This is going to sound sort of corny but here it goes anyway. Have you ever had a book “call” to you? In a way this one did that to me, perhaps it was the realization that I’m not as tough as I thought I was, I’m susceptible to the challenges of a body that isn’t 100% anymore and then get the bejeezus scared out of me. Perhaps, it was that moment when you realize that life is not eternal that ahead of us lays heartache and choices. For these reasons the book felt very personal to me.
This book also fascinates me in the way it was written. Their are 2 styles of type, your standard type such as this and then the italicized type. Each of these type styles represent a different point of view.
With the standard type the story is told through a third party, and it gives you the feeling that this narrator is almost ghost like, looking down at Clay and recounting Clay’s life as it unfolds. This is where the grief and guilt are found, and it lays heavily. There are times when you really hate Clay but then you are lead to understand his emotional turmoil. Other times you want to take him in your arms and console him. This is not a happy book, it deals with very real emotions during a time of loss. You will be held breathless at times, have I stated how well written this book is?
The italicized type represent a journal entry or the inner thoughts of Clay’s. This was the most emotional for me, with each passage it starts out “There was something I forgot to say.” I don’t think I need to elaborate any further, you can garner from that statement why it was emotional. These passages in the book are the road map of the 10 year relationship that Clay and Gregg shared. A lesson learned here, don’t forget to tell someone special about your feelings, you never know if there may come a day when you won’t be able to.
I really had to chuckle when I received the Guest Post. What BJ writes in his Guest Post is a direct reference to what I was going through in regards to how I was going to classify this book for you. This book doesn’t fit in your stereotypical categories it really is a work of Literary Fiction but it is also a Romance, the love that poured from these pages was insurmountable. But there was only one living character, how can I say this is a Romance? You’ll understand why I chuckled when I received the Guest Post now, because BJ answered the question for me so eloquently.
Guest Post by BJ Sheppard:
Romance vs Fiction
So, I’ve seen this debate circling round the genre again, and it’s one that always puzzles me. I figured I’d chuck in my two cents and invite you all to do the same in the comments below.
What exactly is romance?
On a personal level it’s simply the things we do, big or small, to show the person we love that we care about them, that we are thinking of them. Romance can range from giving your beloved the last cookie, promising to stop farting in enclosed spaces when they are around, or buying flowers for them every day. It doesn’t have rules, and it won’t make sense to everyone. It seems to me that the outcome of the act is what constitutes the romance. Did they smile? Yeah? Then you won. Did they slap you? Yeah? Well, now you know that your beloved will not tolerate watersports and that golden shower you lovingly gave is not as romantic to your betrothed.
With romance being so different and diverse to each person, it baffles me why we feel the need to pigeonhole the word when it comes to our books. What is it that makes us feel the need to apply arbitrary rules to what some people may find completely endearing, whilst others find it abhorrent?
Most books, you will find, have a love story running through them. It doesn’t matter what the story is, at least one of your characters will be in love and will act on it. Even if the overall subject of the book is about attacks by genetically modified tomato people taking over the world, as long as your MCs end up happy in the end, you got yourself a romance book. That is just silly.
If a book is about a couple fighting for their relationship, pulling out all the stops, going above and beyond to save it, and then finding out that there is nothing they can do, going their separate ways and being happier without each other – is that a romance? In my mind, it is. I may be cynical, but to apply a ‘happy every after’ seems juvenile and unrealistic. Don’t get me wrong, I love the warm and fuzzies as much as the next guy, but who can honestly say that they lived happily ever after? It implies people don’t get sick, argue, cheat, fall out of love or die. Nothing is eternal, even love, so why is this presumed unrealistic happiness all that seems to define a genre?
A man can lead a life filled with romance, and end up single and alone. If the greatest thing that ever happened to this guy was that he loved and lost, and that’s the main event of his life story, to me, it’s still a romance. It seems myopic to assume that romance can only be romantic if it all works out. I think we need to ease off the endings a little. Sure, writing and reading are escapism, but not ending up in a cliché does not mean you can’t have a happy ending. Just because the last page might see the MC walk off into the distance alone, doesn’t mean there aren’t countless wonderful experiences waiting on the other side of the horizon. Stories don’t end where they do in books. They carry on. People age and get complacent and wither and have work done and break hips in the shower and laugh and cry and divorce and remarry. Happiness however can be forever – it just doesn’t need to be with someone. Romance has such breadth and is so deeply diverse that it can encompass all outcomes. I’ve said it before, but Romeo and Juliet is probably known as the greatest love story ever told. Both these characters wound up defeated and dying to avoid being separated. It’s a dark ending, sure, but to me, it still has a romantic ending. Not one I would recommend, naturally, but still, the end of that story saw two young lovers rather die than let their families pull them apart. And their deaths meant something. Shakespeare implied that the love that led to the death of their children may have patched up an age-old rift between warring families. With this in mind, I consider this a great romantic tale, much like people have throughout the years since the Bard wrote his greatest tragedy. I look at the romance I write with the same accepting eye – that not all romances will wind up with a wedding and life of happiness and bliss. Life doesn’t work that way, and I like to acknowledge that in my writing. Always Have, Always Will is much the same. The outcome might seem too bleak for some, but the message was pure romance – facing the death of his one true love, Clay chose to follow rather than to carry on without that love. What could be more tragic and romantic?
These are just my opinions of course. What do you think? Am I missing something? Or do you agree? Sound off below folks. Tell me I’m wrong.
Imagine losing everything you ever loved in the blink of an eye. For Clayton Palmer, that terrible fate has just become a reality as he buries his lover, Gregg, after a brief and futile battle with cancer. Now, in the house in which they shared their love for all those years, Clay’s own life is slowly fading. In a war with his ailing body, Clay reminisces over the life they shared. Knowing time is running out, memories of their joy and sadness come to him; vignettes forming a road map back to the man he always loved; always has and always will.
The Social Links:
My name is BJ Sheppard and all at once I found myself an author. Such a strange sensation to actually feel you deserve the thing you had aspired to for many years. After all, all it took was
computer access and an inner world that reads like a Sheryl Crow song to pound the keys and translate my crazy ideas onto the page. I feel like I could have business cards printed. Maybe wear a black roll neck and perch my glasses on the tip of my nose. I could drink whisky and smoke a cigar and do all those really stereotypical things I imagine all writers do. Perhaps I could get laid a little more? This is not the end. Nor the beginning. Hell, it isn’t even about me. My boys write themselves; I really don’t have that much say in the matter. As long as my characters need a voice, I have two chubby typing fingers and a need to please—there is more to come.