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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Passing Time by Ash Penn

Passing Time by Ash Penn
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (100 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 3 cherries
Reviewed by Cactus

When world-weary Louis Duncan returns to the English town where he grew up, the last thing on his mind is finding love. He's come home to be at his estranged mother's side as she lies comatose in a hospital bed.

The always-sunny barman Jake Harvey yearns to offer Louis much more than a willing ear. After an evening of too much wine, too much Indian take-out, and too much of Jake's soft lips, Louis succumbs to the young man's charms. Jake proves to be a passionate lover as well as a loyal friend.

When his mother’s condition deteriorates, Louis leans on Jake to help him through the difficulty of another loss. The love of his life died two years before, but to Louis he remains every bit alive as Jake. He and Carter continue to chat, smoke together, even argue over whether Louis is living or merely existing. They do everything as they always did, except have sex. Now, despite Carter urging him to take the risk, can Louis give up his first real love and take his chances with the living?

When Louis meets an attractive younger man, he’s faced with the tough choice of either giving up his dead lover’s ghost or clinging to the past. It’s been two years since Carter died and since then Louis has had a relationship with a very realistic, talkative ghost. They can’t have sex but nothing else seems to have changed. Louis is determined to keep Carter’s spirit alive until he’s confronted by a very real, very sexy bartender that forces Louis to face reality. In the midst of his mother’s failing health, Louis tries to make the toughest choice of his life.

Passing Time is a novel about redemption and courage. Louis is clinging to his dead lover’s ghost as a way to keep the man alive. While the main impetus for Louis to go to England is his mother’s poor health, the real focus of the story is on Louis and whether he can get past Carter’s death to be with someone new. This struggle isn’t easy or pretty as Louis lashes out at Jake again and again. Jake sees something in Louis worth fighting for and is determined to make the man come out of his shell. This back and forth struggle is honest, raw, and gripping. It’s not always easy to read and Louis often comes across very unlikable in his grief and pain.

Determined to cling to what he knows, Louis tries again and again to shut Jake into a corner and not let the man in. For a long time I wondered why Jake put up with this behavior and in some ways Louis doesn’t entirely redeem himself. But he’s trying and that’s the essence of the story. Louis tries to overcome his pain and heartache to try again. There’s a feeling of hope and optimism at the end. It’s not a happy ending per se, but perhaps more that one could potentially happen in the future.

The tone of the story is somewhat dark, matching the dreary England weather. Dealing with the dead and dying most of the book does not make for a very bright subject. In between are sex scenes between Louis and Jake as their main interaction is sexual until the very, very end. The sex is what initially prompts Louis to take a chance on more perhaps and very little is known about Jake other than what he says. He’s a bright spot that Louis reaches for in the darkness of the story. Some readers may find this too dark and indeed I found it depressing in some ways but there is a bit of hope, though perhaps not as much as I would have liked, at the end.

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