Friday, May 28, 2010

The Midnight Hunt by L.L. Raand

“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack."
~ Rudyard Kipling

As you might recall, my first “encounter” with the author Radclyffe was when I reviewed The Best Lesbian Romance Fiction 2010 (4/21). She was the editor, as well as author of one of the featured stories. This brief exposure made me want to read more.

I made contact with the author, and received a variety of her works, and then I had to make a decision as to which one I’d review first. Not an easy choice.

To call this woman prolific is an understatement. She has written many romance novels, romantic intrigue novels, lots of short stories, and has edited anthologies of romance and erotica. Needless to say, when I mentioned to my “boss” that I would be doing a Radclyffe book, her clearly knowledgeable response was, “she’s a bit steamy, you know!”

So back to the choice I needed to make. Thinking I would pick a work from her Justice or Honor Series, I noticed that I had received what I soon discovered to be the first book of a brand new series. Not only that, it would be her first outing into the realm of Weres (as in Werewolves) Vampires and the like.

We’ve been flooded of late by a glut of vampire focused books, television shows and movies. With the Twilight Saga priming itself for yet another cinematic installment, I thought, what a good time to introduce a “steamy” tale of yet another species of beings-the Praetern. They are human in appearance, but have the ability to transform themselves into wolves in a heartbeat. Add to that the fact that protagonists are predominantly woman, and happen to engage in woman to woman sex, and you have the formula for an erotic romance that puts these other works to shame. I mean, drool all you want over Robert Pattinson (I don’t), but this tale would make the celluloid melt if turned to film.

The Midnight Hunt (Bold Stroke Books, 2010) is written by Radclyffe under the name, L. L. Raand, and if this first installment doesn’t make you eager for what follows, well, I guess I don’t have a clue as to what would. It engaged me from the start, and, I’ve got to tell you, steamy is an understatement! Don’t get me wrong, steamy is good, and if you take away this element, you still have an engaging tale of love, undying allegiance and a deep-set internal struggle.

These Weres, indistinguishable from us while in human form, had been living among us undetected for centuries. As this story begins, they are known, and, as a result, are a feared minority. As we all know, dealing with humans is difficult, so, naturally this species attempts to seek certain rights as well as protection. Perhaps this is a thinly disguised commentary on our struggle for civil rights, but that is not the books sole intent.

Instead we are given a truly powerful story of love and desire. It is set in the present day, and uses Albany, NY as its locale. Much like the Indian tribes that habited the area during the seventeenth century, the Pratean species have their own packs. The species is made up of Weres, Vampires, Mages, Fae and Psi, and this tale concentrates on the Adirondak Timberwolf Pack, which is made up of Weres, and its Alpha or leader, named Sylvan.

Sylvan is fiercely protective of her charges, to the point of denying her own needs as a Were. She will fight for them, kill if she has to, and even die for them. She is so vigilante that she denies herself a significant primary need, and that is one of sexual fulfillment. She is also being called upon by her pack to mate-something she has been reluctant to do,until, and here is where the story gets really interesting, she runs into a human named Drake McKennan.

McKennan is a Medic, and meets Sylvan when she attempts to render medical assistance to a young girl who has been brought to the hospital emergency room. It is this meeting that triggers a whole series of events that brings the two women, who should be adversaries, together in a most unusual way.

Add to this a strange outbreak of Were fever among humans, a Protean adversary named Max, who wants Sylvan’s seat of power, a spunky reporter who must get her story, and several woman who vie for Slyvan’s love, and you have a book that you will find hard to put down.

Raand sure knows how to pace her incredible love scenes, allowing you to catch your breath in time for the next one, but, most importantly, she knows how to tell a good story.

I, am looking forward to the next installment, called Blood Hunt, which is due this Winter, and I think you will too. So, push those Twilight Twinkies aside, and treat yourself to real passion.

Next week I will be reviewing James Magruder’s wonderfully quirky coming of age novel, Sugarless.

Author Alert: I will be posting an interview with Radclyffeasoon-so stay tuned. I'm excited!

Until then, happy reading.

Robert Jaquay,

Please send suggestions or comments to .

Friday, May 21, 2010

Silver Lake by Peter Gadol

" If you have no wounds how can you know if you're alive? If you have no scar how do you know who you are? Have been? Can ever be? "-- Man, The Play About the Baby by Edward Albee

There has been a considerable amount of good press for Peter Gadol’s Silver Lake (Tyrus Books, 2009), and it has been selected as a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction. One of the things that captured my attention is that it is labeled as being a “psychological thriller”. Reading the blurb on the dust jacket, I thought this would be a nice departure from the other books I've talked about recently. It is true that this intriguing novel involves a “mystery”, but that is merely the device the author uses for the more important things this novel has to offer.

So, don’t expect Agatha Christie, although there is a suspicious death, and lots of clues along the way. Instead, expect a much deeper exploration of the main character’s inner selves. This seemingly "perfect" couple has a lot going on under the surface, and what happens to them is presumably meant to be a catalyst for change. However, depending on how the story rests with you, that aspect is clearly debatable.

Being his sixth novel, and returning to a familiar Los Angeles setting, Godol gives us the tale of two men, Carlos and Robbie, partnered for twenty years, and seemingly having it all together. The story starts in a somewhat idyllic fashion, with a long meandering first sentence that sets the scene perfectly. All should be well. However, it does not take long for their comfortable routine to be jarred significantly.

Into their lives, quite unexpectedly, or so we initially think, comes a mystery man. His name is Tom, and although he enters the picture as a result of having his car break down, we eventually find out that his being there is no accident.

Robbie is the first to meet him, and Tom’s energy and allure are immediately felt. How could Robbie be taken is so fast? Is there something here we do not know? Carlos also meets him, and seems to step back and let Robbie enjoy this strangely alluring individual. Of course, we immediately want to know why.

Initially it is a bit of a challenge to accept Tom’s quick infusion into the lives of these two men, but soon skepticism turns to understanding. Little by little, a murky story unfolds, filled with secrets and deceptions. Carlos has met Tom before, and although it takes a while for us to find out when and how, it is immediately clear that their meeting is to be kept a secret from Robbie. This is the beginning of a long line of secrets. Now the plot thickens.

A lot happens between Tom and Robbie in a very short while; tennis, talks, and finally an evening together that turns decidedly ugly. At a dinner with the two men, Tom gets very drunk, and in a sharp change of mood, he becomes very dark and brooding. He tells a story of a man who holds a woman and her boy captive and with a knife against the woman’s throat and the man utters this horrific statement; “Your kid or your eyes.” What does this mean? Tom abruptly switches moods, and suggests that the three of them engage in sex. Yikers!

Most of us would, after collecting our hearts from the floor, do our best to move this guy out the door. Not so for Robbie and Carlos. They soothe him and insist he spend the night. What happens next sets the story ablaze, and becomes the hook of this book. Sometime during the night or early morning Tom hangs himself. Now, the question that propels the action forward is, once again,” why?”

Rather than bring Robbie and Carlos close, the shock of this single event creates an incredible chasm between them. It causes each partner to go to places they may not have otherwise gone. Carlos is driven by the fierce need to keep his secret, and Robbie completely retreats into a world that is consumed with finding out why Tom did what he did, and more significantly, just who Tom is/was.

The two men drift farther and farther apart. They barely share the same physical space, and their minds are always elsewhere. Robbie finds Tom's personal telephone book and uses that to connect with Tom's past via the people he knew. Carlos, engages in an odd relationship with a young man named Gabriel. This connection in particular, dramatically brings us to the pivotal moment in the book

This is a clearly a book about secrets and lies. The phrase, “We’re only as sick as our secrets” is clearly understandable within the context of this story. Loneliness, even within a relationship, is another significant theme presented in the book. The officer who is there to check the crime scene first makes the statement that Tom must have been terribly lonely. 'Why so lonely?’ This question is asked repeatedly. Will we ever know?

Gadol weaves a story that compels us to join the investigation. I must admit, there are times when it feels as though we are being manipulated to feel and think things that have no bearing on reality-but, in my mind, reality is so often distorted in this book that it's clearly the author’s choice to keep us guessing.

Appearance versus reality is something that we keep bouncing between as we read. It is often hard to figure out what to believe, even when the “truth” is supposedly revealed. I am not saying that this is a bad thing, as it certainly keeps our minds engaged.

This book was the recent selection for the Outings and Adventures Men’s Book Club, a group that meets monthly in Tampa or St. Petersburg ( I sensed that it would be a good discussion book, and could not wait to hear what the others had to share . No one disliked it, and everyone found lots to talk about. There was a lot of speculation as to who these guys are, what they become, and why this single act of violence creates a storm in their lives that either ruins them, or redeems them. (Yes dear reader, you will be the one making the choice).

I don’t think I need to issue a spoiler alert here, so I won’t go into details, but the book gives us one ending, seemingly the one we are expecting, and then, stops the action, rewinds the tape, and unfolds an entirely different finale. To me, this was jarring-clearly something meant to shake up our thinking, and I am still not sure how well I like it. However, it is effective, especially in churning out all types of reactions within us.

Bottom line, Silver Lake keeps you engaged, provokes you, confuses you, and frustrates you. It will be yours to decide whether it satisfies or disappoints. All in all, it is definitely good read.

Care to share? Write me at Next week, something different from a well know writer of Lesbian Romance, Radclyffe,writing as L.L.Rand . The Midnight Hunt launches a new series and a new genre. You will love it!!!

Until then, happy reading.
Robert Jaquay,

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Chat with Robbi McCoy author of Songs Without Words

Hello again.Sometimes when I finish a book, questions to the author come to mind, and usually I just speculate as to what the answers might be. After I read Robbi McCoys Songs Without Words, I had the urge to drop her an email, and ask those questions. She gratiously answered me, and I wanted to share her thoughts with you.

RJ: Robbi , thank you for giving me the opportunity to ask you a few questions about yourself so I can share you with our readers. I put together a few questions. They are not in any particular order, but I would like to publish your answers in conjunction with my review of your book-if that ok with you?

I thought I’d ask a few questions about you as a writer, and then have us talk about Songs Without Words. First off, I really loved this book and want to congratulate you on writing a story that is interesting on many levels.

I see that you began your writing career with Late Bloomers: Awakening to Lesbianism After Forty. Of course my curiosity drives me to ask if this is a particularly common experience for lesbian women-discovering themselves whilst in the role of being a wife or mother? Was it your hope that you would help others to “cross the line”?

RM: Actually, I’ve been writing since I was a teenager and have published short stories and magazine and newspaper articles in the past, then two non-fiction books prior to my first novel being published by Bella Books in 2009.

I think it’s very common for lesbians to follow a traditional path of marriage and children prior to coming out to themselves. I’ve known quite a few such women personally, including some who were clueless about their sexual orientation well into their forties, despite a lifetime of sometimes obvious evidence. That experience fascinates me. Both Late Bloomers and Waltzing at Midnight grew out of that fascination. Being gay can be a struggle and it can take decades to overcome the conditioning we are subjected to as children and young adults. I think of this process not as a change that takes place but as an awakening to one’s authentic self. The prevalence of late bloomers may be diminishing now as homosexuality in general becomes better understood and less stigmatized, but the late-bloomer scenario still happens, as coming out is ultimately a highly personal journey for each individual.

RJ: Do you hope to achieve the same result when people read your stories, or is it just the shared experience that you are conveying?

RM: Shared experience, yes. I just want people to enjoy my stories and hopefully be emotionally moved by them. There have been some readers of Waltzing at Midnight who have thanked me for telling “their” story. I think people find comfort in the thought that someone else has felt what they’ve felt and gone through what they’ve gone through, especially when it’s something difficult.

RJ: You indicate in your webpage bio that writing fiction is your “first love”. Why so?

RM: I’ve always loved to read fiction and writing it is an outgrowth of that love. I devoured novels from an early age and became an English major in college because I couldn’t turn away from my love of literature. Fiction is such a powerful, limitless vehicle for self-expression, and often a way to turn a small bit of chaos into order. Order is beauty—choosing just the right word or isolating an emotion so that you and the reader share a brief but profound moment of understanding, that’s such a satisfying feeling.

RJ: I suppose this is a tiring question to be asked, but where do you get your inspiration from? In other words, are your stories born entirely from your imagination, or has ‘real life” ignited the fuse? I am also fascinated by the process of creating and writing. Do you become your characters, or, is the character you?

RM: Story ideas come from many sources, from within and without, and are usually a combination of both. Waltzing at Midnight was born out of pain and anger at my personal experience with homophobia. Beyond that, it isn’t my story at all, but it helped me to turn anger into something more positive. It’s an optimistic story. Songs Without Words was loosely based on personal experience, but would be unrecognizable to any real-life participants.
To answer your other question, about whether I become the characters or to what extent a character might actually be me, it varies. I identified very closely with Jean in Waltzing at Midnight. Not in her circumstances, as I’ve never been married or a mother, but in her emotional journey, and there were times while writing it that I felt very much like a woman falling in love. In my next novel, Not Every River, you won’t find me no matter how hard you look.

RJ: Does your “other job” keep your mind fresh, or are you constantly being challenged by the urge to write?

RM: I love to write, but have almost no time to do it. Life is constantly interfering. I’m looking forward to retirement and the novelty of being a writer on a more regular basis.

RJ: Robbi, one of the things that impressed me most about Songs Without Words is your choice to go into rather detailed commentaries about art, music, and the written word. You also spend a good chunk of time discussing what it is to be an artist. I thought it rather daring, perhaps because I was expecting something totally different as I must admit, that before I read your book, or any lesbian themed story, I thought that the story would merely be a devise for sex, sex, and more sex. Is how you write a departure from what is expected in a lesbian romance novel or, is this expected and you just dare to be different?

RM: Thank you for calling that “daring.” I’ve heard less flattering descriptions. The ongoing discussion of art, what it is and what it means to be an artist, is crucial to Harper’s identity. Her story is about discovering her voice as an artist, or, as Hilda says, more poetically, the song her soul wants to sing. If the reader is going to understand Harper at all, she needs to accompany her on that journey.

I can’t say what is expected in a lesbian romance, but I do believe that generally it is more about love than sex. People have said that Waltzing at Midnight was also a departure from the norm in that it was more a journey of self discovery than a romance. I suppose you could say the same for Songs. I feel that a certain degree of self-knowledge and self-acceptance is a requirement to becoming happy and fulfilled in life, and finding the right person to love is a natural extension of that. I don’t think love is a stand-alone aspect of a woman’s life. So, to me, falling in love is larger than how you interact with that other person, and it is definitely larger than sex. As to what the readers want, that may be completely different, but all I can do is tell the stories I have to tell and hope they resonate with people. One thing I appreciate about Bella Books is the lack of constraint regarding subject matter within the context of the romance genre. Our readers are mostly lesbians, but they are by no means a homogenous group, so why should their stories be?

RJ: Tell me about the musical nature of your work-one of the things you have done on your website is to provide us not only with a listing of all of the music used in Songs, but links to the actual music itself. Readers may not know this, so I will refer them to the page. Did you ever consider a companion disc-as your book is so very musical-it almost begs that you provide it with sound?

RM: Thanks. That’s an interesting idea. It would be fun, but I’m not a musician, so producing such a thing would be a daunting undertaking and far beyond my talents.
RJ: You present a mythological parallel to Harper’s journey with Chelsea by citing one of the greatest mythological tales of all time--Orpheus and Eurydice. What prompted you to do so?

RM: I love mythology. The story came to mind, so why not use it? I’ve always enjoyed how fiction builds on literary tradition, how it becomes cumulative. Coming across something like that is like seeing an old friend. One of my favorite books of all time is James Joyce’s Ulysses—old friends galore there! There are no new stories, just new ways of telling them. To me, that’s great fun, but I do wonder what Homer would make of Joyce.

RJ: It also appears as though you know a good deal about being a librarian (as I am one too). Are you or have you ever been?, or is it just that you know and admire them?

RM: I’ve spent a lot of happy days in libraries and have known a few librarians, even loved a couple, but have never been one, no.

RJ: One of the things you chose to do is tell your story by using what I’ll call flashbacks. Why not tell the story in one continuous line?
RM: If you mean why not tell the story of Harper’s past chronologically rather than playing stump the reader by jumping all over the place, well that was the biggest challenge of this book. I did try it chronologically, but it didn’t work. The past is designed to provide a running commentary on the present, adding up, I hope, to an understanding of how Harper came to be the woman she is. Real life doesn’t travel in a straight line with structured beginnings and ends. That’s one of the themes of the story, that Harper took an indirect path to get to the point she is when the story opens. We also don’t experience the memories of our lives chronologically. What is happening in the present triggers memories in random order. But, really, I didn’t do it just to be contrary.

RJ: This is a me just needing to know: On page 80 of Songs, in the midst of your discussion about art and artists, Hilda makes this statement: “There is no way to create a sentence that properly displays the process of thinking, feeling and remembering several things at once.”
I’m not sure this is true, so I wanted to ask if you are familiar with Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time? To me, the gift Proust possessed was the ability to capture it all…or am I deluding myself?

RM: What she means is that words on a page have to be read in sequence. There’s no way to superimpose one sentence on another. I’m not familiar with that work, but James Joyce is a master of stream of consciousness and comes about as close to capturing the thought process as anyone I’ve read. Even he can’t give us two thoughts simultaneously. But he does a reasonably good job of capturing the way our minds flit about in sometimes bizarre and wonderful ways.

RJ: Ok, I could probably ask you loads more, but I will stop here.

RM: Thank you for the kind words and the thought-provoking questions, not to mention the opportunity to talk about my writing.

RJ: And thanks again to you Robbi McCoy. I know your readers are eagerly awaiting your next book.

Of course, even while transferring this post for you to read, I had several questions more, but, I am happy that I asked the ones I did. I am looking forward to Not Every River, which is due out in August.

Please visit Robbi's website:  and discover more about this wonderfully personable and talented woman.

Until next time, may your days be filled with wonderous reading.
Robert Jaquay

Friday, May 7, 2010

Songs Without Words by Robbi McCoy

“If male homosexuals are called ‘gay,’ then female
homosexuals should be called ‘ecstatic.’” – Roberts’ Rules
of Lesbian Living by Shelly Roberts

I was especially eager to read Robbi McCoy’s wonderfully rich and entertaining Songs Without Words (Bella Books, 2010), because books which include music as an integral element of the plot really appeal to me. I had never read any of Robbi’s books before, so I didn’t know what to expect and I’m ever so happy that I took the plunge.

In this book, I was thinking I’d encounter a relatively thin story line while waiting for episodes of torrid women to women sex. (My, oh my, was I wrong!) Instead I found that Songs Without Words is delightful, heartfelt novel of love lost and love regained. It is filled with feeling, and expresses serious inner conflict, but above all else, it makes you think as well as feel.

I was impressed by Robbi McCoy’s decision to make what could have been a routine lesbian love story into a work that has layers of incredible richness in it. Don’t get me wrong, Songs Without Words is most definitely a love story and a bonafied Lesbian Romance. It is chocked full of longing and desire and has all the elements you are looking for, but there is a difference. In my opinion, the author took a risk, and, to me, it pays off greatly. This book engages in several discourses about the nature of art and artistry, about words versus music, and even throws in a pinch of mythology as well. As a result, Harper, and those she encounters, has wonderful depth. These are people I would really like to know.

We are introduced to Harper Sheridan, who is a librarian by day. This is a profession she seems to love, however we soon find out that Harper is really an artist. Actually, she is an artist in the making.. She loves music and is an amateur musician who plays the cello. On top of that, she is deeply fascinated by what makes an artist tick, and she is ever so hungry to find out just what that is.

As the story begins, we learn a good deal about Harper. One of the things we discover is that she is attempting to “get over” a love affair with a woman named Chelsea Nichols. This is not an easy feat. Clearly it was a special romance. It not only lit the fire of love within Harper, but, perhaps, it is this love that gives her the drive to be truly free in the pursuit of her artfulness.

As I said earlier, a good portion of the book is devoted to the pursuit of her artistic sensibility, which, in the hands of a different author, could easily be clouded by more carnal pursuits. It seems clear that Harper is a woman with talent, but she has often suppressed this aspect of herself. Deep within her lies a need to break loose and truly be free. The only way she can do this is through her art, and we want her to succeed.

Harper is also engaged in a project which aims to discover the specific artistry of several women who have devoted themselves to the pursuit of art-however elusive that may be. It is an exercise she engages in seemingly as a “project”, but we soon learn that this is one of the avenues to Harper’s self discovery. In many ways it becomes another way to discover the artist within.

In an interesting bit of narrative, we are told the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. The story talks about a love that is tested by the ability to trust and “not look back”. Trust is one of Harper's issues, and she wonders if she can trust enough to let go of her need to know the "whys" of life. What is it that Harper is looking for? And why does she believe that having a particular woman in her life will complete her?

We also discover that Harper is extremely practical, or at least tries to be. She decides that she actually sets a date in the near future when she will “find time to meet a fascinating woman and fall in love”. Who will this “fascinating woman” be? Will it happen when she wants it too? Well, if you think I am going to spoil it by telling you, forget it. You will need to read this book in order to find out.

Bottom line: if you are looking for a book that will stir your senses as well as your mind, you can’t miss with Songs Without Words. It is a delicious way to get to know an author, and will make you eager for what her next book will offer.

Please check back in the next few days, as I hope to publish an interview with the author. She seems like a fascinating woman who I hope you will get to know better.

Care to comment? Write me at Tell me what you think as well as what you think I should be considering.

Next week I will be talking about  Silver Lake by Peter Gadol. Until then...Happy Reading
Robert Jaquay,

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The River in Winter by Matt Dean

“WHO is now reading this?
May-be one is now reading this who knows some wrong-doing of my past life,
Or may-be a stranger is reading this who has secretly loved me,
Or may-be one who meets all my grand assumptions and egotisms with derision,
Or may-be one who is puzzled at me.”
-Walt Whitman *

In my quest to find books that rise above the ordinary and worth our precious reading time, I perused the list of nominations for this year’s Lambda Literary Awards. (They are given out on May 27th). Since 1989, the Lambda Literary Foundation has presented awards to “the finest lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans literature available in the United States.”

To be nominated as a finalist means that a book has gone through a rather rigorous examination process, in effect, those that make the finalist category, are considered to be among the best.

With that in mind, I looked at all of the works listed in the category of Best Gay Fiction, and chose
The River in Winter by Matt Dean (Queen’s English Productions, 2009). I did this for several reasons, but mostly because I was taken by the title and more so by the information I found on the author's web site

As I read this intriguing and very well written novel, I began to like it more and more. Matt Dean has a wonderfully fluid style. I also found that it was hard to put down, and I cared about what was going to happen next. This is a good thing.

The story is about a journey taken by the main character, whose name is Jonah, and it is a deeply personal and oftentimes anguishing one. He is a man filled with self loathing, sadness, and self doubt. He has lost his lover Tom, who apparently was a man so unhappy with his life that he drank himself to death. This appears to be the biggest wound in Jonah's life.

Having Jonah as the main character’s name had to mean that there should be some parallel to the biblical Jonah. Is it because the Jonah in The River in Winter eventually believes he is a sinner (because he is homosexua)l? Does he feel he is considered by others to be the Jonah who brings bad luck to those around him?, Or, is he “swallowed up” by the circumstances of his increasingly more miserable life, needing to have that life die in order to be transformed? The answer, my friends, is yours to discover.

Quite by accident, in the opening chapter of the book, as he is commencing yet one more journey on the river he loves, Jonah meets Spike, a man he does not know. This meeting results in a rather strong sexual encounter, and begins a relationship that encourages Jonah to seek a self he did not realize existed. He soon engages in a series of increasingly more dangerous physical and emotional encounters with others. In fact, he is driven to do so with practically every man he meets.

The next relationship that begins to take hold of him is with a man named Eliot, a counselor who immediately senses Jonah’s turmoil. He not only befriends him, but Eliot soon becomes the one person Jonah begins to trust above all others. Ah, but should he?

We always know how Jonah reacts to other men. Seemingly simple encounters in Jonah’s mind quickly turn into lustful fantasies. Handshakes are warmly felt, a body in close proximity generates heat that is felt and sexualized. Clothing conceals what is desired. In fact, we sometimes remember the other characters in the story more by Jonah’s carnal feelings for them than by their other attributes.

As the story moves forward, it becomes more and more obvious that Jonah desires and  needs to be forgiven for his “sins”, both real and imagined. He eventually discovers that perhaps what he needs most is for someone to take care of him, to love him without strings attached. Who will that be? Will it be the ex-porn star Spike or the seemingly compassionate counselor? Or will it be the one person Jonah falls in love with but cannot have? Or, pray tell, will it be himself?

One of the interesting aspects of The River in Winter is that music becomes an important through line, but not just any music. Special attention is given to the String Quartets of Beethoven, specifically the sixteenth, as well the Grosse Fugue, which was originally intended as the final  movement for quartet No. 13. We also discover that Jonah is musical, and has written music for poetry he has been collecting over the years. Eventually he sets out to add music to a set of poems written by a “friend” who was grieving the loss of his brother through Aids. . This is the friendship that eventually becomes the most significant one in the book, and it is fascinating how the author draws us into the hope of its consummation. (BTW, I would love to have heard this music, especially the one called f**k)

Not everything in this book is comfortable, nor is it meant to be. One of the more unsettling themes is the desire to subvert ones homosexual leanings through a belief in God and the power of prayer. Come to find out, the author had this conflict at some point in his life. Hopefully, he did not experience the same betrayal as Jonah did. It would be interesting to see how you feel about it, and its effect on the story line.

All in all, The River in Winter is a very satisfying read, and one that I feel will stay with you long after you turn the final page. Let’s put it another way, after The River in Winter, I am really looking forward to what comes next from Matt Dean.

Please let me know what you think about this book or about my commentary by writing me at .

Next week’s book is Songs Without Words, a new lesbian romance by Robbi McCoy.
Until then, I wish you a week filled with good reading.
Robert Jaquay,

* this quote is found at the beginning of The River in Winter and comes froms the Calamus section (#16) of Leaves of Grass