The Prayer Waltz
by KZ Snow, contemporary (2010)
Dreamspinner Press, $3.99, ISBN 978-1-61581-443-5

Meet Steven Brandwein. Eight months ago, his lover Frank Connor died suddenly. All Steve knows is that Frank died in a freak accident involving a gun that Frank was trying to clean. After some reluctance, Steve finally visits Prism Falls, the location of St Jerome's Church, the church where Frank once served as a priest. Steve hopes to find closure and some answers about Frank, whom he now realizes was still many ways a stranger to him when Frank died. Instead, he finds Evan McAllister, a man grieving over the loss of his teenage son. As you can probably guess, Evan and Frank were once, you know, like that.

But this story is more than a tale of two guys who got diddled by a priest. The Prayer Waltz rather ambitiously attempts to deal with issues like coming out, religious conflict, forgiveness, grief, healing, and moving on with life. And like the few stories by this author that I've read, this one works far better as a character study than a romance. I don't detect any chemistry or heat between Steve and Evan, for example, but I can definitely appreciate the author's sensitively portrayed depictions of their emotions. The author utilizes some plot devices such as letters that show up at the most convenient moment, devices that could have been utterly corny in the hands of another author, but somehow Ms Snow makes them work very well nonetheless. I don't even realize that she has utilized some Hallmark-like tropes until I think back on the story and go, "Hey...!" Ms Snow has me going along with the flow of her story while it lasts, and that's good.

Because this is a novella, it is perhaps inevitable that the resolutions to several key issues in this tale feel rushed and even too convenient at times. Still, the author has done a good job in engaging my attention and emotions throughout the story, so the story still manages to provide a picturesque vicarious trip despite its flaws. What I am not fond of is the occasional switch of the story from Steve's first person narration to third person narration (which can be found in flashback scenes involving Ewan and Frank). I find such switches too abrupt for my liking. Shouldn't such fancy hoity-toity techniques be kept for longer stories where the author has more opportunities to show off her literary chops or something?

Still, all things considered, I like The Prayer Waltz. The author tackles topics that are rarely found in stories of this nature and she manages to make me think and feel - an impressive feat indeed considering that this story is only a novella. Now if only she can include a romance that resonates as strongly as her individual characters and her gorgeous scenery, I think I'd be in heaven.

Rating: 83

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