Author: Kim Fielding
Length: 62 pdf pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Travis Miller has a machining job, a cat named Elwood, and a pathetic
love life. The one bright spot in his existence is the handsome guitar
player he sometimes passes on his way home from work. But when he
finally gathers the courage to speak to the man, Travis learns that
former novelist Drew Clifton suffers from aphasia: Drew can understand
everything Travis says, but he is unable to speak or write.
The two lonely men form a friendship that soon blossoms into romance. But
communication is only one of their challenges—there’s also Travis’s
inexperience with love and his precarious financial situation. If words
are the bridge between two people, what will keep them together?
I picked this one up for review because I was intrigued to see a book about a character with a very different sort of disability than I’d encountered in an m/m romance before. I’m glad I did, because while there were a few aspects about this story that frustrated me, there was a lot to love too.
Travis Miller is a lonely man in an unfamiliar city. We later learn some of his reasons for shying away from relationships and friendships, but it’s clear he’s desperate for a bit more sustained human interaction than he gets in his job as a machinist. His fascination with the guitar player he sees every day on his route home builds and builds, until eventually Travis approaches him.
Travis is baffled to be handed a card when he asks about the song the man is playing, but quickly realises it isn’t rudeness or a pushy sales tactic. On the card is written:
My name is Andrew “Drew” Clifton. I have aphasia, which means I can’t speak or write. But I can understand you just fine and I’m not a bloody idiot, so don’t treat me like one.
The quote reveals much about Andrew’s personality: his intelligence, attitude and determination. Travis soon finds out that it’s actually remarkably easy to communicate with Drew, using a combination of guesswork and Drew’s gestures. It’s not until this point that we realised Travis himself has a disability–an empty eye socket hiding under a patch. Both men are the victims of accidents, and both bear the scars–physically and emotionally.
One of the aspects that particularly intrigued me about this story was just how Drew manages to communicate. We learn that he used to make his living from words as a novelist, but now the language centre of his brain has been damaged, meaning although he can process incoming speech and text just fine, he’s incapable of even learning sign language. His gestures are all instinctive instead. Other ways he manages to get his point across are through his facial expressions, a set of cards he can use to order drinks and reply to common questions, and the use of tunes on his guitar. I particularly loved the fact he played the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK to tell Travis he’s British.
I love the slow build of the relationship between the two men, although because the author spans a whole year within the space of 60 pages there is much that ends up being told rather than shown. At times this did frustrate me, and made me wonder if the author would have been better off expanding the book and including more fully fleshed out scenes. This would have made the eventual crisis point work better for me too. As it is, I wasn’t satisfied with Travis’ motivations for screwing things up with Drew. I might have understood it better if there had been more foreshadowing, or if I’d been more convinced of the inevitability of his actions.
The section where Travis is apart from Drew really annoyed me, especially as there was a longish scene involving another man who I really couldn’t care about at this stage in the book. Don’t worry–there’s no infidelity, but there’s still far too much information given about this other character when all I wanted to know about at this stage was what had happened to Drew.
However, much as Travis’ stupid behaviour nearly spoilt the end of the book for me, the author managed to redeem him just in time and provide a touching ending to the tale. It’s definitely worth reading, especially if you want to learn more about aphasia and you will meet a speechless, yet charming character in Drew. Drew made the story for me, and his personality shines through, despite him being essentially voiceless. For this, Kim Fielding deserves high praise.