Title: The Imperfection of Swans
Author Name & Publisher: Brandon Witt (Dreamspinner Press)
Publication Date & Length: January 18, 2016 – 284 pgs
Kevin Bivanti’s dream is to open a wedding dress shop, a place with the stunning gowns to make every bride-to-be feel adored. At thirty-eight, he quits a successful advertising career to buy an old brownstone in a trendy Boston neighborhood and to make his dream a reality. When one of his cosigners drops out, fate intervenes, ushering in Casper James, who hopes to open his own bakery. With Casper willing to take the risk, their ambitions meld into a wedding dress and wedding cake boutique.
Extensive renovations to the brownstone, an affair with his ex-husband, family drama with his mothers, and the anxiety of significant life changes push Kevin to the brink of a nervous breakdown. In the midst of stress and uncertainty, Casper becomes more than a business partner, a mutual attraction that adds another layer of intensity and risk.
With their dreams on the verge of reality, Kevin and Casper must find the courage to face the stress of managing their attraction, the gamble of a new business venture, and the resurgence of Kevin’s personal demons.
I found Casper easier to relate to than Kevin at times. All of Kevin’s secrets, his insecurities, his vanity and his body dysmorphia – even with a pretty face, it is a big ask for a reader to fall easily in love with him. But Casper – he is just too good to be true. And Kevin takes far too long to really see him. Together, these two are a perfect compliment. Casper may not have the pretty face or the chaotic, supportive family, but he has the confidence and emotional resilience Kevin lacks.
The dream to reality aspect of this story is truly inspirational. Kevin’s mad family adds humour and depth to the story. However, this is a long story and at times I felt that it dragged. There is an awkward contrast between the beautiful building, cakes and dresses and the ugliness of Kevin’s eating disorder. This isn’t a frothy, pretty story, but it also isn’t after-school-special angst. Given the title, I have to believe that the contrasts are deliberate, but they make for a sometimes disconcerting read.
My main problem is that this feels like gay romance deliberately written for an audience of conservative female readers. The result is a bit chaotic. Casper enjoys hook-ups at the start. Kevin’s uncles enjoy an open marriage, but there seemed a need to ensure that the central romance conformed to the expectations and norms of traditional straight romance. There is no actual sex in this book. We get chemistry, romance and seduction but then a tidy fade to grey every time Kevin and Casper hook up.
When I finished the book, I thought about recommending it to my mum. Wedding dresses, pastries, Italian family drama, an eating disorder and a sweet HEA – this is m/m for Nora Roberts readers.
Brandon Witt’s outlook on life is greatly impacted by his first eighteen years of growing up gay in a small town in the Ozarks, as well as fifteen years as a counselor and special education teacher for students with severe emotional disabilities. Add to that his obsession with corgis and mermaids, then factor in an unhealthy love affair with cheeseburgers, and you realize that with all those issues, he’s got plenty to write about….