Monday, May 3, 2010

Muse by Clare London

AUTHOR: Clare London
PUBLISHER: Amber Allure
LENGTH: Short story (roughly 13k)
GENRE: Paranormal gay erotic romance
COST: $4.00

Painter Gavin McGrath has been on a decline for years. Growing ennui with his work has meant a waning interest in his paintings, and now, his wife has finally decided to leave him. She’s tired of all his affairs with pretty young men, and tired of losing him to his art. Frankly, Gavin’s tired, too. So when a pretty young guy named Matteo shows up mysteriously in his studio one day, his first instinct is to send him away. Only Matteo’s continued persistence, and his appreciation for Gavin’s talent, allows Gavin to let him stay…

There’s something about finding characters that go against the norm in m/m romance that always makes me happy. Perhaps I’m responding to that craving for something different, but when I find one – and even better, it works – I feel like shouting from the rooftops. Muse is a story like that, and if I had a few problems in the last third of the story, it certainly didn’t detract from my joy at discovering a hero to stand out from the crowd.

Gavin McGrath is around forty (I assume, the closest mention to an age we get is that at the top of the story he says he’d left college almost twenty years earlier), and feeling the brunt of years of only half living. His art is suffering, he’s sleeping around with his models – really, his art is turning into an excuse to get the young men into his studio and bed – and he’s simply bored. When his wife leaves him, it’s kind of a wake up call, but only because she ruins the canvas he’s working on and he kicks his current model out. It’s at that point Matteo starts showing up, his enigmatic muse who jumpstarts his creativity again.

Gavin isn’t very likeable at the beginning, but then again, I’m sure he isn’t meant to be. He’s brusque to the point of rudeness, he’s seemingly shallow, and his self-involvement is borderline annoying. Matteo’s innocent and enthusiastic presence softens his edges, and as he gradually rediscovers his art, he also rediscovers his humanity. The desolate tone throughout his portions of the story create a yearning in the reader, that need to see him understand where it’s gone wrong and to fix it. As he does, it’s glorious.

The point where it starts to fall apart for me a little bit occurs about two-thirds of the way through the story. There’s a time jump, though it’s not immediately obvious, and it’s that skip that makes the story stutter. The questions it raised stopped my reading. Because I suddenly had doubts about the timeline, I went back and re-read sections – and for me, re-reading is often a kiss of death. It disrupts my flow and jerks me out of the emotional moment. For this short story, losing the grip of that emotional tug meant ending the story from an outside point rather than the center of all the tumultuous feelings.

There is an HEA in this, though this is hardly a traditional romance, and I can still recommend it as a solidly written, evocative, different short story. The lack of real flow in the last third is the only reason this doesn’t rate higher for me.


8/10 – The lack of mention of concrete time spans in the last third of the story slowed me down enough to make me go back and re-read

Hero #1

8/10 – I liked his gruff, realistic nature, a welcome contrast to usual heroes of this genre

Hero #2

5/10 – An ideal more than a personality

Entertainment value

7/10 – I loved the desolate atmosphere and potential, but the disjointed nature of the ending yanked me out too much

World building

7/10 – His studio world – the art, Matteo – was incredibly well done, it was just the intrusion and time jumps of the last third that fell far short of the standard set in the beginning



1 comment:

Clare London said...

Many thanks for the thoughtful review and I'm especially glad you enjoyed the character of Gavin. It was a pleasure sharing the book with you :).