Author ~ Karen Stivali
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 18th December 2015
Genre ~ ContemporaryM/M Romance
Growing up, Jason Stern led a charmed life complete with devoted sisters, a father who was one of Brooklyn’s most respected rabbis, and a mother who made the world's best babka. He headed to NYU ready for anything—except falling for the wrong guy, coming out, and getting disowned by his once-loving family. In spite of that, Jason managed to graduate with honors. He's got friends who treat him like family, and he's proudly running the largest LGBTQ teen shelter in Manhattan. Life is good, but he's still falling for the wrong men.
When charming, sexy Quinn Fitzpatrick begins work at the shelter, Jason falls hard and fast. Quinn is tall, blond, funny—damn near perfect. Only if Quinn’s gay, even he doesn't seem to know it. If he does, he's not telling anyone. And he's about one ceremony away from becoming a Catholic priest.
Long hours of work turn to long nights of talking and laughter, and Jason dares to hope this time he's falling for the right guy. But Quinn's got a past to deal with and major decisions to make about his future. When Quinn leaves for a silent retreat, Jason knows the silence may change everything.
Ms. Stivali is most impressive, indeed. Most of her past writing is heterosexual romance. She broke the mold when she published the first books in her gay-themed series, “Moments in Time”. I’m so glad she did. I just finished reading “Moment of Silence”, the fourth and latest book in the series, and now I wish I had discovered this talented author earlier. Don’t get me wrong, this book stands alone just fine - you don’t have to read the earlier books to appreciate the beauty and elegance of this one. But I’d obviously missed out on some great reading before I became aware of the extraordinary work of Karen Stivali. I’m making up for lost time by reading the other three books now (available as a compilation on Amazon). If the characters in these novels are as three-dimensional, engaging and authentic as the two main characters of this one, I will be a happy man and add one more accomplished writer to my short list of top, must-read authors.
What I like most about her approach to gay romance is that the characters do not suffer the self-induced, self-indulgent, obviously-manufactured obstacles, challenges and angst typical of so many books in the genre. Of course, her characters do suffer for love (the book is a gay romance, after all), but they suffer realistic problems, not roadblocks placed in their own way by their low self-esteem, insane jealousy, insecurity and oppression by society at large. And the challenge they do face, in “Moment of Silence”, is a doozy.
Both Jason and Quinn are remarkably sane, good men, beautiful men, young men trying to do good in the world, but suffering from the innate homophobia of the family members they dearly love. Jason is a good Jewish boy, the son of a rabbi, a learned, compassionate, renowned and revered member of their community. Despite his father’s legendary compassion, he disowned his own son when he came out. Funny, but Jason thought his father had always known. Apparently not. His reaction was swift and repugnant – he pronounces his son dead to him and the family. Sadly, his beloved mother and sisters go along with his father’s wishes and cut him off while he’s working toward a degree in social work at NYU. He manages to get through the degree, but hasn’t spoken to or seen any immediate family in years.
Quinn is also an extraordinarily beautiful and laudable young man. The oldest son of a devout Catholic family, he’s just recently completed seminary and is soon to take his vows. But he’s taking a sabbatical for a few months to contemplate the lifelong commitment he is about to make. He needs to be absolutely certain that he can fulfill his vows, and that being a priest is the best way he can serve. His younger brother, Collin, came out a few years ago (in an earlier book in this series) and his mother has yet to forgive him or speak to him. Quinn fears the same retribution from the woman he has spent his life trying desperately to please. Now he’s confronting the fear that his commitment to the priesthood might have been for all the wrong reasons – to make his mother happy and proud, not because he has a true calling to the office.
In the meantime, Jason has become the director of the largest residential LGBT youth center in the city. He’s convinced his generous benefactor to purchase a new building for expansion, and he’s in the middle of preparing and renovating the new space. Quinn is recommended to work on the project by his brother Collin (a friend of Jason’s) and the two men become instant and close friends. Jason seems to have become obsessed, almost from their first meeting, with the gorgeous man with the big heart. It takes a while before he comes to realize that Quinn feels the same way about him. Friendship quickly morphs into love. It’s not “insta-love”, it’s not electric jolts shooting up their arms every time they touch, it’s a deep respect, affection and admiration for each other, a remarkable level of comfort, and an intense sexual attraction burning just below the surface – an attraction that, once unleashed, changes everything.
“Moment of Silence deals with its family challenges in a sensitive, yet realistic way – no false sentimentality here. But the abiding tension throughout the book is Quinn’s soul-searching. Jason, of course, can’t bear the idea of his lover walking away from him into the embrace of his Church. Neither can he be so selfish as to deprive the world of the great counsel, spiritual guidance, wisdom and compassion of the remarkable Quinn. Still, he can’t imagine his own life without the beautiful man he has come to love so deeply.
Quinn leaves Jason to spend the last week of his sabbatical on a silent retreat. He needs to wrestle with his soul. Jason doesn’t know if he’ll ever be back, and pretty much falls apart. Were it not for his supportive friends, the kids he helps and his wonderful roommate, who gives him an effective kick in the butt, Jason would still be hiding under the covers, refusing to get out of bed, shower, eat, or go to work.
I won’t go into detail about the resolution, but you know this is a romance, not a tragedy, so make whatever assumptions you will. Regardless, you need to read it, in Ms. Stivali’s incomparable prose, to experience, to feel, the breadth and depth of the deep love these two men share.
The author doesn’t pull any punches. Her characters are real, and their reality is likely to move you as profoundly as it did me. She nails the differences between Jewish culture and Catholic in the food, the attitudes, the humor, the different sacrifices required to honor the spirit. It’s subtle, but it’s perfectly executed.
I never once felt manipulated, even with tears brimming in my eyes. There’s a core honesty about the book that defies manipulation. The expressions of love, tenderness and devotion are exquisite to behold, without ever becoming maudlin or sappy. The writing is spare, but rich, the dialogue so spot-on that I could hear the different voices in my head, as I read.
“Moment of Silence” is a wonderful book, one of my favorites this year - and not for anything showy or any attempts to push the boundaries. But rather for the virtuosity of the author, and the sincere emotions she both shows and evokes, so effortlessly and elegantly. Karen Stivali is a first-rate writer.
I just can’t recommend this book highly enough. Read it, and enjoy the moving and heartfelt journey of two remarkably caring and very good men.
Moments in Time Book #1 – #3
Currently on sale for 99c/99p
Moments In Time: Books 1-3
Moment of Impact
Beyond Collin Fitzpatrick’s dorm room, the students of his conservative college think he’s straight, as does his Catholic family, who'd disown him if they learned the truth. Inside, he’s safe with his sexy roommate Tanner D’Amico. Tanner wants to show the world how much he loves Collin, but Collin’s not sure he’s ready for the impact stepping outside will make.
Moment of Truth
Collin expected to spend another summer fixing cars and working at the college pizzeria. Instead, he's living in a beach house on Fire Island, and for the first time, he and Tanner can publicly be known as boyfriends. Being “out” takes some getting used to, and doubt and jealousy threaten their happiness. Collin and Tanner must confront the truth or risk losing it all.
Moment of Clarity
Spending the summer on Fire Island brought Collin and Tanner closer than ever, but back in their conservative college town, new challenges confront them.
When Collin's relationship with Tanner becomes an issue in his brother's custody battle and Tanner struggles with feelings for his heartbroken friend Wendy, Collin wonders if everyone would be better off without him. In order to save them both, Tanner must make it clear his love for Collin is all that matters.