I finished Brandon Shire’s new novel “Summer Symphony” last night. Below is the review I posted on Amazon.
I not only enjoyed this book, I appreciated it. I appreciated the fact there was a romantic interlude in these men’s lives that impacted them but, as happens so often in live, it was just that, an interlude. They both moved on. I found this story refreshing because it seemed free of so many of the romance tropes and clichés that have moved into gay fiction. It had a good ending. A natural ending. But not something forced into a happy ever after kind of thing. Best thing I can say is I stayed up way too late to finish it. This is a good read with a good emotional range. I really felt myself engaging with the characters—talking to them as I read along. I recommend this book.
Another thing I appreciated about this book, that isn’t appropriate for a Zon review, is it left me thinking about other gay fiction I’ve read recently and my own writing. I’m working on how to articulate my ruminations, which is rather frustrating for a writer, so this post might be a bit disjointed as I try to work this out.
The thing I think I liked most about this story is there was romance in it, but I didn’t experience it as a “romance,” meaning it didn’t have the forced happy ending. As I said above, it had a good ending—the right ending. I don’t think all the M/M books I’ve read have the right ending. That’s one of the things that has always bothered me, as a gay man of a certain age, because romance, love, and especially sex doesn’t always end in a happy relationship, even just for now. It usually doesn’t. And that’s fine. Those encounters have shaped my life. I treasure them and I think they make for better stories.
Another thing I like was the lack of on page sex. Again, this is just my preference—nothing wrong with sex in a book and erotica. I’m just finding it annoying. I’ve yet to read a sex scene that doesn’t interrupt the plot, because hey, sex is an interruptive thing—even bad sex should be distracting to the characters. I want to get on with the story. A bit of foreplay to let me know what’s going on with the characters and then we can move on. I really don’t care about what’s being poked where; let’s get back to the story. I’ve stopped writing sex scenes in my own stories, I’m just feeling they’re not necessary for the story I’m telling.
I think what’s bouncing around in my head is the tension of telling a story with gay male characters that have romance in their lives but having it not be a “romance.” This tension also comes from the inevitable need to market and sell the story. It seems harder and harder to find gay lit that isn’t M/M. I don’t know where I’m going with this. Like I said, I enjoyed the story and it made me think about things, which is high praise. Read Brandon’s book and let me know what you think. And, you know, if I can’t ramble on my own blog, where the heck can I?