I picked this paranormal novella by R.W. Clinger for New To Me Author Week in our Reading Challenge Month because it looked intriguing. A quiet cookbook designer with a mystery evening visitor? Sounded yummy.
Bay Woods has lived in his idyllic saltbox home for years. He keeps a quiet life and two tidy gardens, but he’s noticing the gates are often left open. Approaching his Japanese-American widower neighbor, he’s told that he shouldn’t leave wet towels if he’s going to swim in the pool late at night. Bay isn’t skinny dipping or trespassing there, so someone else must be. But who?
The story is a little bit stream-of-conscious as we follow Bay down his rabbit hole of discovery. Clothes are going missing, as is some fruit. He hears footsteps in his home, while he is alone. His dear friend Sam sees a man lurking outside Bay’s home. The neighbor mentions the large numbers of fireflies in their yards, and draws comparison to ancient legends of hotura, souls of dead soldiers brought home by the glowing insects. Bay doesn’t seem to have deep connections to anyone but Sam, whose affection he doesn’t return. Still, he’s captivated by the mystery at his home, and the firefly that seems to follow him. Bay’s a bit eccentric, and chats to his firefly friend often.
The story is quite lyrical, though I’m not sure I could have been patient enough to stick with it for a full-length novel. Bay’s accounts seem disjointed and random, and I had a little trouble with the pacing as a result. That said, I could see Bay’s world well, and his lush garden was almost a character as much as the swarms of fireflies. Bay eventually tracks down his visitor, Christopher, who runs off only to return later. The connection between him and Bay’s friendly firefly seemed a stretch, but, hey, it’s paranormal and I have accepted shifters of all shapes and sizes in this genre thus far. There’s a little bit of steam, but it’s mostly off the page. I wasn’t a fan of the neighbor’s characterization, but that’s my own sensitivity to pigeon-English. The Japanese legend was interesting, and it’s wild that I’ve randomly picked two books this month with Japanese themes. As for the romance, it’s really tame and all happens near to the end, with what seems to be an HEA for Bay and Christopher.
As for reading more books from R.W. Clinger, I might. I didn’t dislike this one, but it didn’t draw me in as much as I’d hoped. It’s really a subtle, quiet story and I had long anticipated the big reveal that happens late in the story, for my taste. The intimacy between Bay and Christopher felt rushed as a result.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for New to Me Author Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a fabulous prize from Riptide Publishing. One winner will win a set of Advanced Review Copies before the books are released (or if it is a non-U.S. winner, an electronic copy of the books upon release). Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on New to Me Author Week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more details about the awesome prizes!