Whose Eye is On Which Sparrow - Robert Taylor

Ladymol's Review

This is a story about the unexpected romance between a well off, white doctor and a young black man.†

Brendon has the perfect American life. Son of a popular Republican senator, heís rich, handsome, has the perfect socialite wife and two beautiful children. One day, a young black man, Jonathon Miles, comes into his surgery and Brendon experiences an overwhelming physical attraction to the man. Itís a mutual response and before long theyíve become lovers. But however good the physical is between them, they develop a much deeper bond emotionally, and Brendon has to face the incredible truth that heís in love.

They have everything against them, not least that Jonathon is black and could never fit into Brendonís republican, old-money life. They try to snatch moments to be together but gradually the frustrations threaten to tear them apart.

I read this story in a day. It was just a little too coy for my taste. After a very promising opening scene between them, sex from then on is of the ďthey made love then lay in each otherís armsĒ variety. I also found the end very unsatisfying. I think the author was going for enigmatic, but the book is simple and needed a simple, resolved ending. For all that, this is well worth curling up on the couch on a cold day and sipping like hot chocolate.† Itís a wonderful tonic to some of the more bizarre gay novels weíve tackled. This would make a great movie on Hallmark (if they made films about gay mixed couples).

Cerisaye's Review

"There are some things I know about love, and one of them is this: If it's going to last, mean something, it can't be just a romantic fantasy. The kind we've been playing at. You can't keep it tucked away in a little compartment and bring it out only on special occasions. When you've got time for it. It has to be out there all the time, gaining strength, so it can survive the harsh realities it's bound to bump up against, day after day. It has toóor it will die."

This novel annoyingly stops at exactly the point I wanted it to continue. After 168 pages leading to the jump-off weíre left going Huh? Thatís it? like itís half a book.

Another problem was dialogue which is stilted and unnatural, so youíre consciously aware theyíre characters in a made-up universe. Doesnít make it easy to believe theyíre flesh and blood people.

Theyíre not cardboard cut-outs, otherwise I wouldnít have cared what happened to them; but you know theyíre there to stand for something: Brendan, successful but empty physician drifting through somebody elseís idea of his life, rich and upper class but with a conscience; his shallow wife Sandra who (like Jack Twistís Lureen) could phone in their marriage; Brendanís emotionally distant parents, political high fliers with no time for their only son but lots of material advantage and demanding expectations; and Jonathan, handsome black man who sweeps Brendan off his feet making him acknowledge heís gay and at the same time see his privileged world of country clubs and charity dinners as it really is, brutal and ugly for those shut outside whether by poverty, sexuality or skin colour.

Yet, somehow, I liked the book. Itís simple, direct and readable- easily finished in a couple of undemanding hours. Itís got one of the best opening scenes Iíve encountered, introducing the romantic pairing in a way thatís unusual and very erotic in a kinky way that appealed to me. Straight away I wanted Brendan happy and with Jonathan.

Maybe if I hadnít read so much original character m/m fiction I mightíve been even more impressed. Itís frustrating because unlike OC net-fic itís annoyingly coy when it comes to sex. However thatís just personal preference.

I liked Brendan the repressed doctor and Jonathan the aspiring opera singer who awakens him- in a nice touch Brendan reads Madame Bovary. Itís a hot premise that pushes a few buttons: hunky black gay man and apparently straight preppy married guy meet and instantly sparks fly, a hot make-out session convincing Brendan this is what heís missed all those years. Brendanís loneliness and absence from his own apparently idyllic life makes it believable. This isnít something that springs out of nowhere. Brendanís background meant heíd never been able to admit even to himself his attraction to men. He did what was expected and ended up with everything and nothing, an existence without passion, all surface and no depth (a bit like all the characters except Brendan).

Brendan & Jonathan canít control their attraction though it makes life difficult. There are many obstacles to overcome- homophobia, class differences and racism- though it takes a while for problems to intrude- Jonathanís patient acceptance of being a male mistress stretches credulity before things come to a head. We only have Brendanís POV so Jonathan remains a rather shadowy figure. This is romantic fiction and to work we need to feel the passion. I didnít quite connect enough with Jonathan (as person not a symbol) to get that it goes two ways. His sudden decision to follow his dream of professional singing seemed tacked on to force the issue with Brendan, another example of weak writing.

Whatís best about the novel and truly a beautiful thing is the way Brendan opens up, freed by his desire for another man, and the way that permeates his whole life. Loving father devoted to his children, determined to do his best and show them (particularly his son) theyíre loved (reading stories, sharing family meals, just being there). I felt no sympathy for wife Sandra and her selfishly materialistic attitude, so it didnít bother me at all Brendan was having an adulterous affair with a man who appreciated him for his good qualities not income and background. Meeting Jonathan opened Pandoraís box for Brendan, no going back.

Itís not about gay or straight or bi. Just a love that grows between two men connected by loneliness and the need to love and be loved. The message is life is full of choices: we only get one shot so follow your heart. Whether Brendan listens to his or ends up living with the regret of lost love remains in question right to the (rather abrupt) ending. Still itís a nice sweet gay romance if you donít expect the intensity and staying-power of Brokeback Mountain.