Falling, Suki Fleet
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: N/A, Mental Health – Depression & Anxiety, First Time, Coming of Age, Melancholy, Hopeful, HFN
Length: 200 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Josh’s idea of a romance is curling up alone and reading a novel with a happily ever after. He’s made his flat a safe haven where the wall are covered with beautiful words, and his living room ceiling is a map of the universe.
Angus may be shy and inexperienced, but he’s incapable of hiding anything, especially his attraction to his older neighbor.
When Josh admits to Angus that he’s gay, he doesn’t expect Angus’s reaction. Angus’s obvious interest terrifies Josh. For years he’s managed to keep the world at arm’s length and avoid getting too close to anyone. Well, anyone except Eleanor, Angus’s mother, who helped Josh rebuild his life after he was hospitalized for depression. But Josh still thinks he’s broken. His past has left scars he thinks are too deep to heal. Despite Josh’s defenses, Angus begins to mean more to him than just the cute boy next door. If Josh can take a risk and let someone into his isolated world, he might have a chance for a real life happy ending.
Who is Suki Fleet? I mean, obviously she’s an author because I’m on a book review blog about to review her book, but it seems I’ve managed to skip over anything she’s written until now. Falling is another case of me just cruising Amazon, downloading a sample, liking what I read, then buying the book. I liked Josh and Angus right from the very beginning so I had to ‘own’ these guys to keep reading about them until there was no more to read.
If you look at my reviews you get I’m a therapist because I can pick on or be pleased with how mental health issues, psychological aspects of a book are portrayed, how they’re handled. It’s not simply because of my work, it’s also because I suffer from depression. I know how insidious and shitty it is when you’re in a dark place and you can’t seem to find a foothold to climb out. When you need help because, lord knows, you can’t see anything worthwhile in yourself. No matter how much we try as a society there is still a stigma attached to mental health, and those who suffer are the hardest on themselves. The more it’s addressed, the more we break down the stigma. So, yeah, I take mental health pretty seriously and this book made me happily sad. As I mentioned, I don’t know the author, but I know she knows something about depression, because she lovingly, without judgement, without melodrama, wrote this book with two beautiful characters who made my heart ache, and she nailed it.
Josh is twenty five. He works at a shoe store, lives alone in a flat in South London, and pretty much keeps to himself. His boss at the shoe store, Soren, is younger than him, and is pretty confident, humorous, and likes to know about the people around him. That includes Josh.
After the first customer of the day leaves, Soren just about bounces across the shop floor toward me—looking far too happy to be at work, as usual. “Josh, you’ve got a face like a wet weekend. What’s up?” he asks.
People like Soren shouldn’t be allowed in the morning.
Josh doesn’t like people getting close or knowing too much, if anything, about him so he tries to keep things buttoned down with Soren. At home he is friends with a lady named Eleanor. Eleanor lives below him and he looks out for her… now. However, when he first turned up, she was the one who took care of/looked out for him. She knew he had no family around, knew he was depressed, had been in a very dark place, and she gave him unconditional support and showed him kindness.
When I first moved into this block of flats five years ago, I could barely function. Eleanor took me firmly under her wing, showed me how to cook, how to shop for food (though she rarely went with me, even then), how to clean—how to cope. She showed me that someone cared. And that dying organ inside my chest came back to life a little bit.
Eleanor has a son who has recently come to live with her permanently. Angus used to live with his father when his parents separated. It seems Eleanor has always dealt with agoraphobia, but now her anxiety has been heightened after a robbery at home when both Eleanor and Angus were there. The robbery reversed roles. She feels violated and needs Josh to help her this time. He does it gladly. The only problem is, Josh inadvertently mentions he’s gay and, well, it seems Angus is keen on him. How can he look after Eleanor with this (interesting) young guy crushing on him? It simply adds an extra intense dynamic to his routine-life, and that scares him.
Angus is eighteen and he is shy and sweet and sometimes finds it tough to deal with his mum when she becomes panicked. He learns as he lives with her when to deal with it himself and when to help medicate her, but it’s not easy living with someone so terrified, so anxious that the robbers are outside the window. Especially when you’re only eighteen years old. Josh is able to calm Eleanor and knows how to handle her. She trusts him and Angus sometimes has to call Josh at work when it gets really difficult with his mum. To add to this, Angus and his father have had a falling out. His dad is controlling and has been abusive towards his mother and didn’t take kindly to Angus leaving and moving in with her. On one occasion Josh made sure Angus’ dad left the building, now he doesn’t come back and hassle either Eleanor or Angus. Josh may not like conflict but his need to protect people who have become like family is more powerful.
Nothing major occurs in Falling. There is a melancholic feel throughout but there is no great angst or drama, per se. Josh has depressive remnants, echoes of the past, just below the surface. The biggest trigger for him is love. Which is going to be tested a great deal with Angus so close and so intriguing. That his difficult past is not too far behind him causes constant confidence and trust issues for Josh. Eleanor’s current problems are increasing and Angus is falling for the kind but shutdown Josh while dealing with his mum’s intensifying anxieties. The situation makes sure the guys are in close proximity, not just living in the same building but having to cross paths every day. Both helping Eleanor, both facing life and love.
Falling is not fast paced but that doesn’t mean it isn’t thoroughly engaging, because it is. It’s slow and deliberate making it perfect for the characters and the story. Making it real. It takes a while before love is accepted and declared. It takes a while for sex to occur – thank goodness. When it does happen, it’s meaningful and touching, loving and sweet. Angus is a virgin, he’s also quiet and sensitive and learning to deal with and care for a mum with mental health issues. His dad is in the background. None of this is easy on anyone let alone a teenager. On top of this, his feelings for Josh are complicated by the fact that there are mixed signals Josh sends out, but he’s not prepared to give up on Josh… although it’s harder when you don’t know what constitutes a loving relationship. He’s never had one and his mother and father split up some time ago, so that doesn’t help. Josh struggles believing that he is worthy of love and that he could deserve someone like Angus. He also feels that the age gap (18 – 25) is too big. So while they get closer, Josh fights his attraction.
I turn out the light and scoot into bed behind him, pulling him into my arms so we’re spooned together tightly, my hands against his heart. It feels so wonderful, and I know I can never, ever let this happen again. Not if I want to hold myself together. Not if I want to keep a grip on my life. I don’t want to be on the front of this train when it crashes and burns.
There is a quirky quality to the writing. That Josh has/writes porn on his kitchen wall as a way of self-expression is interesting. Porn is fine, letting someone in is terrifying.
Perhaps I would have just gone for it and invited Angus back to my flat, where we would have had one of those sweet and achy first-time fucks that I’ve written about all over my kitchen walls.
He also has a map of the universe, the stars, on his ceiling. They’re beautifully done, but they mean Josh is insignificant in the universe. Not so to Angus, he sees more to it. Soren, while a secondary character, is multifaceted – he smokes pot, gets Josh to drop him off to his dealer, has a girlfriend but makes comments about how attractive Josh is, to get a rise, to be funny. And he is funny. He’s also a fair boss, and he’s so much more than what he first seems to be once Josh opens his eyes and heart bit by bit. A lot of how Josh sees things, how we start out with them, is because the narrative is via his eyes. The way Josh views the world is not always as it seems. Which is very true of someone with depression. It’s subtle things and I could not have asked for a better MC guiding me.
Lots of circumstances conspire to push Josh outside his routine. He finds himself with a house guest, Oskar, after Josh runs over his foot. Oskar has nowhere to stay and Josh feels guilty for the injury. He feels responsible. Eleanor needs Josh’s understanding and patience. Angus is attracted to him and, what’s more, Josh feels a pull to Angus. But he doesn’t want to give in but how can he not when Angus is, well, so wonderfully Angus. Eleanor becomes more fractured. Angus needs some assistance at first, but then he takes charge with his mum when it’s needed the most. And because of it all, Josh finds himself with people in his life, in his home and in his heart
While Josh is somewhat in denial, people around him can see he has deep feelings for Angus. He knows it but denial is so much easier, you don’t get hurt by denial. In actuality you do, but it’s easy to fool yourself for a while… like Josh does initially. Angus and Josh are one of the most beautiful couples, not because Suki Fleet paints them as some versions of Adonis, but as people with kindness and gentleness in their hearts and souls. People with fears, sometimes irrational but mostly quite normal. Josh and Angus shine, quietly. Neither are overly complicated people. Sure, Josh has to overcome his past, but we all have something. Both young men have great strength of character and the book is never mired in pity or littered with helpless, hapless victims. There is a melancholy feel, a longing, but the book is also hopeful and sweet. The author walks a perfect line of believable and likeable characters and events. This could be someone you know. This could be you
Falling is a beautiful story. It has a gorgeous cover. It is written with great compassion. It has lovingly drawn characters. Ms Fleet has a way with words that I cannot do justice to in a review. I honestly can’t. I can’t explain to anyone in real terms the visceral impact it had on me – the ache in my chest, the twist in my gut – as I read, without making it sound miserable, when, in fact, it’s quite lovely. It is sad at times but overall it’s uplifting. How I longed for Josh to take that chance, for Angus to be happily settled with the guy he loves, even though he’s still so young. To be able to fulfil something his father took away. For Eleanor to be well. This is not going to suit readers looking for a gung-ho, alpha lead, with action aplenty, or maybe it won’t even be sexy enough for some people, I know this. But, and please consider this but, if you like kind-hearted characters, love-making that fits organically within the storyline, a well paced, more purposefully structured read, with genuine characters, with topics and issues that are always relevant and affect so many of us, then pick up and read this beautiful book. 5 Stars!