A guest review by LadyM
Review summary: An emotional story about two damaged men whose meeting offers them a chance to begin healing. Angst lovers, this book is for you!
Blurb: When Galvin Cloud — a shy young magazine writer — is unexpectedly offered a chance to interview his favorite author, he ought to be delighted. Instead, he’s terrified. Galvin has always idolized Spike Radcliff, but the idea of actually meeting him face to face is overwhelming…and despite the sensitivity of his prose, Spike has a reputation for being a surly, reclusive misanthrope. Galvin knows he can’t pass up this rare chance.
After a disastrous attempt at an interview, Spike surprises Galvin by offering him a job as his assistant. As they spend more time together, Galvin discovers that beneath the harsh exterior is a complex, broken man…one he’s quickly falling in love with.
I’ve read a few Amanda Steiger’s paranormal and fantasy stories and things that I liked about them were sufficient to make me curious about her latest offering – a contemporary novella titled Feet of Clay.
Twenty-year-old Galvin is working part-time in a literary magazine. He has moved out of his mother’s house a couple years ago and is trying to make a living on his own. At the beginning of the story, it is clear that Galvin suffers from psychological problems caused by a trauma whose anniversary is approaching. Fighting insomnia, depression and panic attacks, Galvin is finding comfort in reading Spike Radcliff’s books. He strongly identifies with Spike’s characters and, in his loneliness, fantasizes about the man he has never met. The opportunity to interview Spike is, therefore, both exciting and scary for Galvin. But, the man is nothing like Galvin imagined. Spike has demons of his own, including drinking and the inability to write. Their cautious interaction initiates the changes in both men, the changes that are terrifying and freeing at the same time.
I was never fond of angst in my fiction, especially romance. It seems to me that the reasons for angst often range from downright dumb to vastly exaggerated. When that is not a case, the authors frequently choose easy way out, the solution which magically makes everything better and, therefore, unrealistic. Allow me to be crass: Steiger’s protagonists have very good reasons for being fucked up. When they decide to take a chance on each other that fact doesn’t make their problems go away either. Both protagonists are damaged and their interactions are tentative, emotional and raw, but they also felt real. The author made them likable, which, I bet, wasn’t easy. Galvin is a walking wound, young and fragile and unstable, yet he is the one who pushes things forward, the one with the underlying strength and courage:
“I know you’re not perfect. I’m not perfect, either. I’m broken and fucked up and scared. I’m scared that this will go wrong, that I’ll do something to ruin it. But I want to try. I want to do everything I can to try to make it work.”
For all his cynicism and fear of love, there is yearning and hopefulness in Spike. He is caring and gentle, even when he is afraid. Plus, you have to love a man with a dark sense of humor:
“In fact, I’m pretty sure high school is that circle of Dante’s Inferno between the people buried in feces and the river of boiling blood.”
The author made an interesting decision to write the first half of the novella from Galvin’s and the second half from Spike’s point of view. While this initially pulled me out of the story, at the end I realized it was a good call. In a way, the parts of the story told from one character’s point of view highlighted the strengths of the other. The writing was very good, evoking the sense of isolation of these two men. In fact, aside from minor appearances of Galvin’s boss and doctor, Spike and Galvin are the only fully-fleshed characters. The protagonists were described in broader strokes as well, which added to this feeling: we get to see their personalities in one particular moment of time and only while interacting with each other. The sex was written beautifully and it perfectly reflected men’s characters as well as the uncertain union they are trying to build. I really noticed only two things that bothered me slightly: the use of gulp (gulped, gulping) 13 times in relatively short novella and one case of “magical hands” that should have been caught in editing (Spike puts Galvin’s hands on the metal bars of the bed, a few paragraphs later Galvin’s hands are gripping the sheets and a few paragraphs later Spike realizes that Galvin never moved the hands from the headboard).
Feet of Clay is not a classical romance. It is fair to say that story ends where the true romance should begin and that we were reading about the events that offered Galvin and Spike the chance to begin healing and start a new relationship. The open ending was a perfect fit for the story: the healing, like development of the relationship, is a process. If Ms. Steiger decides to give us another look into the lives of these two men, I will be the first in line to read it. However, this touching, well-written novella stands perfectly on its own and I can wholeheartedly recommend it.