Author: Kim Fielding
Cover art: Anne Cain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Speechless
Length: Novella/15,525 words/62 PDF pages
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A guest review by LadyM
Review summary: Well-written, sweet story with two sympathetic, unusual protagonists which needed a bit more fleshing out to receive the highest rating
Blurb: Travis Miller has a machining job, a cat named Elwood, and a pathetic love life. The one bright spot in his existence is the handsome guitar player he sometimes passes on his way home from work. But when he finally gathers the courage to speak to the man, Travis learns that former novelist Drew Clifton suffers from aphasia: Drew can understand everything Travis says, but he is unable to speak or write.
The two lonely men form a friendship that soon blossoms into romance. But communication is only one of their challenges—there’s also Travis’s inexperience with love and his precarious financial situation. If words are the bridge between two people, what will keep them together?
Following his job, Travis has moved from California to Portland. Even after months in the new city, he has no friends and no love life. His only company is his cat Elwood. Travis is lonely, so it’s not really surprising that a man he often sees playing guitar on his way home from work catches his attention. When he introduces himself to Andrew “Drew” Clifton, it marks a beginning of a friendship and, later, a love affair.
I was intrigued by this story because I knew nothing about aphasia, a condition Drew suffers from. I was curious to see how author would describe the communication between the two characters, considering that one of them cannot talk or write. I am happy to say that the communication was ingenious (Anarchy in the UK!) and often amusing. The author wrote Drew’s character with a lot of understanding and respect and used his condition to highlight his need for independence as well as Travis’s kindness. Unexpectedly, Travis has a disability of his own, more obvious than Drew’s, and it is not until a certain point in the story that this information is revealed. I liked this author’s decision, because it showed us different ways the men are dealing with their problems.
The progression of their relationship is slow, natural and sweet. It was impossible for me not to see that these two men were perfect for each other. Both men have baggage – Drew due to the loss of his career and consequent disappointments and Travis due to the poor relations with his family and lack of experience with the relationships – but the story is surprisingly short on angst. The men are getting to know each other and they deal with things as they come their way. There is a short separation in the last part of the story, but not due to their stupidity or Big Misunderstanding. The situation was realistic, especially considering current economy and Drew’s condition. It was more a case of misplaced pride on Travis’s side, though I couldn’t really fault him for that. He misses Drew enough and he is smart enough to take a good advice from unexpected source and save their relationship.
The writing was clean and fluid, which is something I have come to expect from this author. The tone was low-key and sweet which was underlined by non-explicit sex scenes.
While I enjoyed the story very much, it wasn’t without the flaws. Both Travis and Drew exist solely within the limitations of their relationship and their lives outside of it were barely scratched. For example, Travis is a machinist, but he could have been a valet or a clerk and the story wouldn’t change at all. It is also clear that he was somewhat defined by his family problems, but these things were left vague and I wanted to know more about his life before he met Drew (though we get a glimpse through his friend Sara). Similarly, because we only see Drew as he is today and in the relationship with Travis, it was hard to understand what makes him tick. I wished that the characters were better fleshed out, though I suppose the author was limited by the story’s length. Finally, the ending was rather abrupt and we are not given the time to savor the men’s happy ending. A page or two more wouldn’t have hurt the story.
Overall, Speechless is a well-written, angst-free story with two characters unusual for this genre. It’s short and well worth your time and I wouldn’t mind seeing these two again, further down the road.