Every New Year’s Eve since 1946, Nate Meyer has ventured alone to Times Square to listen for the ghostly church bells he and his long-lost wartime lover vowed to hear together. This year, however, his grandson Blaine is pushing Nate through the Manhattan streets, revealing his secrets to his silent, stroke-stricken grandfather.
When Blaine introduces his boyfriend to his beloved grandfather, he has no idea that Nate holds a similar secret. As they endure the chilly death of the old year, Nate is drawn back in memory to a much earlier time . . . and to Walter.
Long before, in a peace carefully crafted in the heart of wartime tumult, Nate and Walter forged a loving home in the midst of violence and chaos. But nothing in war is permanent, and now all Nate has is memories of a man his family never knew existed. And a hope that he’ll finally hear the church bells that will unite everybody—including the lovers who hid the best and most sacred parts of their hearts.
** This is not a big, happy, sparkly review, so just warning you up front... **
I kept wishing that I would get completely immersed in this story more than I actually did. Because, duh, *that* is the magic of the vast majority of Amy Lane's books. They grab you by the short hairs (via your heart) and twist. Hard. And you love it. A little too much.
Yes, for me Nate and Walter were both amazing characters and I fell completely and totally for them both. And I would have dearly, dearly loved to see them grow old together. But I just knew that wasn't meant to be, and I was 100% dead on.
I think for me, once it was no longer possible for Nate and Walter to grow through the years together, the sentiment behind the phrase, “I'd rather be alone for the right reasons than with someone for the wrong reasons” is what my heart kept dwelling on. (Nod to John Hughes' movie 'Some Kind of Wonderful' for the quote.)
So when (the very *gay*) Nate returned from the war and married Carmen, I felt that self-betrayal wasn't living up to the hero that he'd previously proven himself to be.
[ I say that as a gay man who grew up closeted in a homophobic, redneck town of 500 God-fearin' Christian folk, so I feel that my frame of reference for the pressure that Nate must have been feeling is relevant here.
But in spite of my own fears, I refused to date girls or conform to what "normal" people expected. And I'm definitely no hero, so, yes, Nate marrying Carmen lessened my view of him a bit. *sigh* ]
Up until the point where the resistance plane arrived to spirit them away from their perfect little bubble of happiness in the woods and take them out of France, the story was perfect to me. Very much what I've come to love about Amy Lane's stories.
But after the departure from France, the book just felt more for me that Nate was waiting to die, so that he could be happy again. No plot points of strokes or gay grandsons could really keep me fully engaged after that point. : (
[ This is one reason why I avoid historical books like the plague. It was a different, much less accepting time, where people just smiled and ate their own unhappiness and plodded along, without making waves or fighting for their own happiness. It makes me NUTS. Every. Single. Time. ]
The book was still a solid 4 stars for me, but did it give me what I wanted? And was I completely enthralled, dreading for it to end, as I normally am with her books? Sadly, no. : (
My copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley for a fair, unbiased review.
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