Author ~ Amy Lane
Publisher ~ Riptide Publishing
Published ~ 13th June 2015
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Cal McCorkle has lived in Bluewater Bay his whole life. He works two jobs to support a brother with a laundry list of psychiatric diagnoses and a great uncle with Alzheimer’s, and his personal life amounts to impersonal hookups with his boss. He’s got no time, no ambition, and no hope. All he has is family, and they’re killing him one responsibility at a time.
Avery Kennedy left Los Angeles, his family, and his sleazy boyfriend to attend a Wolf’s Landing convention, and he has no plans to return. But when he finds himself broke and car-less in Bluewater Bay, he’s worried he’ll have to slink home with his tail between his legs. Then Cal McCorkle rides to his rescue, and his urge to run away dies a quick death.
Avery may seem helpless at first, but he can charm Cal’s fractious brother, so Cal can pretty much forgive him anything. Even being adorkable. And giving him hope. But Cal can only promise Avery “until we can’t”—and the cost of changing that to “until forever” might be too high, however much they both want it.
If you read one book this year, “The Deep of the Sound” should be it. In the past, I’ve always been ambivalent about Amy Lane’s books, some I’ve liked, some not so much. The same might be said for the Bluewater Bay Series, a series by various authors (sort of “guest authors”) of varying combinations and quality.
But “The Deep of the Sound” is one of the most profoundly beautiful books I’ve ever read. It left me with my heart lifted, my faith in life restored, my admiration for the characters enduring but, most of all, my opinion of Ms. Lane’s writing now beyond question – she is one of the great writers of gay fiction. And this book is an exercise in exquisite writing.
The settings, characters, moods, conflicts, obstacles and loves, in this book, are each unique, beautifully rendered, vivid and authentic. Every word of dialogue, every action, every moment is both real and captivating. This is exactly how a gay romance novel should be written.
The “Deep of the Sound” is the story of Cal McCorkle, a young man of half Native-American ancestry who is the sole support of his family – his brother, Keir, with his laundry list of psychiatric disabilities and his elderly great-uncle, Nasha, who suffers from Alzheimers. He is both their financial support and, for all intents and purposes, the adult of the family that lives together in his uncle’s ramshackle house on the shore of Bluewater Bay. It’s a really hard slough for Cal, who has neither the time nor the resources to have a life, and depends, for his only relief, on his boss’ occasional intimate moments with him. His parents had been washed away in a landslide some years ago, and Cal is all his family has to keep them alive and intact. He works at one of the local resort hotels as a busboy in a restaurant. That’s not enough money to pay for both his uncle’s and brother’s medications plus the payments on the house, utilities and food for the table, so he arises, every day, long before dawn, to fish the bay for the Cod he drags into town and sells to a local hotel restaurant. His dreams of college, meeting a beautiful young man and settling down to a happy life in Bluewater Bay are just a distant memory, washed off the mountain with his parents.
It’s a hard life, but Cal is dedicated to his family, and never really complains unless things get out of hand, which they do at the very beginning of “The Deep of the Sound”, when something huge, something gigantic, snags his net and almost pulls him and his boat down into the depths of the bay. He fights the monster, which rips his leg open with the hard green bony protrusions on its back. He manages to kill it with a gaffe in its back and his pocket knife embedded in its brain. But this catch is useless, because Green Sturgeon is illegal to catch, protected under the Endangered Species Act, and they grow huge, a prehistoric sea fish covered in plates, rather than scales. No one would buy the meat from him. He didn’t mean to catch the damned fish, but that probably won’t prevent him being arrested or fined for the damned fish that, literally, jumped into his boat, nearly killing him. At very least, he’s going to have to replace his destroyed net, and he really is injured. If he can’t work, his family may starve. What a terrible start to a terrible day.
Avery Kennedy, on the other hand, lives a much more comfortable life in North Hollywood. He’s not starving, doesn’t have to get up at dawn to fish, and isn’t responsible for other lives. But all things are not going well. He’s a writer. He’s not the author of the Great American Novel, but he makes a passable living writing commercial pieces and occasional magazine articles. Enough, at least, to support his leech of a boyfriend, who belittles his work and talent while living off its income, dressing fit-to-kill for his non-paying internship at a banking company, demanding more and more and more while giving less and less. Avery has pretty much had it and has made a life-altering decision. He’s going to Bluewater Bay, in Washington State. That otherwise bucolic backwater has, in recent years, exploded in fame and popularity, since the wildly popular Wolf’s Landing TV series started shooting on location in the small community. The presence of famous TV and movie stars, respected guest directors and hundreds of crew members means that Bluewater Bay is no longer sleepy. In fact, it’s about to host the annual “Wolf’s Landing” convention, and Avery has a line on a magazine willing to pay him to write about the experience. He’s been a long-time, avid fan of the show and has written some well-received fan fiction. Now’s his chance to meet the cast, the other fans, and eventually, someone else will pay for it. What’s life-changing is that (and nobody knows this yet), he’s not coming back. He hates his life in North Hollywood and he has no intention of returning to it.
He has good reason to leave. After all, he can write from anywhere. His boyfriend is having oral sex with his boss, his parents keep treating him as a borderline brain-damaged twelve-year-old, even telling him that he can’t move to Washington because he’s too incompetent to drive to the California border, and all he needs is to meet the right girl… It’s definitely time for a new start, a new life.
Unfortunately, his parents were almost right. He made it past the California border, past the Oregon and Washington borders and just outside of Bluewater Bay before his car breaks down, in a rainstorm at a godforsaken location without cell phone reception. Only one car comes down the road toward Avery, a beat-up old pickup truck driven by Cal, with Kier at his side, the two returning from their joint doctor visits, Cal for his infected shin and Kier for his normal appointment.
And that’s where it all begins. For some reason, Cal takes the stranded Avery under his wing, helps him find an automobile repair shop whose owner owes him a favor or two, and drives Avery to his hotel to check in. Cal figures he’s done with Avery. He doesn’t know him. But he knows he’s a guest at the hotel where he’s a busboy, so he’s obviously well-off (wrong) and could never handle the poverty and responsibilities under which Cal lives, day-in and day-out.
But something else passes between them - the beautiful part-Native-American boy with the beat-up truck and the geeky-but-attractive writer whose car died on the way into Bluewater Bay. Of course, they were meant to get together, and they do.
They see each other, every day, at the hotel – the hotel they let Avery check into, despite the fact that his debit card was erroneously frozen and left him with just the cash in his pocket – and a bank that keeps promising the new card will arrive, pretty much every day, although it doesn’t. Fortunately, Avery has his online best-friend, another Wolf’s Landing fanfic writer, who insists on loaning him a few hundred dollars to tide him over until his card arrives – if it ever does.
Avery and Cal steal a little time together, after Cal finishes work and between Avery’s conference sessions. Avery gets to see how Cal lives and doesn’t judge, but he does want to help. The proud Cal hates taking help, hates needing it, and can’t quite figure out what Avery wants. At some point, he actually comes to realize it’s him, and nothing more. Avery becomes a part of the family, a trusted friend. He even gets Cal to take him fishing.
Avery is not out of his own deep water yet, either. His idiot bank sends his new debit card, not to the post office, as promised, but to his mother. His idiot mother, in turn, sends the card to Avery’s ex, the one who is servicing the banker. Using his banking connections and Avery’s card, Billy and his boss empty out Avery’s account. His life savings are gone, stolen by a conspiracy between his bank, his mother, his ex-boyfriend, and the bank executive he’s “servicing”. People will get fired over this. People may go to prison over this. But that doesn’t help Avery who is, now, as poor as Cal’s family.
It’s nothing less than beautiful to watch these two young men fall in love and get over their distrusts, fears and insecurities. And the final resolution, engineered by Cal’s not-yet-quite-senile great-uncle is both sad and thrilling. It will make you smile; it will make you shed a few tears.
I won’t get into detail because those pivotal moments must be experienced first-hand, through the descriptive and evocative prose of the exquisite writing of Amy Lane. I laughed, I cried, I held these two men and their damaged, but loving family members close to my heart, I prayed for their Happily-Ever-After, for these two certainly deserved it, for their kindness, their caring, their giving and their huge hearts. I love the last line of the book:
“Sometimes, they got to be the heroes in their own lives.”
I will never forget the profoundly moving experience of reading this book, a book that far transcends its modest gay Romance roots and moves into the loftier territory of fine literature, almost effortlessly.
If you’re looking for a beautiful story, beautifully written, a story that will capture your heart from the first page and never let it go, don’t miss “The Deep of the Sound” by the pre-eminently gifted Ms. Amy Lane. It’s one of the best.