Monday, April 19, 2010

The Prayer Waltz by K.Z. Snow

TITLE: The Prayer Waltz
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 27k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
COST: $3.99

Steven has come to Prism Falls in search of answers. Eight months ago, his lover of four years died in what was called a freak accident, but even now, Steven doesn’t know how to deal with it. He hopes that by coming to the town Frank left behind he’ll be able to find the closure he needs. His first stop is St. Jerome’s, the church where Frank served before leaving the priesthood. His second is the bar across the street, where he meets Evan, a local who had his own relationship of sorts with Frank…

I am an immersive reader. When I read, I lose time because I go deep into a character’s POV, which is why headhopping bugs me as much as it does. Getting jerked out of the moment always disorients me, and it’s hard to trust the story or author enough to allow myself to get in that deep again. What this means is that I’m in the minority among romance readers. I absolutely love 1st person POV. I know a lot of romance readers want to know what’s going on in other characters’ heads, but I’m of the opinion that a good writer can tell me that without having to switch to their perspective. I love 1st person because it allows me to sink even deeper into a character than 3rd does.

This aspect of me is why I can’t say that I was blown away by this novella. The author has an absolutely fantastic voice, with a smart ear for dialogue and lyrical descriptions that leap off the page. The first thing I read by her was written under a different pseudonym, a story I was intensely fascinated by, so I’ve kept an eye on her gay stories, waiting for something that would interest me to the same degree. This was the first to do so, but while it started out well, the author made a stylistic choice that jarred me out of the story.

The novella is told in 1st person from Steven’s POV. It works amazingly well to suck you into Steven’s grief, as well as introducing Evan and his own unique position. Then, in the middle of chapter 4, there’s a switch. The story jumps to 3rd person, Evan’s POV, a recounting of a memory for Steven’s benefit. While telling, it completely threw me out of the emotional narrative, because of the way I read. It switches back briefly to 1st, but then, at the top of chapter 5, there’s a letter written by Evan that Steven would have no knowledge of. More of those follow, though the majority of the story is in 1st, but it’s enough to disrupt my flow, putting me at a distance from the story that wasn’t there at the start. I understand why the author chose to do it this way, and for most readers, it’s unlikely to make a difference. I imagine a lot of romance readers would actually embrace getting the other perspective. But when it switched to 3rd, I grumbled a lot and asked myself, “Well, why didn’t she just write the whole thing in 3rd?” There was no going back to my original immersion then. I was too far removed.

Don’t get me wrong. I still liked the story. A lot. I had issues accepting Steven’s method of closure after being so intensely immersed in his questions, but Evan is sympathetic and rich, evoking stronger reactions from me across the board. His struggle with his sexuality, mirrored in his struggle to understand those around him, is poignant and real. By the time I reached the climax of the story, it was his closure I craved. His resolution was the one that made me want to smile, and if I didn’t cry as I think was expected, it’s only because of my earlier struggles. His characterization is the emotional core of this novella for me, a terrific example of the author’s attention to well-rounded, meaningful casts.


7/10 – Loved the author’s voice, disliked the POV choices

Hero #1

7/10 – His grief was palpable, but I had a few problems buying the closure of it

Hero #2

8/10 – More real to me than the narrator, sympathetic and rich characterization

Entertainment value

8/10 – If it wasn’t for getting yanked so hard out of the story, I’m sure this would have been one of those stories I go gaga for

World building

8/10 – Some exquisite detail, realistic and well done



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