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Monday, February 13, 2012

Secret Light by Z.A. Maxfield

Secret Light by Z.A. Maxfield
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (160 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cactus

Rafe Colman likes his life. He has a nice home, a good job, and a wonderful dog. But he's exhausted by living a lie. When his home is vandalized because of his perceived German ancestry, he can't even share the irony with friends.

Officer Ben Morgan falls for Rafe's dog first, but it isn't long before he's giving her owner the eye. He thinks they have more in common than the search for Rafe's vandals, and he's willing to take a chance and find out.

If life in 1955 is tough on a cop in the closet, it's even tougher on a refugee who's desperate to hide his roots and fit in. Rafe knows from tragic experience how vicious prejudice can be. Every second with Ben is stolen, every kiss fraught with danger.

When Ben's partner threatens to ruin everything, Rafe and Ben have to fight to protect what they have but they're tired of hiding their secret light.

Rafe’s been hiding the truth for so long he’s worried he may have lost himself in the process. Life is tough for an Austrian living in the US in 1955. Although he lost his family as they fled from the Nazis, Rafe is often seen as German. After losing everyone he’s ever cared about due to their heritage and life style, Rafe is afraid to show any part of himself. He’s cultivated an image of an all American ladies man living a quintessential bachelor life that he clings to religiously. Only when officer Ben gets a glimpse into the lonely reality, is Rafe’s carefully cultivated world rocked.

Secret Light is a moving story about loss and fear set in the 1050's. This post-war era shows bigotry and fear running rampant and how two men try to circumvent the pitfalls of a taboo relationship. Ben is a cop hiding the fact that he’s gay. Living with an elderly mother gives Ben a good cover but it may not be enough when he falls for Rafe. Behind Rafe’s careful image is a desperately lonely and scared man. He’s been taught all his life that being honest will lead to prejudice and loss. He wants to fight his connection with Ben but their need is too great.

The story is well written, as are all books by this author, but it has a distinctively different tone and pace. The seriousness of the topics and issues brought up lend a weighty feel to the story. The pace helps with this as the pages fly by with language that helps alleviate the otherwise dark tone. Instead the romance feels real and so genuine that you can’t help but be moved. Both men are wonderfully realistic with honest issues and flaws. Rafe’s fear is not something to be overcome but worked with. He has real reasons not to be open and the story works with that instead of seeing it as an obstacle to overcome. This happens with most issues so the end result is a very authentic feel to the relationship and outcome.

Secret Light is not necessarily a feel good story but it’s wonderfully written and highlights a more realistic look at gay men in that time. It offers a hopeful ending with men deeply in love trying to etch out a future the best way they can. There are a few quibbles here and there but honestly this stands out in the genre and makes it easy to recommend and like. It’s different but more so moving without being heartbreaking or too intense.

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