Wednesday, January 22, 2014

{A Kelly Coffee Review} The Return by Brad Boney

Title: The Return
Author: Brad Boney
Publisher: DreamSpinner Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Male/Male Romance
Publication Date: July 5, 2013

Music. Topher Manning rarely thinks about anything else, but his day job as a mechanic doesn't exactly mesh with his rock star ambitions. Unless he can find a way to unlock all the songs in his head, his band will soon be on the fast track to obscurity.

Then the South by Southwest music festival and a broken-down car drop New York critic Stanton Porter into his life. Stanton offers Topher a ticket to the Bruce Springsteen concert, where a hesitant kiss and phantom vibrations from Topher's cell phone kick off a love story that promises to transcend ordinary possibility.

Okay, so the holiday kind of ate my life and I haven't had much time to read/listen to anything since November. However, today I was called for jury duty selection, which involved sitting around for almost the whole day, giving me a chance to get caught up on some reading. 

As you can see from the publication date, this one has been on my to-read list for a while. So, you may remember my review of Brad Boney's The Nothingness of Ben two years ago. In that review, I praised the building of the love story, the pacing and the dialogue. The Return shows us that it wasn't a fluke. 

The Return takes place in the same world as The Nothingness of Ben and even includes cameos and supporting roles from most of Ben's cast, but they are not (that I can find) listed as part of the same series, and it can be read independently just fine. 

I have had this book bought and downloaded pretty much since the day it came out. But it also came out when I was in the middle of the Wheel of Time books and when I started doing most of my reading via audiobooks on my commute. Today, literally locked in a room with strangers that I wasn't encouraged to engage with and no internet access, was the perfect excuse to get some reading caught up on.

I did not expect to read this whole book today, but I could not put it down. The rhythm and pacing of this book is different than Ben. In fact, I was a little worried when I began reading. While dialogue is one of the author's greatest strengths, some of the dialogue in the beginning of the book is a little choppy and could stand some more narrative interruption. I was also confused by a flashback chapter early in the book, and it took a couple of those chapters to figure out why they were there. 

One of the things the synopsis doesn't warn you about is the fact that this romance is what is usually called a May-December romance, meaning there is a significant age difference between Topher and Stanton. Usually May-December romances aren't my thing, and it was a bit of a surprise, but there's a really good reason for it and I fully embraced it.

Though the first 6-7% of the book was not quite as smooth as I expected, there are ways in which I think that The Return may even surpass Ben. Where Ben crafted a relationship beautifully, showing its evolution and life with a care and development that I think is so often missing from "romance" novels, The Return shows less the development of the relationship and more the emotional journey of two people who are inexplicably drawn together and trying to reconcile those feelings with both past issues and the realities of a relationship between two people with such a significant age difference (Topher is 26 and Stanton is 50). 

Here, it is not just about the relationship, there is the building of a world and a mythology within that world. There are some paranormal elements in this book, but I don't want to say anything else. Seeing it unravel and putting the pieces together myself from the unexpected twist was so much fun, I do not want to spoil, but I will give this teaser:

"Have you ever heard of the I Ching?"

"No. Why?"

"It's a book of Chinese philosophy. It explores the idea that everything happens for a reason, that nothing in the universe is random."

With Ben, there was great sympathy with the couple who seem to make sense but they make real and relatable mistakes with each other. There is something about The Return that evokes less sympathy and more heartbreak. I mourned with these characters, my heart wrenched for them... I cried. There is an innate tragedy in Topher and Stanton's story that takes a while to unravel, but once it does, watching them struggle is really heartbreaking. The resolution is beautiful, leaving you with relief, satisfaction and joy which almost cause happy tears. I blasted through this 350-page book today and all I want is more from Boney. More of this world. More of this mythology. More of these characters. I love them all.

5 stars for both narrative crafting and sheer emotional impact. Next book in this world is due out sometime this year. I'm not waiting six months to read it this time.

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