Book Review: Give Way, by Valentine Wheeler

By B.B. | 01/28/2021

There’s nothing quite as comforting as dipping back into the cozy town of Swanley, Massachusetts in Valentine Wheeler’s second installment in their Swanley Signs series, Give Way. The familiar setting and characters make falling into Kevin and Awais’ story effortless and enjoyable.

Kevin McNamara’s life after retirement is…fine. He has friends, a few consulting gigs, and an ex-wife he’s finally on good terms with. But when he meets an intriguing stranger–a rarity in close-knit Swanley, Massachusetts–in his apartment lobby, he can’t stop thinking about him or about the unexpected attraction that knocked him flat.

Awais Siddiqui never thought he’d want to come back to his childhood hometown, but when his grandmother falls ill, he’s the only one who can move back to help. Awais figures he’ll be back in a big city soon enough–but then a silver fox on his route catches his eye.

It’s never too late to accept a second chance at love.

Although Give Way is the second book in Wheeler’s Swanley Signs series, it doesn’t require the reader to be familiar with the first book, No Parking, to understand what’s happening or who people are. It’s the same universe, same timeframe, just a different story and takes the time to reintroduce the residents of Swanley through Kevin and Awais’ perspectives. The Queerblr’s Silas reviewed No Parking in February of 2020 and we were very excited to return to the cozy gossipy town of Swanley, MA, where everyone knows everyone and their personal business. 

This book is a male romance between two older men, Kevin, a retired silver fox and renown lady charmer, and Awais, a charismatic mailman getting close to his fifties who has just moved back to Swanley. The story is short, clocking in at just about 112 pages and is a cute afternoon or evening read. The story, though short, isn’t afraid to tackle several romantic hurdles like coming to terms with their age gap and knowing each other when they were younger, internalized biphobia, coming out at bisexual in your retirement years, and first queer experiences. 

One thing that I really enjoyed about Give Way is how Wheeler didn’t have Kevin or Awais pinning and yearning forever at each other or saving intimate scenes for the end of the book. There was attraction, a bit of confusion and time passing, and then an opportunity for them to get together relatively early in the story. The two men falling into bed together actually spurred the tension for the remainder of the book, reeling with what ifs and second guessing and, of course, small town gossip that adds fuel to the tension flame. It is the perfect example of using early sex scenes to progress the story and add tension, where plenty of other romance books only “reward” readers with a sex scene at the end of the book to string them along through only attraction as tension, which gets stagnant quick. Give Way, being as short as it was, didn’t have time for stagnant yearning and the story allowed the older men to do what they wanted and then sit in the consequences of that. And it paid off.

My main criticism of the book is that I just wanted more development of characters to truly buy into some character descriptions or character decisions. Being such a short book, I understand why some of the character development felt lacking in favor of moving the plot forward, but I still wanted a bit more. I wanted more from Kevin’s epiphany that he’s bisexual, I wanted to see Kevin being charasmatic — not just be told that he normally was, more about Awais’ being attracted to Kevin and wanting to pursue things despite his biphobia, and more about Awais’ situation with his Aunt and Grandmother. Again, it’s a short romance story so I understand why some of that wasn’t there, but it was definitely still missing for me as a reader to fully understand and connect with the main characters.

Swanley is the perfect setting for this story of two older men falling in love. The town is small, but racially diverse and very queer. Awais’ aunt is also deaf, so there is narrative included about using ASL which was nice to see. And seeing a small group of people who weren’t christian (non-denomination, jewish, muslim, and buddhist to name a few) being annoyed by how the town goes all out for Christmas but still being happy for the overall festive cheer in the community during the holiday months was also nice and refreshing to see for a book released right after the turn of the new year. 

Give Way’s epilogue was one of the most successful and heart warming epilogues I’ve read to date. It left a happy cozy feeling in my chest when I finished reading, like drinking your favorite hot beverage while you’re swaddled up in throw blankets in winter with your favorite book kind of cozy. It’s a cute book about an unlikely pair that I’m sure many readers will enjoy. 

4 out of 5 Rainbows

Recommended Reader: Anyone looking for wholesome mlm content or a quick queer romantic read. 

You can find more from Valentine Wheeler on Twitter or their Website.

Give Way is available right now on NineStar Press or Amazon. Wheeler also has another short book coming out on February 15th, 2021: Loose in the Heel, Tight in the Toe: A Cinderella Story. The Queerblr will be doing an advanced review of it on February 10th! 

Book Provided by Author: The Queerblr was provided a copy of Give Way for free by the author; this has in no way affected the review and rating of the book that was written by The Queerblr.

Tune in next week for our review of Mage & Demon Queen, a Webtoon Web-Comic by Color_LES!

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