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Sometimes an entire lifetime can be spent in the arms and heart of one person. It is not so with imaginations, for they go anywhere they wish.
David Ayres and Arthur Smith are about to find that out. When they meet as young men within the garden walls of the Mission of San Juan Capistrano, one man from one continent, one from another, an uncontrollable attraction brings them together. But it is something stronger than attraction that holds them there. It is love. Pure and simple.
After forty years, when the fabric of their existence together finally begins to fray because of David’s imaginary infidelities, it is with humor and commitment that they strive to remain in each other’s heart.
And turning fantasy into reality, they find, is the best way to do it.
I have so many mixed feelings about this book. On one side, it was everything I expected to be: a love story of two men that after having been together for so long are now trying to overcome the difficulties that time, and routine, and being way too comfortable bring to the table. On the other side, it was everything I didn’t want this to be: a bit creepy, and at times upsetting.
Long story short: David and Arthur have been together for 40 years. They met in their early twenties and they have been together since. As time passed by, what happens to most couples who’ve been together for so long, routine hit, and that feeling of taking everything for granted kicks in. I think this was, mostly, a quite realistic assessment of what can happen to a lot of couples who’ve been in a relationship for… well, a lifetime.
The story alternates between present and past time. In present time we have 64 years old David, and 61 years old Arthur. They’ve been together for forty years, but have only been married for a year. In past time we have both MC’s in their 20’s, and we get to see how they met and how they fell in love.
Their love story is actually beautiful. I smiled a lot through the recollections that David tells us in his story, but this only happened (or mostly, anyway), when David talks about their past. The moment present time kicked in, I felt uneasy, angry, cheated, sad, and with a terrible feeling of wanting to protect Arthur, because, truly? David was an ass most of the time. Old David, I mean.
Have you ever fantasized about having hot, sweaty, mad, sex with [insert name]? Yes? No? Maybe?… Well, I have. And I know a lot of people who have. David does. My problem with this was that I’m talking about 64 years old David fantasizing about guys in their early/mid-twenties. The image was not a pretty one. It was actually uncomfortable for me to read. When I picked up the book, one of the reasons that made me do it was that I wanted to see how the whole fantasy thing was dealt with, unfortunately, it did not work for me. It was not nice. It was rather creepy, in my opinion, but I think that what made it even creepier (for me), was the fact that there were multiple men, and multiple fantasies, and that, sadly, they didn’t seem to serve a real purpose. There was a point, yes, but the point could’ve been perfectly made with only two. I don’t think there was any need to throw 11 or 13 fantasies in there. I found this very upsetting, since they really added very little-to nothingl to the plot.
One of the most dangerous things about constantly fantasizing, especially about real people, is that at some point it really starts affecting your relationship. While there was a complexity underneath the whole David-can’t-stop-thinking-about-younger-bubble-butts, it doesn’t come across very clearly. As we age, we start getting insecure. Our bodies change, we get grays or lose our hair, we’re not as fit as we used to, we get wrinkles… Yes, I am focusing on the changes on the outside because it affects how we, internally, feel about ourselves. This happened to David. His fantasies seemed to be a refuge where he would go to make himself desirable, and where he would avoid real sex, why? Because he didn’t like himself anymore and he felt ashamed. It was heartbreaking, and it was sad. I’m saying this not thinking about David, but instead, thinking about Arthur, his partner, who had to sit next to his lover while the man fantasized about a younger and tighter ass. Arthur expressed his discomfort, and his sadness, many times, and David’s treatment of him wasn’t nice. I felt for Arthur, so much. I wanted to crawl into the book, take him out of there, and bring him home. Make him a cuppa (he’s British), and hold him tight.
At some point in the book something bad happens that switches what has been happening. This happening makes David realize that he’s been fucking up and starts working on getting rid of his constant fantasy escapades. What we read here, after he really decides to stop, is absolutely beautiful and touching. I enjoyed to see how they rediscovered each other and grew to fall into that easy pace that they had had for so long. Reading about the old version of them falling into each other, making love, and enjoying who they were, enjoying being in their own skin, was very, very nice. BUT… Yes, there is a but. I’m sorry, I can’t help it. The fact that the reason why David had a change of heart was an external thing made me wonder, so many times, what would’ve happened if that tragedy hadn’t hit them? The chances that he would have continued with that behavior, hurting his partner (and knowing it), are VERY high. It felt, to some extent, that he stopped first out of guilt, and second out of love. While the change was there, it didn’t feel as genuine as I would have liked.
Their young-love love story is gorgeous. I would have loved to see more of that. Lots more. I loved to read about how they met, and how they started to fall for each other. I loved to read about the obstacles that they had to overcome to stay together. I enjoyed a lot the sweetness between them. I also enjoyed how reading about their young selves tied up with reading about their old selves. How all kind of fell into place.
The writing is beautiful, even if the dialogues at time are hurtful. The prose is fantastic, and it’s easy to get into this book despite the heartbreak.
I do have a couple of warnings if you decide to pick up this book: Through David we are told about the one time he cheated on Arthur. So, yes, there is cheating. And yes, it is absolutely selfish. And, yes. I disliked it. So, not only you have a bunch of fantasies, but also there is on page (and very explicit) cheating. I know some folks can read about this and be okay with it, but I know other people just don’t like it and try to avoid it.
Title: Chasing the Swallows
Author: John Inman
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: April 17, 2015
Purchase Links: Dreamspinner