Author: Robert Halliwell
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages
At a Glance: Mr. Halliwell not only makes this story his own but presents to his readers an exciting, witty, smart and deliciously snarky voice that could never be mistaken for anything other than genuine and fresh!
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Robbie DeCaro leaves Foster, Texas and returns to Long Island, searching for the life he had before the tragic loss of his only love.
Snarky yet good-hearted Robbie DeCaro made his first appearance in the pages of Tales from Foster High: End of the Innocence, years after the loss of his first and only love. A New York transplant, Robbie now decides that his work is done in the town of Foster, and the time has come for him to leave Texas.
Returning to his childhood home on Long Island, Robbie reunites with his family members. Each using their own unique methods, they try in vain to help Robbie reset to a life he knew before he left it all for the fairy-tale love he found, then tragically lost.
As he remembers some of the darkest moments from his past, Robbie wonders if he’ll ever find the “after” in “happily ever after.”
Review: Before I begin my review, I want to speak to something very important when it comes to new authors such as Robert Halliwell. It’s not often that an author establishes such a solid “voice” in his first novel. Just so we are on the same page, the author’s voice, as it is described on Writeability, is as follows: “Voice is the author’s style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character.”
That is a very powerful statement, and sometimes it takes authors several stories before they find their way. In this case, where the novel in question, A Way Back to Then, is actually a spinoff featuring a character from a highly popular and established series, Tales from Foster High, it was pretty imperative that Mr. Halliwell establish his own voice so as not to merely imitate John Goode, the author of the aforementioned series. I am so excited and delighted to report that Mr. Halliwell not only makes this story his own but presents to his readers an exciting, witty, smart and deliciously snarky voice that could never be mistaken for anything other than genuine and fresh!
What an incredible first novel this author wrote for us. Jumping right from the Foster High series, A Way Back to Then seamlessly picks up on the life of Robbie DeCaro, the Long Island transplant who’d moved to Foster with his boyfriend Riley a few years previous. When Riley was killed during a hit and run hate crime, Robbie began on a self-destructive path, embracing and unleashing his “inner Diva,” and erecting a wall so high and thick around his heart that it is doubtful he will ever love again.
Plagued by panic attacks and a pain that runs so deep, he is finally able to come to terms with a friend who watched the accident but did nothing to help as Riley lay dying in his arms. Prior to his packing up and heading home to his mother’s home in Long Island, Robbie finds a restless peace with the town of Foster, and leaves the dregs of his bitterness over their quiet bigotry behind. Once home, he feels so lost, and while he tries to reconnect with former friends (and I use that term loosely), he finds that he can’t bring himself to do the cruising bar scene again. It takes his sister, Nicole, and her crafty blind date set up to finally bring Robbie back into the dating scene, with near disastrous results. The real question becomes, can Robbie ever find the strength and bravery to let that wall he is so safe behind crumble and let someone in? Could this blind date, Sebastian, be the one who can finally break through?
I could give you paragraphs about the supporting cast, the main characters, the wit and humor of the rapier sharp dialogue, and the incredible journey that Robbie finally begins once he allows himself the luxury of being happy, and trusting that emotion again. I could remark on Robbie’s family and their love/fighting/bitchery that makes them some of the most interesting and hilarious secondary characters ever to grace a novel. I could tell you that while this novel draws its origins in the Foster High series, it is a completely different animal and could indeed be the anchor for a new series by Robert Halliwell—should he choose to continue Robbie and Sebastian’s story (by the way, I vote a BIG YES on that idea). Finally, I could tell you that this new author, this amazing new “voice,” is never run-of-the-mill, overdone or trite, but dynamic, humorous, heartbreaking and incredibly well written.
Instead, I will say just this: buy this book. Don’t miss out on what I believe could be one of the freshest new voices in the M/M genre. This story will make you feel a gamut of emotions, and, each time, leave you breathless and hungry for just a little more of this marvelous story.
You can buy A Way Back to Then here: