Title: Faith & Fidelity (Faith, Love & Devotion: Book One)
Author: Tere Michaels
Narrator:: JP Handler
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Run Time: 9 Hours, 48 Minutes
At a Glance: I think my biggest issue with the novel, overall, was that it dragged on in places.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: New York City Vice Detective Evan Cerelli has lost his wife, the only person he ever loved and slept with. He’s trying to get on with his life, build a life for his children. Former Homicide Detective Matt Haight is a ladies’ man, all sex/no commitment. He’s depressed, having a midlife crisis, and not sure where his life is headed.
The two find friendship in the bottom of a shared bottle. When the friendship turns to love, it shakes two straight men to the core and flips their lives inside out. Kids, families, careers that are not gay-friendly — can all the love in the world overcome the obstacles to faith and fidelity?
Review: Normally I would not give a disclaimer about my reviews but I feel it is important for you to know how I based my review on the narrator of this audiobook. A good portion of my high school and college years were spent speaking competitively. I received high honors, particularly in the area of Dramatic Interpretation, which included acting out scenes from plays with noted changes in pitch of voice, subtle nuances of both tempo and facial expressions, to indicate a different character, etc. I tell you this because when one is listening to an audiobook, it is vital for a narrator to change both tone and pitch to delineate the many speakers in the novel, particularly when there isn’t a “he said” attached to the dialogue. So, without further qualifiers, let’s take a look at the audio version of Tere Michael’s Faith & Fidelity, and the dulcet tones of its narrator, JP Handler.
This story revolves around two needy and wounded men finding each other, first in friendship. Theirs was a relationship built on mutual need, Evan having lost the love of his life and carrying enormous guilt over the fact his career as a cop kept him away from his family for long hours. He is mired in grief, and his four children live a half-life of sorts due to his inability to move past the loss of their mother. He is so tortured and so heavily invested in his memories that he cannot bring himself to date or even consider ridding his bedroom of his wife’s things. As a result, he sleeps on the sofa and moves through life in an almost zombie-like state, until he meets Matt Haight.
Matt works for a security firm, having lost his job as a cop due to his tendency toward angry outbursts and shooting off his mouth at the wrong time. Having angered some high-up politicians, he was booted from the force, and grieves the loss of his position every day. He finds his solace in the bottle of booze that is never far from him. When he is invited to a retirement party for a fellow cop, Matt attends with a great deal of trepidation and a healthy slug of alcohol to give him courage. When he meets Evan, there is a certain appeal to the guy, and they end up meeting to shoot the breeze. One get-together leads to another, and before they know it, these two have become best friends, and then…something more.
I enjoyed this novel for many reasons. I felt the two men and their attraction and horror over their attraction was very realistic. I appreciated the grief that consumed Evan, and found the way he interacted with his in-laws and children to be spot on—tinged with such sadness and remorse. I think my biggest issue with the novel, overall, was that it dragged on in places. Utilizing a changing point-of-view in the story I felt allowed things to keep on rolling—I had no problem with that at all. But the heavy-handed approach to Evan’s character—I felt that tended to weigh down the flow of the story overall. While I understood his angst over being “found out” in his relationship with Matt, I struggled with his not gradually letting go of his dead wife. Consequently, the fast resolve at the end of the novel left me uncertain if he was going to be able to be with Matt for a long-term future.
Speaking of the end, I also felt the quick turnaround by Matt in accepting Evan’s desire to reignite their love for each other to be way too easy and quick. Given the incredibly emotional breakup they endured, and then the abrupt turnaround—the story felt unfinished to me. Plus, there was unfinished business between these two men and no explanation of all they had done while apart—both having gone through some really emotional things. I realize this was a set up for future installments in the series, but I felt the final chapters of this novel sped up to the point where the storyline suffered.
As to the narration of the story, JP Handler certainly captured the emotional tone and angst of the novel. His trembling voice gave such resonance to the sadness inherent in Evan’s character. The sarcastic and deflective cadence to Matt’s voice really allowed me to understand the way he tended to hide his fragile emotional state over his inability to commit to a relationship and his sadness over leaving the force. The speed, clarity and handling of this extensive story were done well by Mr. Handler. However, I felt the variations in pitch and voices were a bit thin. When the narration did not include a clue as to who was speaking, I found it hard to delineate between Evan and Matt. Also, the slightly breathy and higher pitches for the female characters were not always consistent and left me wondering who was addressing whom in a conversational dialogue portion of the story.
All in all, this was a challenging novel to put to audio, given its length and numerous side characters. Also, it was highly charged emotionally, and that alone made the audio so hard to listen to at times due to the heavy tone of the written material. I am eager, however, to see what JP Handler does with the next installment of this series. I am hoping he will have a lighter text to read from, and we will be able to see the depth of his interpretive skills.
You can buy Faith & Fidelity here: