Friday, October 30, 2009

White Flag by Thom Lane

TITLE: White Flag
AUTHOR: Thom Lane
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 21k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
COST: $4.99

Travel writer Charlie has the perfect life. He gets to travel where he wants, do what he wants, all without having to worry about ties. When he meets Matt alongside a French canal, he expects nothing more than something casual. After all, he only has two free nights to stay. But Matt’s charming insistence coaxes Charlie to change his immediate plans, the life he introduces Charlie to entirely too seductive…

I fell in love in this story.

Not with the characters, though they are certainly charming enough, each in his own way. And not with the romance, because honestly, there wasn’t anything new and the ending itself was incredibly sappy and a little contrived.

No, I fell in love with the setting, and more than that, with the author’s delicate, almost ephemeral, prose.

The story is a simple one. Told in 1st person from Charlie’s perspective, it starts with him fishing in a French canal, relaxed, enjoying the atmosphere, then enjoying the beauty of a young man walking along. The young man, Matt, stops and starts flirting with Charlie, which ends in an arrangement for dinner. One thing leads to another, they spend the night together, and Charlie thinks that’s it. It’s not for Matt. He manages to charm Charlie into coming to his house – his family owns the neighboring vineyard – for dinner and to spend the night. Thus, Charlie gets introduced to a family utterly tied to his surroundings, a trait that both amazes and boggles him as he can’t imagine staying anywhere for that long.

Charlie and Matt function perfectly well in the roles they’re assigned. As a third party observer and a journalist to boot, Charlie is naturally detached from much of what is going on around him, with the exception of Matt. Matt, on the other hand, is charming and affectionate, so much so that any flaws he might have become nonexistent. It flattens his characterization a bit, creating an idealized version of the character instead of something rounder, but his sweetness and charm compensate for that.

Where the story shines is in the author’s voice. Suitable to its setting, there is an ethereal quality to his descriptions and commentary that only heightens that sense of airiness. It felt like I was in France again (I’ve been there a couple times on vacation), that nonchalant whimsy that makes you feel like you’re floating along with the prose. It’s hard to put a finger on any one phrase, though. Sentences like this, He smiled then, with a sort of slow urgency that makes no sense unless you were there, unless you saw it: like saying his wine was honey-dry, the words work against each other, but the moment itself was absolute., make me smile, because of the truth it tells, but on they’re own, they don’t necessarily seem all that remarkable. Instead, it’s a cumulative effect, like floating on your back at the edge of some body of water with small waves lapping at your sides, only to find yourself who knows how much later far away from shore because the tide has carried you out without you realizing it. By the time Charlie sat down with Matt’s family for that first dinner, I was utterly enamored with the story, racing through it to see these two get their happy ending. And even though nothing remarkable happens (and in fact, the sappiness of the ending did ultimately drag down my overall enjoyment of the story), it didn’t matter. I had already surrendered to their love story, and only wish it had been longer, that some of the time they spent together had been as lovingly detailed as the beginning rather than hastily summarized. A delicate, romantic read that will remain a keeper.


10/10 – I’ll admit it, I absolutely fell in love with the delicate romanticism of the writing in this

Hero #1

7/10 – A little detached, necessarily so, from the events, but I still liked him

Hero #2

7/10 – Suffers from the same fate of idealized hero, though he’s still sweet and charming

Entertainment value

8/10 – I fell in love with this because of the writing rather than the characters

World building

10/10 – The setting came to life for me, ringing very true




maygirl7 said...

Have you read "Dark Heart"? I absolutely loved it, so I bought "White Flag" as soon as I saw it. "White Flag" felt so light and trivial compared to "Dark Heart" that I was rather disappointed. WF is in a completely different tone and style from DH and since I was so enamored of DH, I am sure that had a lot to do with my reactions to WF. Maybe I will go back and read it again and see if I feel different now.

Book Utopia Mom said...

You know, I've looked at the blurb for Dark Heart twice now, and heard good things about it, but something about it always puts me off. Maybe it's my mood (though I've been reading other BDSM stuff lately). I'll probably look at it again later in hopes that that's the case.

I think part of my response to WF was it rang so true to my experiences with the setting. I guess that's just one of my reading kinks. :)