Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kindred Hearts by G.S. Wiley

TITLE: Kindred Hearts
AUTHOR: G.S. Wiley
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 18k)
GENRE: Gay historical romance
COST: $3.99

All Alfie loves is the theater, but when his mother arrives with his ward in tow, intent on seeing the girl married, he finds his social life thrust into new circles, with surprising results…

Taking a break over Halloween, I wanted something short and easy to come back to. Luckily, I picked one that charmed me, too.

Alfie has one love – the theater. He keeps boxes at all of London’s best, alternating between them throughout the week. He has his favorites, of course, but he has no illusions about his role as anything but loving spectator. The stutter he’s plagued with makes communicating difficult at the best of times, so he’s much more comfortable watching from the shadows. When his mother arrives unannounced with his ward in tow, he braces for her visit, only to learn she’s decided the girl needs to be married and Alfie is going to see that it happens. While on a walk with his ward, they meet two men, one of which declares interest in her, the other as avid a fan of theater as Alfie is. It seems as if Alfie’s search might be over before it even really begins.

Though this is a short novella, it reads even more swiftly than other stories its length, mostly due to the utterly readable and unassuming authorial voice. The prose is clean and crisp, with just enough detail to make the setting pop and lend an air of authority to its accuracy, without bogging it down in unnecessary minutiae and distracting from the characters themselves.

But while I zipped through with barely a blink of an eye, much of the credit for that goes to the protagonist Alfie, too. He’s endearing from the very first page, a man with no sense of needs for himself except to attend the theater that he adores so much. His stutter only heightens that, adding to my already rich empathy for the character, so I was more than willing to race along in the story to discover what kind of romance he was going to have. I sincerely wondered if it was ever going to happen, though. The story focuses on him and his family for a long time, with the other romantic interest not even introduced until a third of the way into the story, a veritable eternity when the telling is this short. Markham then suffers from a vagueness, primarily because Alfie just isn’t attuned to him for a long time. Gradually, Markham develops more of a personality, but even at the end, it felt like there was a lot more left for me to learn.

And therein lies the story’s greatest weakness. While Alfie is a wonderful central character, plotting is loose and then unfortunately tied up all too conveniently. What felt like they should have been genuine problems were resolved with little conflict, turning what could have been a truly romantic (and realistic) ending into one that seemed to come a little of nowhere. Some of that probably stems from how quickly this reads, but ultimately, the secondary characters and their issues seem like an annoying distraction rather than organic to the tale.

It was worth the time it took, however. And more.


9/10 – Unassuming and utterly readable, it zips by faster than it should

Hero #1

8/10 – Absolutely endearing

Hero #2

6/10 – Liked him, but kept feeling like there was more that I wasn’t getting to see

Entertainment value

7/10 – Charming for what it was, though the resolution of the subplots were too rushed to be truly satisfying

World building

9/10 – Crisp with the right balance of detail to thrust the reader into the setting without overpowering the characters



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