- Book Title: Vespertine
- Authors: Leta Blake and Indra Vaughn
- Publisher: Ledra (September 7, 2015)
- Book Length: 396 pages
- Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Gay Fiction
- Reviewed by: Diane
- Rating: 5 Star
- Posting Date: September 22, 2015
I am a sucker for redemption tales, particularly when they tiptoe on the boundaries of personal belief and the frailties of the human heart. Vespertine, though on the face of it a convoluted and angsty romance, filled with heart-throbbing moments of self-derision and laced with the guilt of the ages, is actually quite a bit more than it seems on the surface.
One of my chief bugaboos with writers is too often they fail to do sufficient research, trespassing on the location, location, location missteps that take me out of a story and ultimately result in a DNF. Then there’s the issue of canon: when a story so strongly focuses on all things evangelical, including the very personal journey of one man called early on to fulfill his destiny in service to a higher calling, it’s sometimes impossible to set aside one’s own preconceptions and acknowledge that though the paths differ, the life lessons do not. And finally, a story rises and
falls on the particulars, the careful rendering of authentic details, the intimacy and understanding of actions and consequences, the nature of addiction and obsession and how they are related.
Verpertine passed all the above metrics with flying colors, much to my amazement. And because I’m a stickler for detail, I researched the RC church in Maine, explored the current state of ideology and practice and asked the question: would a congregation support a gay priest and his initiatives? Was I suspending disbelief or was this premise based on an understanding and appreciation of the socio-religious culture that in turn would be the underpinning for much of the plot and this character-driven tale? The short answer: yes, yes indeed. Again, this reviewer is impressed.
But Vespertine is not all wine and roses in its execution, there are hiccoughs and reasons why I almost stopped reading. Joint authorial efforts require, at the least, convergent styles, similar voices, and clarity in understanding how to execute a multi-layered exploration of dependency, enabling and growth. There were times when the narrative was heavily dialog driven, then just as weighted toward descriptive prose that often became repetitious as each character re-iterated over and over past feelings of abandonment, betrayal, guilt and anger. There were excuses proffered aplenty from both Father Jazz and from the severely damaged psyche of Nicky, excuses that at once seemed infantile and self-indulgent, but eventually—when played out on the larger stages onto which each man stepped—achieved a cohesiveness and unity of vision that finally focused the story into a breathtaking rush of hormonal energy.
What I’m saying is that Vespertine took a very long time to reach the synergy required to invest the reader in each character and to fill in the outlines created by converging storylines, as if one were reading in tandem separate biopics: book one about Nicki and his personality disorders, buttressed by the consequences of stepping onto a world stage driven by greed and moral turpitude. Book two would be Jasper’s story, not so much his coming of age and out of the closet, but rather his recognition of that higher calling and taking steps toward fulfilling that mandate.
Jasper is a conundrum. He had what Nicki did not—a moral center and an ability to subsume his own needs and desires behind the collar and the liturgy. Whereas Nicki is raw, rough and undisciplined—even supremely indulgent and at first not exactly a likeable character—Jasper comes across as one-dimensional, too good to be true. It is both an impression and a reality, and that gloss of sanctity and invincibility will cost him. Think Father Ralf from The Thorn Birds, then recall the man who refused to acknowledge his weaknesses because he was able to hide behind the cloak of expediency. Father Jasper is like that man, hiding inside a skin of complacency. What sets them apart is how each priest approached the break point of choice that redefined their concepts of faith and commitment.
When Vespertine finally hit its stride, this reviewer was in for the long haul. There was a relentless drive toward the HEA, sometimes to the exclusion of some sorely needed reality checks, but by then suspension of disbelief was smashed to smithereens and this reader had no choice but clutch at tissues and gasp.
Vespertine took imperfection and wove it into a compelling tale of undying love in the face of nearly insurmountable odds—and made a believer out of this reviewer. This is clearly a Five Star, recommended read.
Can a priest and a rock star obey love’s call?
Seventeen years ago, Jasper Hendricks and Nicholas Blumfeld’s childhood friendship turned into a secret, blissful love affair. They spent several idyllic months together until Jasper’s calling to the Catholic priesthood became impossible to ignore. Left floundering, Nicky followed his own trajectory into rock stardom, but he never stopped looking back.
Today, Jasper pushes boundaries as an out, gay priest, working hard to help vulnerable LGBTQ youth. He’s determined to bring change to the church and the world. Respected, admired, and settled in his skin, Jasper has long ignored his loneliness.
As Nico Blue, guitarist and songwriter for the band Vespertine, Nicky owns the hearts of millions. He and his bandmates have toured the world, lighting their fans on fire with their music. Numbed by drugs and fueled by simmering anger, Nicky feels completely alone. When Vespertine is forced to get sober, Nicky returns home to where it all started.
Jasper and Nicky’s careers have ruled their lives since they parted as teens. When they come face to face again, they must choose between the past’s lingering ghosts or the promise of a new future.
Author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing.
Go to the Author Page for Leta Blake
After living in Michigan, USA for seven wonderful years, Indra Vaughn returned back to her Belgian roots. There she will continue to consume herbal tea, do yoga wherever the mat fits, and devour books while single parenting a little boy and working as a nurse.
Go to the Author Page for Indra Vaughn
Go to Pinterest – Books We Talk About
Other Works by Leta Blake:
Other Works by Indra Vaughn: