At 6,100 words, this is shorter than most things I download for free, much less buy. It received a glowing recommendation in an All Romance Ebooks newsletter, which was what first put it on my radar. Its short length and price ($1.49 without any sort of discount) turned me off, but I eventually caved and bought it when ARe had a sale.
An injured man enters the house of a man who used to be his lover, intending to use his shower and tend to his wounds. When the man's former lover comes home, old relationship wounds are reopened. The two men love each other deeply, but, unless things change, they can never be together. One man will forever find himself leaving a window open in the hope that his lover will come back, while the other man will forever hope that the window will still be open for him if he ever finds himself needing to go back.
I seem to be in the minority as far as this story is concerned – all the reviews I've seen so far have been glowing ones, while my feelings are more...restrained. It's not that I disliked this story. I actually thought it was pretty good. It's just that it read like a creative writing exercise.
Here's what I imagine the exercise was: Write about a moment in time involving two characters. These two characters have a lot of history, but you can't spell any of it out – you have to show that history, in the details they notice, the way they speak to each other, the way they interact with each other. In fact, you can't flat-out tell the reader anything about them – not their jobs, not their names, nothing.
The author dealt with some of these restrictions by writing the entire story in the first person. Despite the characters' lack of names, it was never difficult to figure out who was saying or doing what, since there was only one other character. The relationship between the two of them was wonderfully intense and intimate. One of the things I loved was all the little details was that showed just how close the two of them still were, despite having been apart for a while: the narrator's thoughts about his lover's shower curtain, the little detail about the apples. Despite the limited word count, the author found time for a couple sex scenes, but they weren't wasted space. They conveyed the tone of the characters' relationship just as much as everything else in the story: intense and intimate, but also bittersweet and sometimes angry.
One of the things that frustrated me was that, for all the incredible depth the author gave these characters' emotions, I finished the story knowing nothing about the narrator's reasons for continuing to do work that kept him at odds with the man he clearly loved. Also, considering the characters' respective professions, I'd have loved to learn how they became such a close couple to begin with – that was never revealed, either.
Those who prefer their stories to have a plot should probably steer clear of this one, since it really is just a moment in time. The two characters meet after a long absence, there is a boatload of old affection, attraction, and relationship baggage, and then they part. That's pretty much it. The ending is left open, with no real indication one way or another whether they'd both keep going as they had been or finally break things off for good and never see each other again.
I'd probably have liked this story more if it had had both a plot and intense relationship moments, but it was good for what it was. However, one thing that really bothered me was the occasional bit of awkward wording. For example, the story had no instances of “damn near,” but two of “near damn.” As in, “...when I reach his mouth, I capture it in a deep, near damn filthy kiss” (88.3%). It's possible that “near damn” is acceptable in other varieties of English, but I haven't able to find any confirmation that this is the case. This was one of several small things that distracted me. They're all pretty nit-picky but, in a story this short, a few distracting things amounts to a lot.
I might try a longer work by this author, just to see if she can manage to write something that has both an intense relationship and a plot, but I'm a little worried that the increased word count will include an increased number of awkward word choices.
I could have sworn I'd read several cop-criminal romances, but I can't think of any at the moment. I also tend to avoid bittersweet romances, so the read-alikes list below is based entirely on things I've read in descriptions and reviews.
- Half Moon Chambers (e-book) by Harper Fox - I haven't read this one, although I've got one of Harper Fox's books on my e-TBR pile. I decided to include this in my read-alikes list because it's m/m romance and the description and reviews indicate that it contains boatloads of angst and features a relationship between a cop and a guy with issues (in this case, an ex-drug addict).
- Valentin's Day (e-short story) by Charles Edward - I haven't read this one, nor anything else by this author. I added it to this list because it's another short, bittersweet m/m romance. Judging from what I've read in reviews, the main characters have a lot of history together and the focus is on a moment in their relationship.
- In Varying States of Disgrace (e-book) by Lilith Duvalier - I haven't read this one, nor anything else by this author. I added it to this list because it's another bittersweet m/m romance starring main characters who love each other despite technically being on opposing sides. In this case, the main characters are an angel and a demon (devil?).
- Baron's Last Hunt (e-short story) by S.A. Garcia - I haven't read this one, nor anything else by this author. It's another bittersweet m/m romance. It sounds intense and angsty.