Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Review: Falling by Suki Fleet

Title ~ Falling

Author ~ Suki Fleet

Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press

Published ~ 3rd June 2015

Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance


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Josh's idea of a romance is curling up alone and reading a novel with a happily ever after. He’s made his flat a safe haven where the wall are covered with beautiful words, and his living room ceiling is a map of the universe.
Angus may be shy and inexperienced, but he's incapable of hiding anything, especially his attraction to his older neighbor.
When Josh admits to Angus that he’s gay, he doesn't expect Angus’s reaction. Angus’s obvious interest terrifies Josh. For years he’s managed to keep the world at arm’s length and avoid getting too close to anyone. Well, anyone except Elenor, Angus’s mother, who helped Josh rebuild his life after he was hospitalized for depression. But Josh still thinks he’s broken. His past has left scars he thinks are too deep to heal. Despite Josh’s defenses, Angus begins to mean more to him than just the cute boy next door. If Josh can take a risk and let someone into his isolated world, he might have a chance for a real life happy ending.

Alan’s Review

Ms. Fleet is a talented author. I first ran across her book, The Glass House, just a few weeks ago, and it captivated me from the very first page. I couldn’t put it down. Falling is much like that. Suki Fleet has a real gift for creating empathetic characters, drawing the reader into their minds, their hearts – even though their minds may be troubled, their hearts damaged. In fact, that seems to be Suki Fleet’s specialty: exploring and evoking the soul of someone in pain.

Josh is a young man who comes off much older and wearier than his 25 years. He’s a loner who works in a Mall shoe store, has no friends, lovers or family and almost never goes out. He’s not a virgin, but whatever experience he has is limited to one-night-stands, and he can’t wait for the other guy to leave so he can be alone again. There’s no apparent reason for him being such a loner. We discover, early on, that he’s an attractive guy, but a closed-up guy who expends a huge amount of energy keeping other people at bay.

The only exception is the lady who lives in the flat beneath his. Eleanor suffers from crippling anxiety, anxiety that’s taken a serious turn for worse when she, and her 18-year-old son Angus, are held at knifepoint and robbed during a recent home invasion. Eleanor matters to Josh. She’s one of the only people who does. When he first moved into the building, she took Josh under her wing, holding his hand through his adjustment to life on his own, giving him someone to care about, the security of knowing that someone cares about him. But now Eleanor is falling apart, arming herself with knives, totally agoraphobic, terrified that the men will come back and kill her beloved son, Angus.

And though he won’t admit it, young Angus is terrified, too. Perhaps his mother’s panic is catching, or he’s also having a reaction to the terrifying event that drove his mother around the bend. But his London flat, and his life as he knew it, is spiraling into disaster. The only one around to help is Josh, the young man Angus has been crushing on since he was a young kid.

Angus comes to depend on Josh, which is not something Josh relishes. He knows he’s not dependable. He knows he’s screwed up in some major ways, and at the top of that list is the clinical depression that has plagued him since he was a child. It’s not an emotional state, it’s a chemical one. And Josh walks on eggs to avoid triggers, to evade the descent into blackness, to stop himself from falling, falling into that deep hole that will consume him.

Angus brings something special to Josh’s life as they cope, together, with Eleanor’s eventual hospitalization – innocence, laughter, and a smile that lights up both the room and the dark corners of Josh’s heart. But he can’t do that. He can’t risk it. He can’t risk hurting Angus, so he keeps pushing him away. It’s not that he’s too young (there’s only seven years separating them), it’s not that he isn’t moved, in wonderful ways, by that beautiful young man, it’s not that he’s not turned on. It’s just that he’s terrified.

Falling sports a cast of interesting secondary characters, each with his or her own quirks. There’s Soren, who is his young boss at the shoe store. Despite the fact that the attractive Soren is madly in love with his girlfriend, he admits that he finds Josh enormously attractive, and if he hadn’t hooked up with Lucy, he would have hit on Josh - if he weren’t so stand-offish.

There’s Angus’ father, divorced from Eleanor, with whom Angus lived, for years. Angus returned to his mother, as soon as he turned 18, because his father is deteriorating, becoming more sarcastic, more disapproving, putting Angus down at every opportunity, and making crystal clear what he thinks of gay people – and what he thinks is not kind.

The core of Falling is the growing relationship between Josh and Angus. Angus confesses that he’d fallen for Josh the very first time he saw him, years ago, from afar, and sees Josh as the confident, out gay man he’d like to become. Josh knows that’s not true. Confident, he is not. But Angus awakes the protector in Josh, the selflessness, even the passion he’s been hiding so deep for so very long.

Josh is no match for the innocent, beautiful young man who brings light and passion into his life, for the first time in many years. Angus is tearing down Josh’s wall, brick by brick, smile by smile, kiss by kiss, until there is no wall left for Josh to hide behind. The time has come. He has to let someone in. He has to let go of his fears and reach out for the love and solace he doesn’t believe he deserves, but Angus is determined to give him. They are wonderful together. They complete each other. Most important, they make each other happy.

Falling is a book about coming back from mental illness, for both Josh and Eleanor. And it’s a book about the healing power of love. It’s also a book about families, the ones you’re born with, the ones you make.

It is beautifully-written, lyrical, touching and gentle. It’s not a big book. It’s not overly dramatic. A lot of the conflict and resolution is internal, but Ms. Fleet handles it with such a soft touch, so compassionately, that it’s hard to turn away from either the pain or the love that comes out of it.

Falling is not a book that will change the world, but it is a book that will immerse you, for a few hours, in a lovely landscape of healing and redemption. It won’t change your life, but it will move both your heart and soul. What more can one ask?

If you’re looking for a gentle, evocative read with characters you’ll become quite attached to, I strongly recommend this lovely book by Suki Fleet.

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