Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Anthology

 

This book is a collection of three very sweet stories about love in all its forms. About people who think that, for whatever reason — be it physical disability, a crippling discomfort with touching and being touched, or severe agoraphobia — they aren’t worthy of being loved. People who close themselves off and decide to accept loneliness, only to be shown, through empathy and friendship, that someone out there knows they deserve so much more.

The writing in these stories is so easy to read that I whipped through this book without realizing it and, while I think each story ended well, I wanted more. It’s not so much that I wanted more from the stories, which were very well told, feeling absolutely complete when they ended, or the characters, who had their arcs and found their happiness, but from the author. Newman has a deft hand for short stories, and I really hope to be able to read more of their work.

The first story, At First Contact, is about a man with a severe distaste for human flesh. The moistness, the squishiness, the shedding of cells and hair, the smell of sweat, and the touch of skin. It’s left him almost socially crippled, unable to work in close company with other people. When the chance comes to be an astronaut on a solo mission, being tossed out to a random planet to see if it’s habitable or has resources suitable for human needs, it’s a dream come true. He’s ideal for the position, and he’s going to get to be the first human to see this particular planet, and either the first to land on it, or the only one.

There’s one catch. They’re sending him with a partner. Fortunately the partner is an android, a very advanced one, whose skin is only … well, skin deep. And while they are not human, as Jay says, androids were “made in your image,” and can feel pain, fondness, and even love. It’s a lovely story, and my favorite of the three.

Ghosted is about Leo who, as a child, befriended the ghost haunting his grandmother’s house, but as he grew up, the visits stopped. Leo was able to live his life, traveling and going to college while Will, the ghost, was left behind. A chance meeting with a reclusive author gives Leo a second chance at love.

A Touch of Magic is about two teachers — Lawrence, a retired Olympic fencer and Sean an art teacher — whose friendship shifts into something more, and might even move into romance if Sean, whose short stature and chronic back issues, can move past his own insecurities and trust that Lawrence is being honest when he says he wants more than friendship. The banter in this story is perfect, and the two of them, when they get going, are charming and funny in equal measure.

“You— you’re you. You’re a gold medalist, you’re handsome and rich and could have anyone you wanted!”

“Including you?”

And my favorite part of the story …

“I didn’t want you to feel pressured,” Sean whispered. “To make you feel like you had to— to reciprocate.”

“And if I wanted to reciprocate? If I did— if I do reciprocate?”

Flushing, Sean said, “I would have told you eventually.” “

When? On our wedding night?”

One thing I appreciated is that not one of the three characters — the astronaut, the author, and the art teacher — had their issues aided through someone else’s intervention. The astronaut didn’t go from being horrified by organic ick to getting over it because of love, the author’s agoraphobia didn’t vanish like a ghost just because he got a boyfriend, and Sean’s insecurity didn’t go poof just because Lawrence was good in bed. All three characters are still who they are, everything they are; they’re just no longer alone.

This is a wonderful collection full of love, acceptance, and sweetness. I really hope you give it a try.