Orestes is Greek and homosexual. His sexuality is barely tolerated by his father who has, on more than one occasion, used his fists as well as his words to humiliate and abuse his son. Tonight, though, Orestes is putting all of that behind him as he heads out to a gay bar with his friend, Alex. Dancing doesn’t come easily to Orestes, but something about the man who pulls him onto the dance floor makes him feel safe. Wanted. Sexy. The two of them leave the club and head for somewhere more private. Somewhere they can do more than just grope on the dance floor. Somewhere quiet enough that Orestes can at least ask the man for his name.
Emir isn’t just some pretty face and hot body. He is also Turkish. While both Orestes and Emir are living on Cyprus, they are citizens of a divided island. It’s an island divided between Christian and Muslim faiths, between Greek and Turkish factions, and between the past and the future. It’s hard enough to be gay in Cyprus, but to be gay and a traitor to your people — to love and be loved by someone from the wrong side of the island — could well cost either of them, or both, their very lives.
Orestes has always tried to be a good child to his parents. Even before he knew he was gay or came out to his family, he was suffering under the expectations and heavy fists of his father and the silence of his mother who saw, and knew, but did nothing to defend her son. It’s worse now that Orestes has decided to stop hiding who he is, but he still tries to be a dutiful son. Until he meets Emir.
Emir’s family is more accepting of his sexuality and while they know he works hard at a variety of odd jobs, they most likely don’t know he also entertains tourists for some extra money. What he truly is is an artist, but until enough paintings sell, and sell regularly, Emir’s still living with his parents. It isn’t until he meets Orestes that Emir finally finds some of the luck he’s been looking for, and has just enough money to rent an apartment in the mostly Greek city of Limassol. An apartment that he can share with Orestes.
The two men both have inner demons, both dealing with their sexuality as well as the speed of their relationship. While they skype or video chat nightly, and have the weekends to be together, moving in with one another is a giant leap. Orestes worries that they’re both just looking for someone to keep the loneliness at bay; Emir worries that he wants Orestes too much. He sees a future with the other man and it scares him as much as it draws him.
Emir is filled with self-destructive insecurities and does everything he can to sabotage his relationship with Orestes. He downloads a hook-up app and spends nights in a local cruising area with numerous nameless and faceless men. He hides this, slinking back to the bed he shares with Orestes at night in the hopes that a long shower will be enough to wash away the fear, the self-loathing, the feelings of unworthiness. Orestes just wants Emir. The only question is whether Emir is able to accept the love Orestes wants to give him?
From the blurb I thought this would be a story about two men kept apart by religion, geography, and prejudice. Instead, the only thing keeping them apart is Emir’s selfish and childish behavior. There are a few mentions, here and there, of how dangerous it is for a Greek to love a Turk, but it never actually gets really shown in the story. In the one scene where prejudice is supposed to rear its ugly head, it’s all off-page and over in seconds.
As a love story, it didn’t work for me. I never felt any real passion between them save the passion of convenience. Orestes seems to fall in love with the idea of Emir, a free-spirited, passionate artist who gave him mind-blowing sex and Emir felt so constrained he went off to have random sex with strangers. The relationship just didn’t work for me on any level, and the epilogue felt very pat and contrived, more like it was the ending Orestes wanted rather than the ending I think these two might have had on their own. It was an interesting idea that, unfortunately, never came together.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.