Everything was going to plan. Miles had even bought the ring. He and his boyfriend, Marcus, were starting to open their own gallery and life couldn’t be better … until Miles came home early one night to find Marcus sneaking another man out of the apartment. It turns out Marcus has been cheating on him for years, and everyone knew it. They simply either thought Miles knew or didn’t care enough to tell him. Now, at nearly 50, Miles is left with nothing. The apartment is in Marcus’ name; the man Marcus was sleeping with is who Miles was getting a loan from to finance his gallery, so that’s off the table; and it turns out Miles has fewer friends than he’d ever thought he had.
With no plans, no hope, and nothing else to do, Miles takes a job in Georgia, appraising the art of one Odette Fontaine, deceased, in Hope’s Bluff, Georgia. The job pays well — triple his usual rate — and it’s money Miles is going to be needing to start his life over. Taking rooms at a small bed and breakfast run by a local eccentric named, Delphine, Miles soon learns there’s more to the job than he’d thought. Odette’s paintings are currently in her house where her grandson, Rainbow, is staying.
Rainbow wants no part of any of this. He wants to be left alone, and for his grandmother’s paintings to be left alone as well. But Miles needs the job, so he endures Rainbow stomping around the house, ignoring him, glaring at him, and doing everything he can to run Miles off. If the two of them can’t find some way to communicate, then all of this will have been for nothing.
I am not a sensitivity reader, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I thought Rainbow’s deafness was well handled. While it was an aspect of his character, it served the story as a means to make communication difficult and a challenge for Miles to overcome, not to be the sole facet of Rainbow’s personality. Rainbow is emotional, quick to anger, quick to forgive, and has been alone for so long that — when he’s treated with the barest amount of civility from Miles — he brightens like a sunbeam. And Miles can’t help but respond.
Having been lied to and betrayed, Miles isn’t interested in opening up and baring his soul, but Rainbow doesn’t know the same people, doesn’t travel in the same circles. In fact, as isolated as he is in his grandmother’s house, he doesn’t even have the internet. It’s just the two of them bonding over their love of Odette’s art, their appreciation of color and light, beauty and form and, of course, each other.
The plot involves the cartoonish villain of Franklin Jr., Rainbow’s brother, who wants to see his brother homeless and bereft because he happens to be deaf and gay. Franklin Jr. tells Delphine she belongs in the kitchen, and brags about having the local Judge in his pocket, about how easy it is for him to destroy someone; he all but struts around and proclaims “I own this here town!” Delphine, too, doesn’t feel developed and is simply the eccentric cat lady, and Marcus feels like a plot device. In the beginning, he is there just to be awful and mean spirited as he can be to drive Miles from Manhattan to Georgia. And because he has no character or real part in the story, the scene where he comes back into Miles’ life (going on about how hot Miles is when he’s angry, all but panting and pulling his pants down for a quickie) ends up feeling more like it takes place in a play. It feels like Marcus shows up so that Miles can move to center stage and give a lengthy soliloquy about he has grown as a person. It also lets Rainbow know Miles had a life before he came to Hope’s Bluff, thus causing a dramatic fight and a dramatic, romantic apology and love confession by Miles. However, since Rainbow wasn’t that upset and the two men really just want to get to the fucking, it ends up feeling rather rushed and pointless in equal measure. The book also moves fast, pushing the two characters from first meeting, to flirting, to dreaming about wedding bells in little more than a week.
That said, the book is very easy to read. It’s quick, it’s light, and the message of finding yourself and your own self worth is a good one — even though it seems Miles and Rainbow both had to fall in love to do it. The writing is decent, the plot is nice and brisk, and the plot is straightforward and ties everything up neatly at the end.