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REVIEW: Call to Love – Gordon Phillips

Call To Love - Gordon Phillips

Genre: Fantasy, Contemporary, Romance

LGBTQ+ Category: Gay

Reviewer: Ulysses, Paranormal Romance Guild

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About The Book

Garner working as a waiter at an upscale restaurant with a growing attraction to a man named Alonzo, who always asks to be put in his section for dinner. One night after work, the man is assaulted while trailing Garner. Garner goes to his aid, but is shot for his trouble.

Taking time off from work to recover, Garner is resting on a park bench when Alonzo suddenly appears at the other end of the bench. Garner never saw him approach. He asks why Alonzo is trailing him.

After some hesitation, Alonzo explains he wants to recruit Garner to help fight against others who systematically hunt people like himself. Garner isn’t inclined to get involved in anything dangerous, but he does finds Alonzo more and more attractive, so he agrees to consider the idea. As he learns more about Alonzo’s bizarre and dangerous subculture, what Garner really wants to know is whether Alonzo is romantically interested in him at all.

The Review

What a curious, quiet little book. I don’t think that impression is accidental, either. Garner Hayes (whose surname you don’t learn until the end of the book) is a young, college-educated man, working in an unnamed city as a waiter in an upscale Italian restaurant. He takes pride in his work, particularly in the way his intuition helps him make his customers’ dining experience the best it can be.

On the other hand, Garner likes his job because it also allows him to control and limit his direct engagement with other people. He can keep his professional distance, and thus maintain an odd, self-imposed isolation that seems to be at the center of his life. Although he has a few friends, and likes his workmates, he spends most of his time alone, either in his apartment reading or walking the city streets at night after his shift at the restaurant ends. 

Then he becomes aware of a beautiful dark-haired man who has become a regular at the restaurant, and who always requests to sit in Garner’s section. From that moment, in strange subtle ways, everything begins to change. 

In careful, almost clipped language, the author gives us a very vivid sense of Garner, content with his lot in life, but somehow dissatisfied. Not unhappy, but not quite happy. There is a good bit of rather nice philosophizing about happiness and what it means; but this is really a set-up to gradually reveal Garner’s own life, and experiences in his past that have clearly traumatized him in ways he has never understood, or even looked at. 

I’m not sure what you do with a character who appears to be paranormal, but asserts plainly that he—and others like him—are not supernatural, just variants on natural. The point of this narrative oddity is to let the author further explore Garner’s emotions, which are not the same as his feelings—something he himself begins to understand as the story unrolls. Garner, who has always accepted himself as “nothing special,” begins to see that he might be wrong.

The author describes himself as someone who has lived life at the intersection of Head and Heart—an assertion I can understand. That’s why I readily embraced the book’s low-key quirky manner. It did seem odd to me that the author made a great effort toward the end of the book to finally shed light on Garner’s childhood. It was well handled, but felt rather late in the game. That all becomes clear when the book ends in an abrupt cliffhanger in what is obviously the middle of a much longer story. 

“To be continued.” And only then did I look at the cover and realize that this is book 1 of a series. 

Well, I do want to know how it all turns out, but I also have to note that the short attention span of contemporary romance readers is frustrating. I guess I’ll have to wait until book 2 appears, but I’m not happy about it.

Four stars.

The Reviewer

Ulysses Grant Dietz grew up in Syracuse, New York, where his Leave It to Beaver life was enlivened by his fascination with vampires, from Bela Lugosi to Barnabas Collins. He studied French at Yale, and was trained to be a museum curator at the University of Delaware. A curator since 1980, Ulysses has never stopped writing fiction for the sheer pleasure of it. He created the character of Desmond Beckwith in 1988 as his personal response to Anne Rice’s landmark novels. Alyson Books released his first novel, Desmond, in 1998. Vampire in Suburbia, the sequel to Desmond, is his second novel.

Ulysses lives in suburban New Jersey with his husband of over 41 years and their two almost-grown children.

By the way, the name Ulysses was not his parents’ idea of a joke: he is a great-great grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, and his mother was the President’s last living great-grandchild. Every year on April 27 he gives a speech at Grant’s Tomb in New York City. 

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