Rating: 4.5 stars
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Patrick Harford lives with his drunken father and has been abandoned by his mother, who lives with her new family in another state and only thinks of him as a charity case. The one bright spot in his life is the Renaissance Faire, where people from all walks of life accept one another and work together to entertain the masses. The Faire feels like the only place Patrick belongs, so when he’s befriended by the handsome performer Eric, he feels like he’s finally found a friend.
Eric introduces Patrick to his partner, Roger, and to the world of drag queen performance. Once again, Patrick finds a world where he’s accepted, and he starts to perform as Titania, a fairie queen, and receives quite a bit of recognition for his natural talent. Patrick goes home every night to a father who only cares about drinking and would never accept Patrick for who he is. He’s grateful to have found a new family amongst the performers of the fair, but he’s working himself to death in order to save up enough money to move to his own place.
At a gathering with his friends, Patrick meets Yu, who works as a blacksmith apprentice at the Faire. Yu isn’t exactly the warm and fuzzy type, but Patrick thinks he may be falling in love for the first time in his life — and he didn’t even realize he was gay! Yu’s not the easiest man to get to know, and their individual circumstances keep standing in the way of their relationship. In addition, Patrick’s picked up an ardent fan who’s much too interested in him for his comfort level. With so many things stacked against him, Patrick’s not sure if he can ever have the life he desires, but he’s willing to work like crazy to get to that point.
This was a charming book that takes place within the world of the Renaissance Faire. There’s something about this magical setting that adds a sense of romance and infinite possibility to the life of a young man who has struggled for all of his life. Nothing has ever come easy for Patrick so it’s heart-warming to see him find a family who truly loves and cares about him but, most of all, to find himself within the world of the Faire and his performance as a drag queen. It’s also great to read about a boy who accepts himself, and all the changes that brings, with hardly any angst or self-questioning. Patrick is an extremely strong character, who isn’t afraid to transform himself and get up on a stage and perform. I loved him for that.
The supporting characters in this book are a lot of fun. The Renaissance Faire is full of people who are a little odd and quirky, people who become Patrick’s family. I thought the author did a good job of representing people from all walks of life, but also not allowing them to become caricatures by having over the top personalities. Each member of his family is secure in the people they are and the work that they do and are a wonderful support to Patrick. I particularly loved the couple of Eric and Roger, who embrace him immediately and have perhaps the first strong, loving relationship Patrick has ever seen.
This novel is well-written and captures your attention from the very first page. My only criticism is that the story lost steam close to the end. I felt like the conflict was a bit hurried and not very well-developed or believable. The most interesting struggle, that which certainly exists between Yu and Patrick and the new, very different lives they suddenly find themselves in, was largely ignored in the last pages of the book. For a book that was strong on characterization, this felt like a disappointment. It’s a pet peeve of mine when a book flash forwards a little bit, gives us a few pages of what’s going on now, and ends with a sex scene. It seems like the easy way out.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it. It’s a sweet story with very little angst about a young man who is trying to find himself and is doing quite a good job of it. There are some struggles, yes, but it’s heartening to see his strength buoyed up by the strength of the people around him. Definitely pick this one up.