Rating: 4.5 stars ouf of 5
Ian James is feeling every bit of his thirty six years. His long term partner cheated on him, multiple times apparently, before leaving for good. Ian’s long promised promotion at work is two years overdue and counting. Now his sexual hookup, young sexy Jordan, has just told him to get lost after some quick mutual satisfaction. Even after Ian tried to pursue Jordan, all he got in return was an outright refusal. What’s a man to do?
Jordan has more than he can handle at the moment, two jobs and his young son Cole who happens to be autistic. When Jordan hooked up with Ian one night, all he wanted was just a quickie, no involvement, no phone numbers but the universe had other plans. When their paths intersected not once, but twice, it seemed as though fate was interfering. Yes, Ian had made it clear that he wanted to see Jordan again but meeting each other again and again was completely accidental. Can both men overcome their pasts and their fears to make a future together?
There is so much to love about A. F. Henley’s latest book, Sonata. From the lovely and relevant cover, the chapters titled with the names of musical movements to the in-depth research the author has done on Asperger syndrome, the story kept me involved and emotionally engaged from the opening page.
Henley’s characters are both desperate to connect with someone yet equally fearful for a connection to be made. Each man’s past makes them question their ability to see clearly about situations and individuals. Ian’s last boyfriend hurt him emotionally, cheating on Ian on numerous occasions, taking advantage of his generous and forgiving nature. Now Ian questions his own judgement when it comes to people and relationships. Jordan is hiding a traumatic past and trusts no one unless absolutely necessary. These characters contain all the nuances necessary to make them not only believable but endearing. For Ian and Jordan to go forward past their fears into a tenuous relationship, we watch them slowly let go of their closely held suspicions to reach a measure of comfort and trust with each other. It’s a slow, subtly shaded journey with pitfalls every step of the way.
Another remarkable character is the young boy Cole. Cole has Asbergers syndrome and Henley gives us an authentic portrait of the effects of this genetic disease on an adolescent. Cole’s behavior as well as the methods used to calm him down are realistic and medically authentic in nature and scope. But what I love most is that this is a balanced portrait of autism the author achieves in Cole. For every wail and out of control moment, there is an equal victory to behold. Small, fleeting and sometimes almost unnoticeable, but there to be seen and applauded. It is a marvelous element of this story and Henley’s treatment elevated this story past a romance into something very special. For a key to Cole is music. And Ian with his grandfather’s beloved piano opens the way for Cole to enjoy and communicate with others through music.
This is a age gap between Jordan and Ian and for some, this might be an issue. Jordan is younger than Ian, in actions and emotions. But I still felt enough of a real romantic connection between the two characters that it never bothered me. What did I have issues with? The ending. As with so many stories these days, it just petered off. For it to feel fully satisfactory, I wanted to know more about Cole and his current situation. I also needed more than a paragraph or two to pull all the events of the last fourth of the story together. It was a good ending but the story that preceded it deserved a great one and didn’t get it.
Still Sonata is terrific. It’s a story full of characters that pull you in and moments that have you cheering out loud (take that, Aubrey or )tearing up in response to the scenes you are reading. Leave me leave you with a scene with Cole and Ian:
Cole hitched a breath, mid-shriek, and paused for a second before resuming his demonic call. Ian forced him over to the tub, a square grungy hulk of an appliance, and shoved Cole’s ear against the side of the tub with more force than he’d have liked. But the moment Cole’s ear was pressed to the side of the tub, Cole stilled and silenced. A palm snaked up the slick surface of the bathtub and rested alongside Cole’s flushed cheek. His eyes drifted into unknown territory as he listened to the echo of water through metal.
A scary and ultimately beautiful moment for child and man. Grab up this book. I think you will love it as much as I did.
Cover art by Megan Derr. I love this cover, so relevant and lovely. Great job.
180 pages, printed version