
The weakest parts of the story were Micha and the attempt at romance, or at least attraction, between him and Hal. Micha was gorgeous, but I didn't feel like I got to know him enough for him to be anything more than that. I couldn't even get a sense of whether he and Hal could manage to last for more than a few days as a couple. There were indications that, unlike Micha's past lovers, Hal might like him for more than just sex. Unfortunately, the story was too short to really convince me of that.
I thought this was an interesting take on the Rapunzel story, although I snorted a bit when I found out what the “talismans” were. Would a guy like Hal really have called those things talismans? Anyway, although this was an okay story, it's the weakest of JCP's works I've read so far.
Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
- Some Kind of Magic (e-novella) by R. Cooper - I read this and never got around to writing a full post about it, just a few sentences. This one isn't based on a fairy tale, but it might still appeal to those looking for another m/m story with a contemporary-ish setting and fun fantasy aspects.
- Basilisk (e-novella) by Kate Cotoner - Those who'd like another m/m story featuring storybook fantasy aspects might want to give this a try. This story draws on Greek mythology, rather than fairy tales. I've written about it.
- The 10th Kingdom (live action mini-series) - Those who'd like another romance (m/f) with fairy tale aspects might want to give this a try. The main character is a waitress who ends up transported, along with her father, into a fairy tale world. I've written about the novelization.