Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-283-9
Contemporary Romance, 2016
Mel Bossa owes Lyn Taylor, who did the cover, a lot of love, as I know I’m not the only one who gave Lover of Light some attention because of it. The synopsis on the publisher website suggests a pretty messy who-is-loving-who kind of musical chair drama, the kind that I normally avoid unless skanky sex and lurid drama is promised as part of the deal. Unfortunately, this turns out to be a first-person point of view story from a guy who doesn’t seem to like anything.
Andy has a boyfriend Quinn, whom he considers shallow and whom he sometimes resents for taking everyone else for granted. His best friend Dmitri meets a handsome musician, Alexei, who sings gorgeously. Andy at first hates Alexei, especially after he’s privy to some of Alexei’s many issues. When Dmitri dumps Alexei and Andy finds himself working with Alexei shortly after, Andy starts falling for Alexei instead. Good lord, what a mess. I think looking for hook-ups via Grindr would be a far less complicated and possibly happier alternative to all this nonsense.
In fact, reading this one makes me long for the text-speak that permeates all these hook-up apps. The writing here is pretentious and vapid, a combination that is not good for my blood pressure. Dmitri tells Andy, for example, that Alexei is “a lover of light. Of everything bright and loud and real.” What does that mean? Everyone here talks and thinks like they are all intellectual Illuminati just because they use pompous-sounding words in the most hollow manner possible.
“Alexei’s like the day,” I say, staring at my own face in the glass. My blue eyes are still calling for rain. “And you can’t force a day to begin.”
How does one’s eyes call for rain? Or is all that some pretentious way of saying that he’s trying to force himself to cry and failing badly?
And yet, for all the talk, I don’t see anything. Alexei may love to dry hump bright lights and loud things, but all I see is him going all ooh-aah-eek from his self-destructive ways. He’s basically the damsel in distress, all the way from Bulgaria too, like an imported suitcase of drama queen issues. Everyone else is just passive, whiny, pretentious, and twatty, like they think they are the leads in a sequel to Rent, all too hip and cool to do anything other than sneer. Dmitri treats people like they aren’t fit to wipe his shoes – and the scary thing is, he’s supposed to be some kind of holistic mumbo-jumbo therapist. Then again, that probably explains his pretentious twattery – people who peddle pseudoscience for a living make an art out of it.
I’m not sure how to explain Andy’s brand of twattery, though, other than him being perhaps a twat after all. He’s a horrible narrator because he’s not only whiny and pretentious, he also doesn’t do anything when he should have. He flops at his job and hates it, he talks and thinks mostly about himself, and he is so self-absorbed that he only notices things when these things explode in his face. There are issues, but he won’t talk about them or do anything other than to whine, until he has no choice. As a result, this story drags on and on like a compilation of pointless interminable Tumblr entries of one not-too-bright and god-he’s-so-annoying twatwaffle, The vapid efforts to seem profound in the narrative only add to the eye-rolling insufferable twattery of the whole thing.
To top it off, Andy barely connects with Alexei in this story anyway (their scenes together aren’t actually many), and much of their so-called deep bond is shoved at my face in the form of Andy’s fractured efforts to sound all deep and poetic.
I wanted to shelter him, but the demons were always there in the room with us, and I didn’t want to see them lingering. All those sleepless nights of his, all the words Alexei wouldn’t say, those were the things I should have paid attention to.
I miss looking into his eyes. It was like looking into a better, more beautiful version of my own soul.
I wish I could have pulled him out of the past. I wish I could have shown him how to forgive and never forget.
All pretty words but with no substance in them. If the poetry section of Tumblr and the LGBT basement dwelling section somehow connected on Grindr andhad drunken sex in which they all cried sadly for their mothers and fathers, their butt baby would smell and sound just like the excerpt above.
I do like one scene, though – the one in which Andy tells Alexei off for trying to pull that “I’m no good for you so I’m running away!” act on him. He’s right – only selfish assholes would act like that while thinking that they will win trophies for being so noble. But that scene is ruined by overwrought and awful abuse of the four-lettered word. The writing in Lover of Light is its biggest downfall – the author attempted to wield clumsy metaphors and similes like a pickax, often missing the mark, and she also tended to go all melodramatic in the most ludicrous manner. For example, Andy yelling at Alexei that he’d kill himself if Alexei doesn’t come home – Andy is such a self-absorbed twat that the scene ends up being just another example of Andy being Andy, instead of a moment of pure, glorious camp.
In many ways, Lover of Light feels real, in the sense that it is a story about the generation me-me-me types, who flail at existing in the real world but blame everyone but themselves for their failings. Jonathan Larson made heroes and martyrs out of these twats in Rent, the favorite musical of every faghag over 30, and popular LGBT TV series are all about such twats, so Mel Bossa isn’t breaking any new grounds here. But sometimes those twats are entertaining, thanks to good script or writing. This one, unfortunately, reads like an earnest creative writing student’s tried-too-hard efforts to impress the teacher, and the gorge-rising effects of the twattery abound are amplified as a result.