Rating: 2 stars
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I labored over this review for quite some time. Pictures on Silence by D.W. Marchwell was a most unusual story. It was not your typical M/M romance. In fact, there were times when I almost felt the novel was an overly long, ongoing public service announcement on behalf of the Humane Society. I know that sounds strange but let me give you the basic plot points for this story and you will see what I am talking about.
Barkley Reinhardt is a fairly self-absorbed opera singer that commands top dollar. He is also often misrepresented as being “difficult and unapproachable.” When he announces his retirement, his story hits the front page and every paper in town wants a piece of him. Duncan Spencer works for the Communique, a second-class paper where he is paying his dues after his stellar fall from grace. Having uncovered a major political scheme, Duncan refused to name his source, which landed him in jail for 28 days. While there, his source committed suicide, citing fear of exposure as the reason. Duncan’s reputation was ruined and his spirit crushed. Now he is given the assignment to do an article about the retiring opera singer, Barkley Reinhardt. After meeting Barkley for an interview, both men are startled by the attraction they feel. It helps that both of them are avid animal lovers.
In fact, this is where the story now began to foray into just how much both men are smitten by the various animals both own. We come to realize that one of the ways Barkley is dealing with not being there for his parents as they lay dying has been to immerse himself in rescuing animals that are in danger of being euthanized. He has a virtual menagerie that includes a pot bellied pig and a blind kitten.
What I found difficult with this story was the constant time spent on the animals themselves. Detailed passages about feedings, walkings, and Barkley working toward establishing his own farm that would provide a sanctuary for abandoned animals. The irony of his very name—Barkley—was not lost on me. But when it came to developing the romance and relationship between Duncan and Barkley, Marchwell just fell flat. Sex was always predicated on making sure animals were not in the room and then the slight worry or angst over how the animals were faring seemed to accompany every intimate moment between Duncan and Barkley.
Pictures on Silence was a public service statement regarding animal rights first and an m/m romance second. There were constant references to a shady past for Barkley and a reason why he would never be good enough for Duncan. When the big reveal happened, I literally scratched my head and sighed in frustration over the lack of an earth-shattering secret. Everything regarding these two men and their growing love for each other seemed to pass through a filter of how well the animals were faring and how much they were falling in love with them—NOT each other.
All in all, Pictures on Silence will warm an animal lover’s heart. How it fares as an M/M contemporary romance, however, remains to be seen. For me, this was a lopsided novel that never really gave me the love story it promised.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.