Interlude: Cavatina is an anthology with stories featuring characters from across Tal Bauer’s books. This includes Mike and Tom from Hush and Kris and Dawood from Whisper; Christoph and Alain from A Time to Rise; and Jack and Ethan, Adam and Faisal, and Sasha and Sergey from The Executive Office and Executive Powers series.
The structure of this anthology is interesting as most of the stories are told across multiple chapters, but not sequentially. So when you move from one chapter to the next, it switches the story and you may not return to a couple for several more chapters. For example, Christoph and Alain are featured in Chapters 1, 4, and 7, and all three chapters together complete their story. Each universe is kept separate and characters do not cross from one to the other, so you could read the entire book or just pick selected couples/worlds. These stories do take place after the events of the books, however, so in some cases there are spoilers for elements of those books. Since Michelle and Jay have each read some of the books featured in this anthology, they split this book up and are doing it as a Buddy Review.
Reading these stories reminded me how much I love Tal Bauer’s writing and how much I enjoyed these books. The anthology was a great way to to catch up with some favorite characters.
I debated whether to read this one straight through as written, focusing on the chapters with my couples, or whether to read one whole story and then move on to the next. I think if I had been reading the entire book, I would have definitely read it straight through in order to take advantage of the effect Bauer creates by jumping in and out of individual stories. However, since I was already picking out chapters to focus on, I decided to just reach each couples’ story straight through before moving on to the next.
Alain and Christoph (A Time to Rise)
It is nearing the winter solstice and the supernatural creatures that thrive in the dark are active in Rome. Christoph is trying desperately to contain the attacks on humans, with the help of fellow hunter, Luca. Christoph is also missing Alain, who he has barely seen since Alain was turned into a vampire. Christoph desperately wants Alain back, but Alain has been been pushing him away. When Alain finally does return, it is clear that he has changed and that his life as a vampire is taking its toll. Now Christoph needs to figure out if he can help his lover and if there is a chance they can still find a way to be together.
It has been almost three years since I read A Time to Rise and so I was thrilled to get to revisit these characters. The story features Bauer’s wonderful world building as we are immersed in the dark underside of Rome where the supernaturals abound. The tone here is very much in keeping with the original story, and while there isn’t much time spent on the hunt, I still enjoyed stepping back into that world. Most of the focus here is on Christoph and Alain in the wake of Alain’s turning. We can see that he doesn’t quite have his full humanity, and Christoph is struggling with how to help him as Alain pushes him away for his own safety (and Alain’s own sanity). The story focuses more on Luca than I would have liked for such a short story, as I would have appreciated more attention on our main couple (I wonder if this is perhaps because Luca getting his own story at some point?). But I really enjoyed catching up with these men in the aftermath of their book and loved seeing them ultimately connect at the end.
Kris and Dawood (Whisper)
Kris and Dawood have recently brought Dawood’s son Behroze to America to live with them and the adjustment isn’t going well. Behroze is openly resentful of Kris and it is causing a lot of tension in their home. Kris isn’t sure if Behroze is upset that he and Dawood are two men in love, or if he is jealous of Kris getting Dawood’s attention, but regardless of the reason, it is hard for Kris to deal with the hostility and upsetting for Dawood to see two people he loves at odds. It will take a difficult conversation and some openness to new ideas for the men to resolve the conflict.
This story feels like a nice coda to Kris and Dawood’s journey as integrating Behroze into their lives is an important, but sometimes difficult, task. I enjoyed seeing that despite the conflict, Kris and Dawood are rock solid and so clearly love one another. After watching them be apart for so many years, it makes me so happy to see them finally able to be together. And it is clear that Dawood needs Behroze in his life, and I appreciated how much Kris is willing to do to support his husband. I wasn’t completely pleased with the way the guys end up resolving the conflict, but they are all happy, so that is enough for me.
Tom and Mike (Hush)
This one is more of a scene than a story and features Mike and Tom’s wedding. It is sweet and romantic, but at only about a handful of pages, there isn’t much to sink your teeth into here. I would have a loved a little more time to catch up with these guys, but it is nice to see them happy and surrounded by friends as they celebrate their marriage.
The moment I heard that Tal Bauer put this book out as a surprise release, I messaged Jay in excitement as it was the perfect opportunity for us both to go back to these worlds that we have enjoyed so much. Each story I read was a perfect addition for all these men and also opened up threads that could be used to build upon even more adventures.
Bauer excels at pulling you directly into the lives of these characters with a skilled sense of place and atmosphere for each and every scene. For readers who can’t forget these characters, you will absolutely want to pick this one up.
Adam and Faisal
Adam has officially left the Marines, is married to Faisal, converted to Islam, and has taken his place alongside his husband, the Ambassador in Bahrain. Adam found his salvation in Faisal, but he struggles with what he has seen and finding a new place for himself in the world. His friend, Doc, is also struggling and Adam has no idea how to help him. Adam is also haunted by a feeling of abandonment from his family and navigating those who still wish to exploit him.
While we see Adam and Faisal together here, this is mostly Adam’s story. He has found everything he needs with Faisal, but he is still wary of being accepted by Faisal’s family, as well being haunted by old ghosts that will never seem to rest. Adam and Faisal are a couple that really resonated with me in the Executive Office series and Bauer effortlessly recaptures their love story. I would have liked to have some more on page time with just the two of them together, but this story shows that Adam still has struggles. This story also set up the possibility for a story for Doc. If these guys captured you as well, you certainly don’t want to miss checking back in with them.
Jack and Ethan
The core of the Executive Office series, Jack and Ethan are happily married and spending Christmas with Jack’s parents. They are the most relaxed, happy, and playful with each other that we have seen from them in this series. Their relationship is worthy of a romance book as they continue to care for each other and their happiness is something neither of them could ever have imagined. We also get to see where Ethan came from and the early roots of what made him the man he is. Bauer offers perfectly captured moments of a life well lived and well loved, surrounded by the magic of the holidays as the men enter the third year of their relationship. And, with talk of a new business, it’s possible we have not seen the last of Jack and Ethan.
Sasha and Sergey
Sasha is fulfilling his dream as an astronaut trainee for NASA. He has quickly gained the respect of everyone he trains with, but his heart still longs for Russia and Sergey. Sergey has taken back his rightful position as President of Russia and when Sasha returns on a holiday break, the men have no issue reclaiming their passion for each other.
It was great to see Sasha finally more comfortable in his own skin and living out his dream, both as an astronaut trainee, as well as with Sergey. While keeping protocol in public, the men are light and playful with each when they are in private. It’s been a constant uphill battle for them, but there is no doubt these men will remain together for all time despite their current geographic distance.