Author: Brandon Witt
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond; Cover Photo Credit Brandon Witt; Model: Kevin Eksterowicz
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 01/18/2016
Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)
Genre: Contemporary, Drama, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, Romance
Kevin Bivanti’s dream is to open a wedding dress shop, a place with the stunning gowns to make every bride-to-be feel adored. At thirty-eight, he quits a successful advertising career to buy an old brownstone in a trendy Boston neighborhood and to make his dream a reality. When one of his cosigners drops out, fate intervenes, ushering in Casper James, who hopes to open his own bakery. With Casper willing to take the risk, their ambitions meld into a wedding dress and wedding cake boutique.
Extensive renovations to the brownstone, an affair with his ex-husband, family drama with his mothers, and the anxiety of significant life changes push Kevin to the brink of a nervous breakdown. In the midst of stress and uncertainty, Casper becomes more than a business partner, a mutual attraction that adds another layer of intensity and risk.
With their dreams on the verge of reality, Kevin and Casper must find the courage to face the stress of managing their attraction, the gamble of a new business venture, and the resurgence of Kevin’s personal demons.
Noelle managed to strike an imposing figure with her hands on hips, despite the red fluff ball that made up the reindeer’s nose on her sweater.
Aaaaand Brandon Witt is back, with another all too human story filled with imperfect, loving, and struggling humans at its core. I’m sitting in chapter one and I already want Kevin to obtain his dream, to make it come true. We need to make this happen, people! See? I said ‘we’, as if I’m there with his moms, Noelle being one of that dynamic duo (in the truest sense, not even talking comic book here), in on the plot, er plan. Also, I chose that above quote, not just because it represents a lot about Witt’s writing but, because Noelle is my favorite supporting character in this story.
Going back to dynamics, they are on full display here in all their possibilities for confusion, love, disagreement, secrets, support and everything else. In Kevin’s case, it was easy to see from whom he learned to love. In Casper’s case, it was easy to see how someone as caring as he would be drawn to this family.
This starts off a bit rough with the prose, almost like the author was so excited to start telling us this story. Now, of course, I’ve got no idear where in his process he wrote these opening scenes but then it doesn’t really matter because things quickly even out. It could also be Kevin’s voice being in the overstressed state it’s in when we begin. We get both his and Casper’s in the telling of their story and that works out wonderfully, getting both perspectives on this sort of whirlwind beginning to their partnership and everything that comes with it. Most of all, this is true concerning Kevin’s living with an eating disorder.
In general, light wins out over the darkness, hope and faith and thoughtfulness ruling the day, even on the very worst of them. I think this is the way in which Witt managed to balance the experience of caring about and loving someone with an eating disorder, and how that person lives with the struggles, not the least of which is accepting the caring and love from those who do. Another balancing act which the author portrays well.
Witt’s writing is straightforward in a most enjoyably casual way. The dialogue is accessible and flows well, with vocabulary and phrasing that most of us use these days without much thought at all. I love that. There are a few conversations that felt a bit thin in terms of fleshing out the atmosphere and characters’ intonations. They could have benefitted from additional clues regarding inflection and emotional intent. Relatedly, the result are some passages that feel too obvious, telling me everything, not letting me figure it out for myself.
The progression of the partnership between Kevin and Casper feels so organic and realistic, with natural back and forth, and asking of questions about their lives, sometimes awkwardly stumbling through those. The pace of the story fit the pace of this evolution.
As for the supporting characters, they are a fantastically diverse group in every sense. No one is purely evil or all sweetness and light, thank goodness, with each of them well formed.. We have a mix of cultural backgrounds and life experiences. And each of them has a unique reaction towards and way of living with Kevin and his struggles, as well as his dreams. I think that’s important to point out, that this story is, yes, about Kevin’s dealing with a long dealt with disease, but also about his dreams and how he goes about trying to make them happen. And about how those who love him are a part of that plan, some with unexpected roles and twists to the story.
This speaks volumes in a few words:
Kevin shook his head and then considered. “I would feel guilty because of letting my moms and the aunts down. And you. But I guess I will also feel guilty if I make it. If this crazy dream of a wedding dress shop comes true. Like, why me? When I already have so much? why me?”
“Because you leapt! Because you were brave enough to take a leap of faith and then work your ass off.”
Easier said than done sometimes, yeah? And definitely easier believed than not sometimes.
This story is not packed with angst, of which I’m selfishly glad. There are no major manufactured challenges that lead to just as fake tension. These are adults behaving and treating each other as adults. They talk about things, they don’t do that fake avoidance thing just to try and create false conflict within the story. Kevin is in his 30s and Casper is nearly 40. In other words, normal folk working through life. Believe me, as someone just north of 40, we talk about stuff, even the most difficult real stuff.
I like how therapy and those who practice it (funny term, idn’t it? “practice”, considering they do it all day long) are portrayed, as well as the feelings of those who make the decision to take advantage of it and what it can do. It feels real and accurate. Granted, I only have my own experience, and a brief one at that, to compare, but it’s true. Sometimes ya kinda don’t care when the tears fall in front of the doc.
This is how I like my contemporary stories, just as I’ve described this one, hopefully in a clear enough fashion to help you decide if you’ll want to experience this story and these characters, too. If you love contemporary stories? Read this book. If you’ve been considering trying contemporary, having previously avoided it because there is so much out there and you don’t want to waste precious reading time wading through it all? Read this book. If you’d previously sworn off contemporary but find yourself wanting to give it a whirl again? Read this book. It’s a complete story, with beginning, middle, and end, with all of the in between bits loving, emotional, humorous, complicated, and so much more.
I also own a copy of this book.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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