Title: The Imperfection of Swans
Author: Brandon Witt
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 284 Pages
At a Glance: Brandon, guess what? You do a great job! I definitely plan to keep reading and recommending your stories!
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Kevin Bivanti’s dream is to open a wedding dress shop, a place with the stunning gowns to make every bride-to-be feel adored. At thirty-eight, he quits a successful advertising career to buy an old brownstone in a trendy Boston neighborhood and to make his dream a reality. When one of his cosigners drops out, fate intervenes, ushering in Casper James, who hopes to open his own bakery. With Casper willing to take the risk, their ambitions meld into a wedding dress and wedding cake boutique.
Extensive renovations to the brownstone, an affair with his ex-husband, family drama with his mothers, and the anxiety of significant life changes push Kevin to the brink of a nervous breakdown. In the midst of stress and uncertainty, Casper becomes more than a business partner, a mutual attraction that adds another layer of intensity and risk.
With their dreams on the verge of reality, Kevin and Casper must find the courage to face the stress of managing their attraction, the gamble of a new business venture, and the resurgence of Kevin’s personal demons.
Review: I want to start with the cover, since it’s the first thing that grabs you about the book…The cover of Brandon Witt’s new release, The Imperfection of Swans, is STRIKING. And, it is made even more special by the fact that the model is Brandon’s real life best friend, Kevin, who is the inspiration for the character of Kevin in the book. The title itself is also fantastic, and so perfect for the story.
I have to admit, I was sucked in from the very start. The prologue was clearly designed to grab the readers—and grab you, it does. At first I was a little taken aback by the intensity of the opening, given the fairly light feel from the blurb, but giving us a glimpse of young Kevin, whose only peace came from looking at his glossy bridal magazines, was so effective. Even at age twelve, his drive and determination, as well as his strength and need for control, were very apparent. It was the perfect setup for introducing us to his character, and showing us the beginnings of his dream.
Everything about the wedding dress/wedding cake shop premise was fabulous. Every. Single. Thing. The descriptions of the building, including the neighborhood it was in, right down to the architecture and every phase of the remodel were extraordinary. It was so vivid in my mind, I truly felt like I could see it. Aside from all of the aesthetic and artistic appeal, it was also a brilliant setting for the burgeoning relationship between Casper and Kevin. The many discussions about the store provided endless opportunities for getting to know each other. Even though I felt differently about the characters individually—Kevin was a bit of a tougher sell than Casper—together they were wonderful; I was so invested in their love story.
I really enjoyed the ongoing theme of fate in the book, and one of the big reasons for that was that I adooooored Casper. He is just such a good egg. You can’t help but be completely pulled in by his good energy and overall attitude. His belief in fate and his sort of “if it’s meant to be, it will be” take on life was infectious. And, I loved that everything about him soothed Kevin.
I also loved that they both get salvation from their passion—the serenity of beautiful wedding gowns for Kevin, and the artistry of baking for Casper:
With each turn of the page, Kevin’s heart rate slowed. The shaking gradually stilled as one gorgeous white gown gave way to the next.
He loved this bakery. So warm. Bright. Clean. Some of the most beautiful pastries in the city. Already the sensation that he was losing his sanity began to dissipate.
Unfortunately, though, life isn’t all cake and wedding dresses. There were some much tougher issues to be dealt with in this story, too. Namely, Kevin’s anxiety and bulimia, with what definitely felt like a healthy dose of body dysmorphia on the side.
Brandon Witt does an admirable job of tackling the subject of Kevin’s eating disorder. Truthfully, I’m happy that he was brave enough to do it at all; it’s certainly an issue that might be intimidating for an author to take on. Could he have delved deeper? Sure. He definitely could have gone a bit more into Kevin’s recovery. But, it was obvious that he didn’t want it to be the ENTIRE focus of the book, and I appreciate that.
Some will ask, HOW could no one have known how sick Kevin was? I even asked it. But I think Brandon was careful to address those concerns, either by revealing that someone close to Kevin did have suspicions, or with the scene where Casper says to Kevin, when they were worrying about whether Kevin’s moms knew or not, “Sometimes you’re too close to a situation to really see it for what it is.” My dad is an alcoholic. He quit drinking almost thirty years ago, yet just six years ago he ended up in the hospital in a coma that the doctors didn’t think he’d wake from. From drinking. We all said, “No! That’s impossible! Dad doesn’t drink.” Well, he had been drinking a fifth of vodka nearly every day, and almost drank himself to death, right under his wife’s and his entire family’s noses. Things can be explained away, especially if the person is hiding it and there is another health issue to cover it up, as in Kevin’s case with his reflux.
Things eventually come to a head, of course, after Kevin has a rougher than normal day. And Casper feels he must go with his gut and ask the tough questions. There is a pivotal moment, a scene in the parking garage of the gym where Kevin has his largest on-page breakdown, that was incredibly intense and emotional. I felt more for Kevin in that scene, both when he was still in the gym, and then in the parking garage, than I did for the entire book.
Aside from Kevin’s health, though, the book overall has a lighter feel. The supporting characters are mostly fun—except for one of Kevin’s moms, Renata, who I unfortunately did NOT care for—and each adds something to the story. I’ve already mentioned how much I love the wedding dress shop and bakery, but I have to say again how fabulous it was. It lent to so many fun directions to take the guys: the bridal show in New York, a fabulous trip to another wedding dress shop to blow off steam in a fantastically hilarious way, and bakery counter sex, to name a few. *wink*
Which is a perfect segue to one of the last things I wanted to mention about Brandon’s writing. I love that he hasn’t succumbed to the pressure of writing more explicit sex, or the idea that romance novels HAVE to have sex in them. There is no on-page sex to speak of, his scenes are, for the most part, fade-to-black, yet there is no shortage of passion or sexiness. The romance is still there, and the heat is still there, but it’s conveyed through a solid story and solid writing. He has said in a couple of promo pieces that he is somewhat uncomfortable writing more conventional romance. Well, Brandon, guess what? You do a great job! I definitely plan to keep reading and recommending your stories!
NOTE: If you haven’t seen the video interview that Brandon and Kevin did for The Novel Approach, you should definitely go check it out. They speak at length about the title, and give some other great insights into the conception of the story, as well as the writing process.
You can buy The Imperfection of Swans here: