Excellent Review for “Anything Could Happen” at Jessewave!
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
Guest review by Orion
Review summary: A sweet, delightful tale of romance.
Moving to Kansas City could be the best thing Austin Shelbourne has ever done. For a start, he can stop living a lie and finally come out of the closet. And there’s a chance, though slim, that he might be able to locate the love of his life, Todd Burton. It had seemed like a good idea when he seduced his friend, but Todd freaked out and vanished. Austin hopes to find Todd, make things right between them, and win his love. But when he meets actor Guy Campbell, things get even more confusing.
The moment Guy sets eyes on Austin, he knows Austin is The One. But Austin makes it clear he feels a responsibility to Todd, and Guy has some dark secrets of his own. He’s found redemption in acting and directing, but worries that if Austin learns the truth, he might not be able bear it. And what if Todd accepts Austin’s apology and the love Austin offers? Guy wants Austin desperately, but he also wants him to be happy. In the play of life, with the happiness of good men in the balance, anything could happen.
This novel is a sequel of sorts to an earlier work by the author, The Boy Who Came in From the Cold, which I have not read. In that novel, Austin Shelbourne was attracted to Todd Burton and had a brief affair with him, which gave a big boost to the feelings of love he’d been harboring for the guy. Todd was dealing with a few demons of his own, including uncertainty over his sexuality and an abusive stepfather, and decided he could best come to terms with things in another town. He fled to Kansas City. In Anything Could Happen, the lovesick Austin comes in search of Todd, hoping to resolve things between them. I suppose it would be a good idea to read the earlier novel first, as that may give you a more detailed background for this one. But it is to the author’s credit that I never felt adrift here trying to figure out who the characters are, what they’re doing, and why. B. G. Thomas fills in the background as necessary without slowing down the story.
When he arrives in Kansas City, Austin moves in with his uncle, Bodie, an openly gay man who lives with his loving, elderly little pooch, Lucille. Austin is around 19 or 20, if I remember correctly, and it was a nice touch to see his uncle’s proud openness inspire him to come out (although, as it turns out, Austin’s sexuality wasn’t as much of a secret to his family as he thought). Not long after his arrival, Uncle Bodie introduces Austin to his hunky, handsome and also gay neighbor, Guy. Guy instantly begins to flirt with Austin, and this is where the novel really captured me, as I immediately began to pull for Austin and Guy to get together. But Austin, of course, is there to find his first love, Todd, and he is reluctant to let himself become involved with another man. Guy, quite understandably, backs off when he learns why Austin came to Kansas City but cares enough about him to help in the search for Todd.
The author creates vivid, distinct characters in Austin, Bodie and Guy. Even Lucille, the pampered little dog, comes to life with a wonderful personality of her own. I love the way the author makes clear how much Austin and Guy have in common, giving the reader another reason to pull for them. (Guy is an actor/director/playwright involved in local theater. Austin loves acting and tries out for a part in one of the plays.) It is a testament to a writer’s skill when a reader wants to take a character, shake him, slap him, and shout in his face “Wake up, you dolt!” to get him to see the opportunity for love he is about to let walk right out his door. That’s what I wanted to do at times to Austin.
There were a few things that bothered me. I must have realistic-sounding dialogue to fully enjoy a novel. Without that, I can’t immerse myself in the characters and their world. It almost feels as if there’s a little devil standing on my shoulder, whispering in my ear “Bad dialogue, bad dialogue” the whole while I’m reading. Some of the dialogue here comes across as somewhat formal and a bit stilted. That’s okay for Uncle Bodie, an older gentleman, but it doesn’t sound right coming from Austin and Todd, who are much younger. And since the whole purpose for Austin’s coming to Kansas City (and the sole reason he puts off giving Guy the chance at romance they both deserve) is to find Todd, I expected Todd to play more of a central part in this story. I spent so much time waiting for the proverbial other shoe (Todd) to drop that, when it finally does, it was definitely anticlimactic. In a way, I almost felt cheated.
Oh, but there is so much I enjoyed in this novel that it more than compensated for those drawbacks. Anything Could Happen is funny and sweet. At times it is sad, and at times it is frustrating. It is never less than fully engaging, and I recommend it highly. Based on this work, I may just have to go back and give The Boy Who Came in From the Cold a try.