Monday, September 12, 2016

Counterbalance by Aidan Wayne

Title: Counterbalance
Author: Aidan Wayne
Purchase at Amazon
Cover Artist: LC Chase
Genre: contemporary, multicultural
Length: 21,500 (novella)
Formats Mobi, Epub, PDF

John loves his job as head rigger for Cirque Brilliance. The heavy scarring over half his face makes it a little hard to meet new people, but John's got a good crew and a nice found family, and he’s content with his lot in life.

When Cirque hires talent for a new show, John meets Bao, a bright, ever-cheerful acrobat. Bao seems drawn to John and becomes a constant presence at his side — talking to him during downtime, spending time with him at lunch, and generally seeking out his company.

John doesn't know what to make of this. Sure, he likes Bao — maybe a little too much, honestly — but he’s had enough experience to know that Bao couldn’t possibly like him back. Or so he thinks, anyway. Fortunately, Bao seems determined to prove him wrong.

I was immediately fascinated by the setting, which has heavy overtones of the famous outfit from Montreal with the amazing acrobats and no animals. John, the head rigger, is responsible for the equipment and safety of the performers using it. The scarring on his face and upper body keep him hesitant to form a relationship, but he hasn’t yet met Bao.

Bao is adorable, both physically and in his personality. He lives his life in exclamation points and italics, and he’s so thrilled with everything from new foods to the chance for a kiss that John’s not sure how much of it is meant for him.

Quite a lot. Maybe all of it. But John’s slow acceptance that Bao really, really means what he’s saying, and that it isn’t politeness or an act, or a misinterpretation, gives us a chance to watch his heart relax. Because the poor guy—he’s scarred for a reason that makes Bao’s heart hurt, and mine too. He doesn’t trust easily or often, but Bao’s determined to make John understand. (See, now he’s got me doing it.) His reason for being attracted to John in the first place was beautiful.

Watching the two of them work out the cultural issues, the trust issues, and a matter that John holds himself responsible for is lovely. One interesting smack between the eyes for John reminds us all that Bao is an adult, though he approaches life with the glee of a child.

The heat level is low because of all they have to work out, but this is a very sweet story. I enjoyed it immensely even if Bao kind of wore me out with his high intensity and lack of contractions, and I would love to see his performance. 4.5 marbles

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