“Happy Ending” by L. B. Gregg

4 Aug

“Happy Ending”, by L. B. Gregg

 

This charming love story is Ms Gregg’s second published work. Another m/m tale, “Happy Ending” is set in her Men of Springfield universe, with both stories loosely connected in setting and by the appearance as a secondary character of one of the protagonists of the first book, “Gobsmacked” (review here).

Before going further, I must add the following warning: minors and people who object to strong language and sexual content should avoid “Happy Ending”. Oh, and this story is considered erotica because of some graphic sexual scenes.

Here is the blurb from the publisher’s page:

All Seth really wanted was a simple massage—was that too much to ask? When his usual therapist is replaced by a sexy young masseur, Seth finds himself obsessed with the unpredictable—and wholly inappropriate—David Cooke. Pushed to the breaking point by forces both mysterious and not so mysterious, Seth must lose his rigid control to find the happy ending both he and David deserve.

As with “Gobsmacked”, the setup is excellent, grabbing my attention from the very first paragraph. The reader sees the story unfold through Seth Weston’s eyes. His is a world that has not yet recovered from a series of serious upheavals. Bereavement, a breakup, new responsibilities. Seth must learn to cope by adapting to the drastic changes all of these have brought to his life.

David, the man who becomes Seth’s love interest, is at first seen less clearly, but quickly becomes just as well-rounded and complex. For that matter, all the secondary characters are sufficiently rendered so as not to be caricatures or merely props to the main characters’ story. A the same time, there is a careful balance so that none of them take undue page space—extremely important in a story just a hundred pages long.

The story itself is simple, domestic and very appealing in its small, human scope: A man who has become set in his ways long before age would make this reasonable, mostly due to sheer emotional exhaustion. Another man, whose own life has shown him the value of holding true to the core of his self. Their attraction and the obstacles that the apparent differences in their personalities put in the way of a relationship between them.

The beauty, of course, is in the execution.

Seth is slowly recovering from all the hits life has handed him, and the reader is privileged to see him come back to life. David, while younger and theoretically less “grown up” is the more together of the two, which makes it a pleasure to see them interact with each other. David’s self-confidence, fueled by hard-won self-awareness, clashing with Seth’s preconceptions—of himself and of what he expects from (and for) himself.

All the characterization is done through showing, not telling. This is a particularly neat trick when the narration is confined exclusively to one of the main characters. Not every author can carry it off. When it works, as it does with Ms Gregg’s stories, it’s just excellent.

In the same vein, the background for all the characters and their circumstances is shown—through either internal or external dialogue, with most such passages revealing facts as well as the main characters’ emotional and mental makeup.

There is a very satisfying resolution for the various conflicts, which makes for an extremely believable ending. 9 out of 10

* * *

2012 update: This past October, L.B. Gregg posted on her blog about issues with Mountain Aspen Press, the original publisher.

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