Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review: Chase in Shadow

Chase in Shadow
by Amy Lane
Genre: M/M Romance (but don't let that fool you!)
Dreamspinner Press, 2012
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (See Reviews Guidelines)

I normally don’t enjoy reading M/M romance in the classic, formulaic sense, for the same reasons I don’t enjoy reading a hetero Harlequin-style romance: too often the characters are one-dimensional and brainless; the story shallow, predictable and lacking creative force; the dialogue unrealistic, inane and childish. It can be excruciating.

But once in a while I run into a gem (and to be honest, I have become addicted to the hunt). I recently stumbled upon Amy Lane’s Chase in Shadow, and was immediately captured from the first pages. It is a story about a gifted, intelligent, responsible, sensitive, troubled young man who lives with his girlfriend and dreams of a better future – one in which he takes care of everyone around him, builds the perfect world, and the demons of his past no longer chase him. The thing is, those demons will chase him as long as he avoids facing them down.

He tells himself that gay porn offers a chance for some needed funds, but it’s more than that: it offers him the touch of men, the opportunity to explore his own closeted sexuality, to “fly” for a few hours in front of the camera.  He keeps his job a secret from old friends and girlfriend, and all is well, until he inevitably falls deeply in love with a male costar, and then the lies he tells himself begin to unravel and Chase spirals downward into despair and clinical depression.

Chase in Shadow is not a light read. It has moments that are truly dark, and much more emotional depth than is usually present in the romance genre. While sticking to the rules of a romance – boy meets boy, boys break up, boys work it out, boys find a happy ending - Lane refuses to be shackled by the usual confines of the romance genre and deals with difficult subjects in a mature and multi-dimensional fashion. Her characters are like all of us – complicated and driven by many, and often contradictory, motives.  There are many surprises along the path of Lane’s prose, and the book challenges the reader to think over many issues aside from the story of the romance.

Technical notes: Sometimes one reads a writer that gives off the feeling that he or she is unaware of his or her own capabilities. Amy Lane writes a bang-up good romance novel, but this reader has to wonder if she could stretch her wings much further if she stepped outside the genre. She seems to be on the very verge of some seriously innovative literary technique.

For example, Lane sometimes uses an almost stream-of-consciousness style that is very interesting. However, it can be confusing and frustrating – forcing the reader to read and re-read paragraphs. But I hope that she continues to practice it – it is unusual, dramatic, and can only improve over time.  In addition, Lane occasionally – far too occasionally – has the ability to treat the reader to some truly beautiful language, as in this passage:

It was a clear, sunny day in the city, and there was a fierce wind in from the ocean, bringing with it the smell of salt water and diesel, of freedom and terrible, earthbound necessity.

As evidenced by these small hints at real skill, if Lane allowed herself to truly experiment - outside the confines of any given genre - she might find herself capable of something brilliant.  But for now, I am content to enjoy her romance, and can’t wait to see where she goes in the future.

Reviewed by Lichen Craig for The GLBT Bookshelf .


  1. Brilliant critique and understanding of this work.

    I would suggest another Amy Lane, which I think you will find equally unusual and potentially even more impacting. Try A Solid Core of Alpha. The psychological and emotional development in the story are fascinating to read and one can't help but put themselves in the situation presented and wonder how they would fare.

    Thank you for sharing this review with me. I look forward to reading more or your opinions.

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words, Lisa! Glad you enjoyed it!

    You might enjoy my other reviews too. There are several on the blog. :)


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