“All persons are puzzles until at last we find in some word or act the key to the man.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Luke Schumacher is a computer programme designer, working from home and leading a simple life in a humble apartment complex. One day he receives a newspaper with a hidden message in the crossword. Fascinated by the cryptic allusion to his daily routine, Luke sets out to find out the identity of the mysterious crossword guru. Alex Shaw is the wheelchair bound man in question, fascinated by the handsome Luke and after the puzzle is solved, the two men embark on a romance that will test their differences and challenge their conceptions of how far they will go to find true love. Can Luke look deep enough into Alex’s heart to see past the wheelchair, and if he does, can Alex let go of his own insecurities to let love in?
This one was a no-brainer for me. I love Eli Easton and her last short sold me for life. Superhero flew straight to the top of my list of YA books I love and thus cemented my idea of what I desire from a short story writer. This addition to her body of work did not let me down one bit. It wasn’t just that she catered to my inner geek (although it did help) but that she crafted such amazingly realistic characters and did so with one MC in a wheelchair. The character of Alex was so charming to read, and I loved the way his character was written from a place of strength. It was a testament to the author’s skill and ability to retell emotion that delivered a very triumphant portrayal of a man refusing to let his shortcomings hamper his chances at a real life.
The character of Luke was a wonderfully written creation and I found myself not reading his words, but feeling him instead. Easton’s ability to mould her words into the visual is astounding and this character was perfectly written, a tribute to her immense talent. But the thing that really made this story for me was the dialogue. It was so incredibly amusing, so natural and effortless and made me wish I was half as good with words to be able to come out with some of the pure gold that was coming from inside the characters. I found myself either nodding in agreement or doubled over laughing at the exchanges, and I am not easily impressed, so that was a very great feat.
Of course, the MC’s weren’t the only characters to drive the story on its impressive path. Alex’s sister Amy was an acidic delight, her mother hen tendencies to protect her brother heart-warming as she swayed from Luke’s adversary to his ally. Even the rarely mentioned best friend Marco was a treasure on the page, the character list of this short was flawless. But with everything good thing, I feel the need for a little balance.
The end of this short story was alarmingly brief. One second it was in this realistic end of second arc drama, then with one paragraph it was all resolved. I found myself whiplashed as I shuddered into the final words, violently scrolling southwards, at least praying for an epilogue, but to no avail. It just wrapped up in five lines and I was a little disappointed. But you know what? The bulk of this story, coupled with the endearing plotline and relatable characters still made this little addition to m/m fiction a winner in my eyes. I was not puzzled, just impressed, and with that I give it 4 stars, with my own personal recommendation for anyone who has not yet discovered the artful talents of Mrs Easton to get going, and pick up this instalment to her impressive selection.