This review is part of the series of reviews of asexual fiction published by LT3 press which I am doing for Asexual Awareness Week.
So, What Is This Story About?
Sam, a deputy in a rural Arizona town, is off-duty and unarmed when he witnesses and armed robbery. He reveals himself as law enforcement officer, and one of the robbers threatens to kill him. Then a Mysterious Stranger with a possibly Texan accent shoots and kills one of the robbers, saving Sam’s life. The other robber gets away.
It has just been a few months since Sam moved to this Arizona town, leaving his life with his ex-wife in California, so he’s a bit lonely. Sam becomes interested in the Mysterious Stranger who saved his life, and tries to learn more about him. The Mysterious Stranger (actually, he has a name – Montgomery) is also interested in Sam, but he does not want to show his interest, because he’s always been disappointed in his attempts to have a close friendship.
Man, I wonder if that robber who got away will stir up any plot trouble…
What Kind of Sexual and/or Violent Content Does This Story Have, If Any?
There is a sex scene described in a paragraph’s worth of detail. As far as violent content … see above.
Tell Me More about This Novella
There are two main plotlines – first, there is the plotline around catching the robber who got away, and second, there is the plotline around Sam and Montgomery’s relationship. I liked the relationship plotline (described more later in this review). As far as the robber plotline … I had trouble understanding why Montgomery was so determined to get himself involved (okay, I get that it had something to do with his feelings for Sam, but … well, it still did not make complete sense to me) and why Montgomery does what he ends up doing.
I was enjoying the immersion in the rural setting. Unfortunately, there was this bit broke my suspension of disbelief:
“We never had any murders in Lassen County, while I was there. Or child abuse. Rape. Even the domestic calls were all pretty tame … even in the county seat, where we were headquartered, violent crime has always been low. And there’s about eighteen thousand people in Susanville.”
Huh? This guy was a sheriff’s deputy in Lassen County long enough to have bought a house there, and there were no reports of murder, rape, or child abuse, and the domestic calls were ‘pretty tame’ during his time on the job? This felt so off that it yanked me out of the story. I admit that I haven’t been to Lassen County, but I have been to other parts of rural northern California, including towns with much less than 18,000 people, and I couldn’t buy this. And I know Susanville is a prison town, and prison towns are noted for having higher levels of violence, especially domestic abuse and suicide (that is not including what happens inside the prisons).
But maybe my gut feel was off, and Lassen County, in spite of its prisons, had a dramatically lower level of reported violent crime than what I imagined, so I did a quick internet search, and found that the reported violent crime rate in Lassen County is actually higher that the USA average.
Since the writer lives in Arizona, the story probably depicts Arizona much more accurately than it depicts California. Unfortunately, this bit about Lassen County broke the spell for me.
Actually, this feels more like a story about aromanticism than a story about asexuality, since there are two characters who seem to be aromantic, whereas there is only one character who seems to be asexual. On the asexual content scale described in the introduction, I would only rate this as a 2. However, if it were an asexuality + aromanticism + romantic orientation scale, I would rate it a 6.
Why do I say ‘seems’? The words ‘asexual’ and ‘aromantic’ are never used in the story. Since the words ‘asexual’ and ‘aromantic’ are never used, it is very difficult to declare absolutely that these characters are aromantic and possibly asexual, but given that they behave in such an aromantic/asexual way, and the Word of God, it would be very difficult to interpret these characters as not being aromantic, and in one case, asexual.
It seems the main purpose of the sex scene was to distinguish the non-asexual characters who were not asexual from Montgomery, who is asexual.
The characters certainly grope a lot for vocabulary for describing themselves and what they want, which is realistic for people in the rural United States who most likely have never heard of asexuality as a sexual orientation, let alone romantic orientation. That was one of the most touching parts of the story for me. I could also relate to Montgomery’s sentiment that, since he could not make a (sexual) marriage work, and he could not remain close enough with his friends, he would not be able to get the companionship he yearned for. This is my favorite passage in the book ends with this paragraph:
He’s wondered one too many times since he left [his ex-wife] in Texas, if he’s selfish for wanting somebody to be happy with him, to love him for what he can give and not for what he can pretend. He’s never met anybody like him, and maybe that’s what it would take for partnership, a friendship, to work out. Somebody like him. Only problem is he doesn’t know where to look and he’s not about to advertise his oddities.
Was This Written by an Asexual?
Yes, Marie S. Crosswell is asexual.
Hey Sara, Do You Like This Story?
Yes, I do. This story was a mixed bag for me, however I did like the way it presented aromanticism and asexuality, so reading this was a net positive experience for me.
In order to squeeze all of these reviews into Asexual Awareness Week, there is going to be a second review today, about We Go Forward by Alison Evans.