Monday, July 25, 2011

Ice Around the Edges by Mary Calmes

TITLE: Ice Around the Edges
AUTHOR: Mary Calmes
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner
LENGTH: Short story (roughly 13k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
COST: $2.99

While working at the shelter he runs, Evan gets shot, but the biggest surprise of all comes after the doctors have stitched him up. His ex, the very first man he ever loved, has shown up at the hospital, wanting to try again. But Evan hasn’t forgotten how or why they broke up the first time, and no amount of Christmas spirit is going to change his mind…

Color me silly, but I kind of like reading Christmas stories in July. It’s easier to get an objective opinion about them without being subjected to all the nostalgia of the season. A lot of times, they don’t hold up beyond being holiday fare, and while this one lacks any kind of depth or sense of character to make it truly memorable, I still found myself enjoying it.

The plot is a simple one. After good guy Evan gets shot, his ex Dixon shows up at the hospital. The pretense is to see how Evan is doing, but since they haven’t seen each other in almost a decade, Evan doesn’t buy it. Dixon soon confesses he wants another chance, that he’s never stopped loving Evan, but Evan isn’t buying it. Dixon is determined to take him home for Christmas, however, and how he goes about convincing Evan drives the rest of the story.

Though I’ve seen this author recommended all over the place, I’ve never been interested enough in any of the blurbs or excerpts I’ve seen to give her a go. This one, while predictable and somewhat trite, seemed like a safer bet. It’s short, I reasoned, so if I hate it, it’s not much lost. Well, I didn’t hate it, but I wonder if there would be enough for me in one of her longer works. The voice in this is highly simplistic and primarily dialogue-driven. While I don’t have anything against it – I certainly had a smile on my face when I finished this – I also know that in longer works, it tends to work in reverse for me. I need a little more meat to what I read, and stories with plots and prose as thin as this rarely cut it.

The characters are nice enough guys, though Evan seems more three-dimensional than Dixon. He often describes Dixon in ways that don’t seem like the character I’m seeing at all. That’s another drawback to this particular voice. I’m told a lot of what I’m supposed to know about the characters rather than shown it. It’s shorthand for actual character development, and mildly frustrating in the long run. However, Evan behaves in what I would consider a mature, realistic way, not initially believing Dixon in spite of the support he brings in to back him up. He put up just enough of a fuss for me to buy his eventual switch, which ultimately makes the ending sweeter. It might not be the most original or memorable story, but I did end it feeling emotionally satisfied. For a holiday short story, that’s pretty much all anybody can ask for.


7/10 – Dialogue driven and very simple, but relatively clean

Hero #1

7/10 – Shows reasonable reluctance in allowing ex back into life

Hero #2

6/10 – Sweet, but I didn’t see much of the personality Evan described

Entertainment value

7/10 – For what it is, a sweet, unchallenging holiday romance

World building

3/10 – It’s dialogue and character driven. Other than knowing it was supposed to be Chicago, I knew nothing.



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