Title ~ The Epiphani: A "Love & Gospel Music" Novel
Author ~ Timothy Blaine
Published ~ 23rd February 2014
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance, Paranormal
This second novel in the 'Love & Gospel Music' series opens on the end of a pier in the San Francisco Bay. After two long years of dark debilitating grief an emotionally tormented Joey White comes to the conclusion that the only way forward for him is to roll the spiritual dice and pray he meets up with his one true love Dwayne on the other side. Dwayne Brown; the original protagonist in this series had made transition… Actually he’d been shot in the head and heart by an obsessed teenage fan of Joeys. Now Joey’s got the ball and he’s running for his life. -- Enter the strangers. – Who are ‘The Epiphani’ and what do They want?
"The Epiphani" is almost a perfect book. This brilliantly conceived and executed gay novel stands every gay literature convention on its head. Most of the main characters are African-American, generations of hugely successful gospel recording artists, really bad beginnings as drug sellers, a child extortionist, a street hustler and worst of all, a millionaire with a mother who is the very spawn of Hell itself.
As befits a good gospel story, there's lots of faith and love, too. And, most remarkable for a gay reader like myself, African-American churches that really honor the teachings of Christ in accepting and cherishing all people as created equally in God's image.
Joey is the driving force of this story. Two years ago, his beloved Dwayne, his partner and lover for more than 30 years, was murdered in his office by the winner of a reality-TV gospel competition Joey and Dwayne had run for years. Joey is an incredibly talented and successful musician and producer, sort of the legend of the industry, and Dwayne, who was also talented musically, ran their successful business, Stratton Records, which dominated both the industry and the charts. Joey has never gotten over losing the love of his life.
"The Epiphani" opens on a pier in San Francisco, where Joey contemplates ending his pain, forever. Just as he's about to do it, a ragged old black man appears out of nowhere and tells him "Joey, it's ain't gonna work". And he really means it. He knows all about Joey and Dwayne, and he knows how his suicide attempt is going to fail, so why waste the effort? The Epiphani are messengers, and he was sent to deliver a message to Joey, and it wasn't about ending his life, it was about restarting it.
Not too much later, an Asian cabbie drops Joey at an intersection with another message - he must not let the next man he sees get away.
And the book is off and running. The first man he sees is a disreputable, though beautiful, young black man, who tries to sell him grass. What is Joey getting himself into?Ultimately, the young man, Dallas, becomes like a son to him. Dallas' talent in making music with his white, more-than-roommate, Ryan, is staggering - and Joey is honored to be his mentor. Finally, Joey has a reason to live again.
This is a beautiful story that covers about a decade, and does it elegantly, in subtle shifts and transitions as time passes. Dallas is just as religious as Joey, and even Ryan gets coerced into attending church. They both believe, they both need something to hang onto, but they both have been burned by churches and their bigotry, in the past. Joey's brother-in-law, Dwayne's surviving brother, is a pastor of a megachurch, an accepting, affirming and loving mega-church. That's not just a plot point. Spirituality and belief permeate all of this book with a wash of magic, faith and benevolence. The spirituality is deep, so deep that even the dog they rescued after nearly running him over, takes part in it. It's nice to see gay people, too long painted as the enemies of Christ, treated as deeply spiritual and loving souls.
I don't think it's any kind of spoiler to reveal that the Epiphani are messengers, messengers of God. Normally, I might find this all a bit banal, over-the-top, and fear it was a blatant promotion for Christian churches. But not so. Timothy Blaine does such a beautiful job of rolling all this out, that it is always believable. The bad guys are really bad, the good guys don't even know how good they are, and everyone fulfills a purpose, even when they aren't aware of it.
Most important is that this is a profoundly beautiful book. Watching Joey come back from grief moved me to tears of joy. Cheering on the two boys who love each other, make such exquisite music together, and find a way to share a life is both triumphant and unexpected. The writing is powerful, the dialogue realistic (even when it's in ethnic patois), the pacing, twists, dangers and life-threatening attacks make your heart pound out of your chest. In short, this book is nearly perfect.
My only complaint is that someone please find Mr. Blaine a competent editor. If it isn't apostrophes in plurals, it's words hyphenated when they shouldn't be, and occasional grotesque misuse of words. "Since" does not mean "Sense" and vice-versa. He didn't "through" the ball, he "threw" it. It's not the "evolvement" of the guy, it's his "evolution". "Thoughs" were not the days, "Those" were. You get my point. I would normally ding a book edited this badly one or two stars for making the reader suffer through so many embarrassing editing gaffes. But I must admit, the story was so creative, so different, so moving and so well-written, I couldn't bring myself to mark it down. This is a writing talent I want to encourage, no matter what.
So, please avail yourself of this book. Ignore the annoying editing and concentrate on the endearing characters and unique, inventive plot. You won't be disappointed, and you won't walk away unmoved.