Josh Dalenzo hails from a long line of trapeze artists. Flying high above a stage is in his blood; it’s what he lives for. But it is not without danger. Long ago, one of the flying Dalenzos broke the heart of a young woman and, ever since, the family has suffered a curse: any Dalenzo who engages in physical intimacy the day of a performance will end with a career-ending fall. Josh has taken this curse to heart for years, keeping any sexual partners limited to tourists and only on days when his show is dark. But then he meets Steve Jones.
Carefree Steve seems to be the opposite of what calm, focused Josh thinks of as his type. But when two meet in a Las Vegas bar, they share a night of unbridled passion. Now, Josh and Steve carefully explore spending time together and even think about trying to build a relationship. However, just as their personalities are different, so are their perspectives on types and frequency of physical intimacy. Steve’s desire for daily sex conflicts with Josh’s fears about a proven curse and Josh’s wish for a partner versatile in the bedroom is at odds with strictly top Steve. Will the promise of a love deeper than anything either man has known be enough to help Josh and Steve understand what their partner needs? Or will their love be another casualty to an old curse?
The Curse of Flight is a contemporary story set in Las Vegas. It stars Steve, who seems to be a native of the place, and Josh, who has immigrated from Canada and seems to have meaningful connections to various other locales thanks to his work as a trapeze artist. The curse—which has ended the careers of at least three of Josh’s relatives—is very much a driving element of the plot. In addition to offering our two MCs a lot to chew on when it comes to how they perceive their relationship, I thought the curse also added a fairly clear element of the paranormal. Given my issues with Steve as a character, described below, I also thought the story benefitted from having a good showing from the supporting characters. For example, Steve gets support and friendship from his closest friends, married couple Dan and Genie. Josh, on the other hand, turns to his much older neighbor and, much later, Josh finds an ally in Genie.
That said, I found it rather difficult to get into this story. First, I found Steve to be problematic. Part of this was due to some issues with the writing and how I felt the structure did not clearly indicate how far along in the courtship process Steve and Josh were. I was blindsided when the term “boyfriend” was first applied because up until I read that word, I had no clue the Steve/Josh dynamic had moved beyond a realtor (Steve) showing his client (Josh) potential homes to buy. Yes, they sometimes shared moments en route to a showing or shared a meal afterwards, but I never realized this was beyond the banter you’d share with someone who was supposed to be a one-night stand and, surprise, turns out he’s your realtor or client. Another huge turn off for me regarding Steve is how, even after Josh explains his fear of this family curse, Steve seems to puruse sex with Josh relentlessly. I thought Steve came across as being manipulative and petulant and it happened rather a lot. Below are just a few of the places where Steve demonstrates what I consider cringeworthy behavior.
Steve talking to Josh after Steve’s phone rings with “Nobody does it better” (which we know and Josh later finds out is the ringtone for Steve’s last boyfriend):
“I want you. But who knows how long I’ll feel that way, if you don’t open up?”
Steve seeming to make an effort to take Josh’s fear of the curse seriously, but at a point in the story where I was 100% thinking these two were strictly realtor/client:
I want you to see a psychiatrist if you haven’t already.
This conversation about Josh’s job as a trapeze artist, which is just classic manipulation:
Steve: Give it up then. Just quit. It’s too dangerous.
Josh: I can’t. I love it.
Steve: What about me? Don’t you care about me?
And this line from Steve when he muses that he and Josh are about to call it quits:
Maybe we should take a break [… W]hat’s the point of being in love if you don’t have sex.
Overall, I thought Steve’s acts went beyond selfishness and demonstrated severe emotional manipulation and borderline grooming Josh to give up what Josh loved to appease Steve’s sex drive. This extends beyond sex. It seemed like Steve often shot down Josh’s suggestions for activities because it didn’t suit Steve’s schedule, like Josh was the one who must shift things around to make Steve happy. I could hardly read two pages without stopping to rage comment about something Steve does that seems selfish, inconsiderate, or just plain oblivious of Josh’s needs and/or wants.
Another struggle was the writing itself. In addition to a few typos (chord when it should be cord; the noun “breath” when the sentence needed the verb “breathe”) and wonky collocations (“One went there to be seen and to see” instead of “One went there to see and be seen.”) The former is not wrong, strictly speaking, but people who grow up speaking American English probably immediately recognize the order is almost always “to see and be seen.”). Overall, the story is written in third-person omniscient narrator and flip-flops between Josh’s and Steve’s perspective. I don’t mind getting to see more of Steve and Josh’s thought processes (even though it often reinforced my mental image of Steve as selfish and manipulative and Josh actively telling himself he does not want sex or appreciate Steve’s immaturity), but the writing often came across as stilted to me. The author often seems to make inanimate objects the agents of action. Some examples include “the house pulled away” and an apple that “crunched through the living room and down the hall.” The prose often felt heavy and dense, eschewing grammatical subjects like one might in poetry. For me, it was jarring to read almost poetic lines about desert scenery when a character as unattractive as Steve is in the picture.
Overall, I wasn’t very taken with this story. Clearly, I thought Steve was a troubling character and there were a few moments where Josh showed some pettiness, also. Coupled with writing that I didn’t find very compelling and, more than a few times, downright confusing, there wasn’t much that I enjoyed about this book. For what it’s worth, there is a big HFN and something of a resolution regarding the curse.