Title: It Had to be You
Author: B.G. Thomas
Length: 78 pdf pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m timetravel
A great idea for a time travel story and a well-researched jaunt into the jazz era. However, a tendency to exposition and overused internal monologue prevented me from falling into the story as deeply as I would have liked.
The story opens with Rob, our point of view character, getting shot in the present day. It’s a swift moving scene with plenty of drama, and before we know it we’re plunged back into the past. Rob has no idea what is going on, but all of a sudden the fountain he collapsed into when he was shot has disappeared, and everyone surrounding him is dressed in what he assumes to be costume. It takes Rob a while to recover from his injury, and at first everything around him in the hospital is extremely confusing. Then, when he realises he’s no longer in the slim, redheaded body he used to inhabit, things get even stranger. It turns out Rob is now “Jimmy”, a large man, and attractive by anyone’s standards.
However, there’s one very important man who seems to worship “Jimmy”, despite him clearly having been a womaniser and a user. When Hugh turns up at Rob’s bedside, obviously distressed, Rob’s heart goes out to him. Here is a man he could really love, unlike his awful boyfriends back in the present day (there is a flashback to his relationship with Perry, the man who was with him when he got shot). The only problem is, Rob isn’t the man Hugh thinks he is, and he’s determined neither to make Hugh think he’s mad with talk of his body- and time-swap, nor take advantage of the crush Hugh has on “Jimmy”.
Let’s start with what B.G. Thomas does well in this fairly lengthy short. He’s created a great set up and the details of the 1927 hospital are particularly well evoked. I was fascinated by the premise, and am determined to seek out some more body-swap novels to read. The relationship between Hugh and Rob builds gently, with them both displaying sweetness and sensitivity to each other’s needs. I also loved the way the issue with “Jimmy’s” assassin was resolved, and that scene had me grinning ear to ear.
What didn’t work quite so well was the narrative style. There was just too much exposition for my liking, and I found myself wondering if I was in fact reading a novel or novella squashed down to fit in a short story. The author also has a tendency to use long passages of internal monologue full of questions as Rob tries to sort out what he should do with the Hugh situation. Other readers may well enjoy this, but I found it slowed the story down and felt rather like I was being hammered over the head with how Rob felt rather than shown in more subtle ways. Combine this with an excessive use of exclamation marks and a few typos, and I was left with the impression of a story that could have used a firmer editing hand.
The other aspect I found troubling was just why Rob had picked such awful boyfriends in the past. This was never explained to my satisfaction, and it made him look rather shallow, impressed by Perry’s wealth despite the fact he couldn’t stand being with him. Despite Hugh never having the narrative point of view, I found his obsession with the charismatic Jimmy easier to understand.
In short then, this story both fascinated and annoyed me. Readers who aren’t so picky with issues of writing style will likely find it charming, though. If you enjoy reading about the Jazz era and find the idea of a bodyswap intriguing, I can definitely recommend you give it go.