After having suffered a stroke, Nate Meyer can no longer make his yearly trip to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Fortunately, his grandson Blaine knows how much that trip means to him, though they’ve never discussed it, and Blaine takes Nate. Nate may be immobile and unable to speak, but his mind is still there. Sitting in the cold, waiting to hear the bells from a church that haven’t rung on New Year’s Eve since World War II, Nate learns the truth about his grandson. Blaine is in love with another man, the beautiful kind-hearted Tony, and Nate knows that if things had turned out differently, he would have spent his life as a “bachelor” with his beloved Walter by his side. And Nate remembers how it all came to be.
An officer in the US Air Force, Nate’s ability to take pictures lands him a job as an officer and a recon photographer. On a mission, he notices something different, something important, and demands that he be able to photograph the evidence. But it alerts the enemy to their position, and his plane is shot down. With his pilot dead, Nate is rescued by Walter, who is MIA and has been holed up in an abandoned cabin with no way to return to his unit. Walter nurses him back to health, and the two men become friends.
But the life they are building is pretend. There is a constant threat of being discovered, and one night, they come close to being found. It is in that instance that Nate finally realizes that Walter returns his feelings. Nate makes promises that Walter doesn’t want to hear. Though they finally have hope of rescue, putting their trust in a French woman, the love between them is all that sustains them. Until the worst comes to pass. Nate has no choice but to go on living his life, making the most of himself, and waiting for the time to come that he can be with Walter again.
This book was so much more than I expected. I knew there would be heartbreak and hope. And it had those in spades. But the detail, the emotion, the undying love, it was all so much more intense and rewarding than I expected it to be.
We begin the book with Nate as he is now, and we are privy to his thoughts as he’s basically trapped inside his own body. And this man, this proper, genteel man, has known a love so great, so all consuming, that even though he’s been without his Walter for many decades, Walter is still a deeply ingrained part of his heart. I loved that Lane chose to begin the book in the present and then take us on a journey to the past. It gave us a unique perspective into Nate’s growth. We knew where he ended up, and then we got to see how he got there. It was lovely, and incredibly well done.
And sweet Walter? What can I say about this eager, earnest young man? He had a horrible life growing up, and he joined the military on his eighteenth birthday to get away from it. He was far older than his years belied, having to grow up way too fast. But he still had a beautiful soul. And though it was hard for him to believe in the promises Nate wanted to give, he did in the end. Because the love between them was obviously real.
The romance between them grew organically. First becoming friends and then gradually moving to more, these two men had stolen moments in time. Both because of the time in which they fell in love, and because of their situation. They were trapped together, relying on each other for survival, and it could have easily felt forced. But these two men were not the type to fall into bed together because it was easy. No, it was only because of their love for each other, for what they had come to mean to each other. It was beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.
This novel was fraught with emotion. The tension of possibly being discovered, of narrowly avoiding capture, had me riveted to the pages and my heart pounding. But for me, the real beauty in this book was the two main characters, their depth and emotion, their realness and believability. It was heartbreaking and real. And the end gave me a satisfaction I truly didn’t expect to find. Wonderfully written, The Bells of Times Square is must read story of hope for a forbidden love. I enjoyed it immensely and have no qualms about recommending it to you. You won’t be disappointed.