Monday, June 9, 2008

Forever Today by Willa Okati

TITLE: Forever Today
AUTHOR: Willa Okati
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 42k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
COST: $5.99

Travel writer Rick Sullivan is swept off his feet by Adriano Dominici, the heir apparent of the Italian vineyards he’s researching for his latest work. Life together is sun and sex drenched, but in spite of Rick’s best attempts, circumstances and fear drive them apart. He doesn’t realize it’s not over, though, not when Adriano shows up on his doorstep a year later with no memory and only the burning desire to find his love Rick…

Willa Okati is a wordsmith. I’ve read a few of her stories over the years, and one thing that remains consistent in her work is her lyrical voice. There is a lilt to her prose that separates it from most other erotic romances, and it’s the single biggest reason I return to her work as often as I do. When she has a story and characters to match the strength of her words, she can create magic. Unfortunately, this particular tale doesn’t meet the standards set by her voice.

The story opens in the Italian countryside of the Dominici Vineyards, where we meet Rick for the first time. He seems like an okay fellow, a little battle-scarred from having his heart broken but nonetheless mostly with it. When he meets Adriano, he doesn’t make assumptions about the other man’s flirting, not until Adriano forces him to be blunt, and the two embark on a night of very passionate lovemaking. But then it ends, with a sense of foreboding that lays heavily across the work. The meat of the story picks up an indeterminate amount of time later – though much, much later in the book, we discover it’s been a year since he left the Dominici Vineyards – and Rick is a recluse, and bitter, and practically broken. We find out there was an ugly break-up with Adriano, and the man Rick is now is really not very likeable. When amnesiac Adriano shows up, Rick seems to rediscover some of his humanity as he tends to him, but the longer the story goes on, the more he annoys me. He claims to be in love with Adriano – something we never get to see for ourselves – and it’s very hard to accept that because the Adriano we saw was either haughty and demanding, or angry and abusive. Even Rick admits that a lot of it was because of the sex, and that he doesn’t really understand how it happened. If he doesn’t, how am I supposed to?

But I could probably live with some of the Rick’s more negative attributes if I liked Adriano. And I don’t. Not even when he showed up in Rick’s life again without his memory. It’s clear Adriano is supposed to represent a new man. His memories evaporate at the drop of a hat, and he can go from knowing Rick to forgetting him in hours flat. But his innocence comes across as far too eager, and Rick’s decision to keep him around – after discovering he’s been disinherited because of his homosexuality – feels like emotional manipulation at its worst. All they do is have every kind of sex under the sun, and I just could never figure out why else Rick would love the old Adriano. His feelings for the new one are more understandable. This one worships the ground he walks on, something the old Adriano would never have done. But with amnesiac Adriano ultimately so emotionally vulnerable, it’s difficult not to think that Rick is taking advantage of him.

Much of the book is spent with either the two having sex, or Rick thinking of having sex, or Rick trying to be strong and push Adriano away from having sex. Even their attempt to go out for dinner ends up getting thwarted by a clandestine tryst in his car first. With so much physical lusting going on, and so little other character exploration, I’m left to wonder if this is an addiction to the sex the two are experiencing rather than genuine love. Not even Okati’s prose can leave me feeling good about this one. But I doubt it’ll stop me from reading her again. When so many authors sound interchangeable, it’s nice to occasionally read one who knows how to create some truly lovely phrasing.


9/10 – Very lyrical prose that transcends a lot of the erotic romance to create a unique voice.

Hero #1

5/10 – Bordering on pathetic for how much of a sucker he is for the dysfunctional relationship he had/has with Adriano

Hero #2

3/10 – He’s more interesting with his memory, but more of an asshole; without, he’s too much like a puppy to feel real.

Entertainment value

5/10 – Okati’s prose is what saves this from being lower.

World building

8/10 – The sense of place is wonderful; however, her sense of time never gels.




gaia19 said...

The author is always a hit and miss for me. Sometimes she's amazing, sometimes she's not. Which makes it harder for me to book her books. But a lovely in depth review.

You should pick up A.M. Riley's 'Amor en Retrogrado' when you can. A wonderful story. She has an amnesia storyline in it too, that blows all others in the ebook market.

gaia19 said...

Sorry I meant buy her books :)