and Mystery, Crime Fiction Writer
Beau with his long hair
Lloyd Meeker at Joyfully Jay review
Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
A New Zealander artist, Matt Quintal, is living the wild life of a good-looking gay man in Los Angeles, but his soul is seriously undernourished, and he’s become restless, cynical, and detached. His sister Rachel, who lives in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, convinces him to come visit and regroup. He jumps on a plane and is soon enveloped in the mystical beauty of the island, so similar to the New Zealand homeland he’s rejected, but different enough for him to let its spell take deep hold.
As Matt and Rachel are out kayaking in a lagoon, an old Stearman biplane flies over, and something about it transfixes Matt. He has no explanation why, but he has to meet whoever is flying that plane. Rachel, far more in tune with her intuition than her brother, is delighted to join the adventure.
They get to the local airstrip just in time to see the biplane taxi onto the apron. The pilot’s face is obscured, but Matt is entranced by the lithe woman who climbs out of the cockpit, her hair tied in a long braid hanging down to her waist. When the scarf, helmet, and goggles come off, it’s not a woman but a man—Japanese/Hawaiian/Tahitian Beau Toyama.
This book is a really interesting and enjoyable read, on many levels.
First, it’s different, starting with the narrative choice. It’s written in first person present, alternating between Matt’s and Beau’s POV. I generally don’t enjoy first person present, but this story actually dictates it.
It’s different in the way the story is conceived. In so many current M/M stories it’s the struggle, pain, and obstacles that provide the landscape of the story. In this book Amor raises the interesting question, “What if love actually drove the story instead of the problems?” She comes up with an equally interesting answer: Love forces the men to face old wounds, heal, and grow in order to keep the love they’ve found, and love is what gives them the strength to do it.
Think, for example, of how many stories are built around woundedness, being disowned for being gay, or the main characters being forced to work together to defeat a common foe and fall in love almost in spite of themselves. Or the main characters who oppose each other until they really see who they’ve been fighting with. Those are great tropes, nothing wrong with them. But our stories have to be more far-ranging than that.
Did I say this book was different? This is not a story of two wounded twenty-year-old white kids struggling to engage the world and achieve their HEA. Not that there’s anything wrong with that dynamic, but let’s face it, we have lots of those, and it does wear a bit thin after a while, at least for me.
Here, the two MCs are Polynesian, one approaching his first Saturn return just before thirty, and the other almost forty. The story itself is “Mix-Plate” Polynesian, and draws on the land, the history, and the cultural values of New Zealand, Hawaii, and Tahiti in particular. That creates a clear difference in communication style, the pace of the story, plus a distinct generous openness, and of course deep, mystical connection with the sea.
Second, in order to sink into the story the reader has to let go of the western European model of logic and causality. The story is mystical, and the mysticism is not a big deal in itself, just a fact of life—like being a lawyer, or having to earn a living.
Animal totems, spirit guides, the spirits of water, air, earth and fire, the wisdom and guidance of ancestors—they all take their place in the story without fuss. This is a story built on magic—the real kind, the kind that comes from that part of the soul that many of us don’t honor often enough.
Here also the exaltation of the individual in white European culture is softened by the over-arching power of connection with life as a whole. As I read, I encountered an underlying intimacy in the workings of the natural world, and the healing the MCs must go through to connect with the world and with each other. The nourishing power of loving family is a powerful force, too: both the MCs are guided in their journeys by women family members, alive and passed.
The author uses a large number of Polynesian words in the story, which seemed heavy on occasion. On the other hand, those words prevented me from ever slipping into an unexamined habit of thinking the characters were Caucasian. Before you begin reading, you might want to graze through the glossary provided, just to familiarize yourself with those terms.
If you require heavy helpings of angst, and that your MCs wallow in their brokenness for chapters on end, this is probably not the right read for you. This is a sweet story, but sweet in the sense of men reclaiming some rare aspect of natural, child-like innocence.
That sweetness is itself part of the gift of this story, as it is not just the story of two men in love, but a story of regaining place in family. Its culmination is not just the men’s HEA, but the integration of the two characters as a couple into the expanded family constellation, an incredibly satisfying element for this reader.
On a technical level, the writing might have been tightened here and there, but those issues did not detract from my enjoyment of this truly touching story. I recommend it to any who are attracted to soul magic.
I wake up to the gorgeous smell of freshly brewed, pure Kona. Thank you, there is a God. I wrap a sarong around my waist and join Rach on the lanai. My time clock is still on LA time; otherwise I’d never make it up this early. I’m a night owl and usually paint all night, sleeping in the day. But being here on the island means beach and water days. The best action is in the morning, before the off-shore breeze comes up in the afternoon.
“You ready to go in half an hour?” she asks.
I nod. Speech isn’t one of my just-waking-up skills.
* * * *
We’re paddling back from the Kealakekua and have had a fantastic morning out there. The snorkeling is some of the best in the Hawaiian Islands. Twenty-five odd feet of clear aqua-blue water, teeming with multicolored tropical fish and the odd honu, or turtle. We pay our respects to Captain James Cook. His white obelisk monument is out there on a wee patch of British soil. The Hawaiians killed him approximately where the monument stands. He made a slight miscalculation and found himself on the arse end of things. A wee bit embarrassing.
We Kiwis know about Captain Cook because his ship the Endeavour is on our fifty-cent coin. He was the first European to circumnavigate New Zealand and map its coastline. They don’t usually mention we Maori were there well before him, but I don’t care today. I feel sun-bronzed and tired but good. We’re on a slow, easy paddle back. Rach is getting tired, and I’m doing most of the arm work.
I look around; what’s that noise?
Rach stops paddling and looks too. She points up, and I see the blue of the body fabric, with the distinctive bright-yellow double wings.
“That looks like a Stearman,” she says.
“That’s what I was thinking. I didn’t think anyone here had a biplane. I wonder if that’s Bruce from Oahu?”
“Could be, but I heard a rumor there was a guy here with one too. I wonder if he’s at Keahole or Hilo. He might be on the other side of the island.”
Suddenly I’m seized with an overwhelming urge to find out where this plane is landing and who’s flying it. My heart squeezes in my chest when I think about it.
Rach turns and looks at me. “What?” she asks. Christ, she’s tuned in.
“I need to know who’s flying that plane.”
We grin at each other, and she says, “Let’s paddle.”
She digs her oar in, and we set a good pace for the kayak landing at Napoopoo Road. By the time we arrive, we’re both sweating heavily. Thank God the guys are here to haul the boat out of water and tie her to the truck. I’m almost hopping up and down with impatience to be off. Rach grabs my arm and points. The Stearman is still flying around, back and forth along the shoreline. I chuck a tip at the guys loading, and we race off up the hill. We nearly throw the kayak off when we get to Kona Boys and step on it down the hill into Kona.
It’s still flying, and I pray she doesn’t suddenly keep going south over to Hilo. I’m driving as Rach checks with the binoculars out the sunroof.
“She’s turning again…”
We’re through Keauhou, past the turnoff for Kona itself and heading for the airport.
“She’s coming this way, starting her descent, I think. Yeah, she’s flying the pattern. She’s going to land at Keahole. Bet you.”
My heart is pounding. What the hell is this? I guess we’re about to find out.
I turn left into Airport Road and cut through to the private tie-down area in Ulu Street. We stand at the fence and watch her land on runway one seven then weave back and forth on the taxiway so the pilot can see. A woman’s flying, long hair in a thick braid down her back. The face under the goggles and helmet looks Hawaiian. Rach will love this. There are so few women pilots, and both of us love open-cockpit biplanes to fly in.
Nothing beats the run along a grass strip, a gentle pull back on the stick, and she’ll waft into the air. Light as a feather, it’s a completely freeing moment for me.
We stand listening to the clack-clack as the big wooden propeller comes to a stop. The pilot flips off the switches and pulls off her gloves. Big hands for a woman. She gets out and walks down the wing, dropping onto the ground. Tall too. The pilot bends down to push chocks under the front wheels of the beautiful plane. All dope and fabric, gleaming sky blue, standing out amongst the private heavies and small private planes like Cessnas and Piper Cubs.
She’s checking the plane. Damn, if I were into women, she’d do something for me. She’s got a very graceful way of moving, tall and lithe. I have to laugh. She’s wearing slippahs. I point at her feet, and Rach grins. She hates flying in shoes and would fly in jandals any day. Flip-flops to the Americans.
She finally unwinds her white silk flying scarf and chucks it into the cockpit. Her back to us, the helmet and goggles go next. When she turns around, I’m in for the shock of my life. I literally feel like my heart stops beating. It’s not a woman pilot. It’s a guy, and he stares straight at me. My hand tightens on the hurricane wire fencing we’ve been leaning on. Shit, what the fuck is this?
He continues to stare. It feels like he’s assessing me on some level, probing around in my soul, whipping through the chambers of my heart, checking out the lay of the land.
He’s beautiful. There isn’t another word to describe him. Exotic looking. His features are fine, almost Tahitian but not quite. He’s mixed with something else, a touch of the East in his eyes. Long, braided, jet-black hair reaches to his waist. He unzips his flight overalls and ties them around his stomach. Broad brown shoulders stick out from a red tank, Polynesian tattoos in a lei across his chest area, arm band ink just above his elbows. Two earrings in one ear. I’m getting a hard-on.
Now he’s finished the inspection of the plane, he takes a tow hook and connects it to the front of the aircraft. Another guy comes over, and they pull the plane into a hangar. I wonder if we’re going to have to track him down, but he comes out a few minutes later, walking toward us, unbraiding his hair. He combs it out with his fingers and flips his head down, then back up, letting it stream out behind him in the wind.
“Fu…ck…” whispers Rach beside me.
I’d agree with that assessment. Thank God I decided to wear togs under my shorts. The Kiwi swimsuit might contain my erection slightly. And if I could find some breath for my lungs, it would help.
“Aloha,” he says as he approaches the gate.
“Aloha. We love your plane. Are you giving rides?” asks Rach.
“Not today. Wind’s getting up a bit for a biplane, but tomorrow, if the wind’s good, sure.” He has soft, gentle energy.
“Can we book in with you?”
Thank God Rach is talking. I’m struck dumb. I feel like a complete idiot. He comes through the gate and sticks his hand out to me. I shake it automatically. Then he turns to Rach and shakes her hand too.
“Where are you guys from?”
He has a melodic voice, but that’s not what has me mesmerized. The handshake went straight to my balls. Then he’d smiled, and his eyes lit up. A deep brown abyss I fell right into. Hook, line, and sinker.
“We’re Kiwis, but I live here. I’m Rach, and this is my brother Matt. He’s visiting. We were out paddling at Kealakekua, heard the lovely sound of the radial engines, and followed you in.” She grins.
“Are you a pilot?” he asks her.
Rach points at me. “We both are.”
“Hey, that’s cool. You ever flown in one of these before?” he asks quietly.
We both nod. I can’t even speak. Every time I open my mouth to say something, no words come out. I feel completely gormless.
“I’ve flown in a couple of Wacos, Stearman, and Tiger Moth. Matt’s flown in a Gruman too, haven’t you?”
I croak out a yes.
Then he does something which floors me. He bites his lip and smiles shyly. His long eyelashes flick down onto his cheeks. That makes him even more attractive. It’s a very feminine gesture. Not something I’m expecting from a biplane pilot.
He turns back to Rach, and I hope the muggy heat out here by the tarmac will account for my labored breathing. I wave my hand in front of my face. “Hot,” I manage to say.
“She’s a hot one today, yeah. A lot of bugs too.”
I nod again. He’s got the slight island lilt you hear in native Hawaiians who have grown up here.
He glistens; tiny rivulets of sweat run down his chest, disappearing into the tank and soaking the front. His chest is smooth, like a lot of Polynesian men.
“What time do you want to go up tomorrow—the earlier, the better for the wind factor?”
Rach nods. “We’ll work in with you.”
“You both going to fly?” he asks.
“Well…good.” That shy smile again.
“What time works?” asks Rach.
“You want to come out early. Let’s say an eight and nine o’clock flight? I can put the stick back in the front too, if you like. Then you can get some stick time.”
I finally find my voice. “I’d love that.”
“Me too,” he says softly again, and my breath is caught in my throat. “See you tomorrow. I’ll meet you here.”
“Okay, groovy, sounds good,” says Rach.
“Oh hang on; let me give you a card in case you need to call for any reason.”
He rummages around in his flight bag, pulls out his wallet, and gives us a card each.
Beau Toyama—his phone number and a picture of the plane.
A deep heartfelt soul to soul male/male romance
Two stunning Polynesian men, each experiencing existential crisis, meet and fall in love. They find healing against the beautiful backdrop of the mystical Hawaiian Islands.
Beau Toyama and Matt Quintal
Set in Kona, The Big Island of Hawai'i, and Bora Bora, Tahiti
Beau Toyama, biplane pilot and flight instructor on the Big Island of Hawai’i has only been out for a year. His last relationship with a man was a disaster. When he meets Matt Quintal, who’s visiting his sister, he’s stunned by the instant attraction to him. But Beau’s afraid to ask for what he needs in a relationship; his anger frightens him. The “mixed plate” Hawaiian/Japanese/Tahitian man works on being Zen calm but Matt brings all his emotions to the surface. It uncovers a devastating secret from his childhood and deep shame that needs healing.
Matt Quintal, New Zealand painter has been living the wild gay life in LA. After one more night of soulless mechanical sex where his body is engaged but his emotions aren’t—he knows he needs a change. His sister wants him to come to Hawai’i for a visit; another big rock in the middle of the Pacific doesn’t seem like a solution but he has to do something. When he flies with Beau in his biplane, he feels a strong pull toward both man and plane that he can neither explain nor deny.
Matt’s a New Zealander, they’re encouraged to be tough, rugged and durable. He is, but he's emotionally a wreck, afraid to show his emotions, so he’s surprised when Beau encourages him to be all of himself. Has he finally found the freedom to be the man he wants to be? The heat between the two men is like watching Pele let her hair down, releasing her hot, molten lava. Will the gorgeous Hawaiian with his long silky black hair and soulful brown eyes finally convince the gypsy nature in Matt to put down roots in another island culture?
All my stories are ultimately about soul deep relationships, the intense love and connection we all crave with another human being. The core need to be accepted just as we are.
Edward my muse for Beau Toyama