Rating: 3 stars
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Wyeth Becker is everything a stereotypical librarian should be: well-read, shy, and seemingly unassuming. Deeze Long is his exact opposite: boisterous, athletic, and the life of the party. When these two meet by accident, it doesn’t seem like much will come from it. But Deeze finds himself attracted to the reluctant Wyeth and launches a campaign to win him over. Through dinners, long walks, and longer conversations, Deeze breaks through Wyeth’s outer shell and finds the passionate man beneath. But life is never one perfect moment after another and when a violent attack and the death of beloved friend challenge their relationship, Wyeth and Deeze must find strength in one another and find a way to move forward.
I’m a fan of John Inman’s and really wanted to like Laugh, Cry, Repeat more than I did. But I struggled to connect with either of the main characters and the plot felt somewhat tired and uninspired. We’re supposed to like Wyeth and Deeze and while I did eventually, it took more than half the story to get there. Wyeth comes of as rather judgmental of others and tends to judge the proverbial cover before looking at the book, which seems a grave sin in a librarian. We aren’t given a great deal of insight into his reluctance to start a relationship with Deeze, but he comes off as a man who either can’t be bothered or doesn’t want to be hurt. The latter I could certainly understand, but because his past isn’t given much exposition, it leaves Wyeth looking like a jerk. If Wyeth is reluctant then Deeze is way too aggressive. His pursuit of Wyeth borders on stalking behavior and he feels uncomfortably intense at times. Once these two settle into a relationship, their more extreme behaviors seem to vanish and they are generally likeable men. Had they been this way from the beginning, it would have been easier to find my footing with this book.
While Inman is a generally strong writer, Laugh, Cry, Repeat has a rather stale storyline that plays into several long exhausted plot devices. It’s a story of far too many coincidences and a rather large event towards the end of the book is somewhat rushed though and leaves almost no impression. The first half of the story centers on the slow building relationship between Wyeth and Deeze and feels well paced as a result. The last half, however, feels more chaotic and less structured. There is a hurried quality to these last chapters and the action chunkily moves from scene to another.
Despite my issues with the book, there is a sweetness to Deeze and Wyeth towards the second half of Laugh, Cry, Repeat that I appreciated. There is also an excellent sense of time and place and there is enough description you feel like you’re a part of the neighborhood where Deeze and Wyeth live. This adds a certain depth to the story, which made it feel a bit more realistic and grounded.
On the whole I wasn’t a huge fan of Laugh, Cry, Repeat. Neither the plot as a whole nor the main characters worked for me and it was hard to find a connection to the wider story. And while this isn’t one my favorites, I still think John Inman is a great storyteller and some readers might find plenty to enjoy here. It just didn’t work for me.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.