2 books after, I think I’m starting to become a Megan Hart fan. Something about the way she writes, the themes she chooses to tackle and the way she presents the emotional conflicts in them leaves a lot of room to think. Which is all sorts of perfect for the unapologetic over thinker. She never spoon-feeds the reader. She allows you to mold the characters however you deem fit and devise your own conclusions about them based on your own ethos and experiences and in the end you are gifted with a story with some personal weight and clarity. Certain authors have grand stories to tell and then there are authors like Megan Hart who gives you a deceptively simple construct of romance and sex that gets to the bottom of you. Which is different from the bottom of someone else.
*insert butt joke here*
Flying tells the story of Stella, a divorced and single mom to a 16-year old boy. On weekdays, she touches up photos in Memory Factory while dealing with the joys of parenting an adolescent and trying to co-exist amicably with her ex-husband (Jeff) and his new younger wife. On weekends, she puts on sexy lingerie, a wig and packs her suitcase named TARDIS, off to a random destination, someplace with a bar and a man who needs fixing.
With sex. Of course.
She studies him surreptitiously, noting the black bag nestled at his feet like a faithful dog. The bag’s the sort you get at a conference, emblazoned with a dove and the words ‘Episcopal Diocese Fall Clergy Conference’ circling it.
Episcopalian, not Roman Catholic. No vow of chastity but still a priest.
Somewhere in the universe, Tiffany Reisz is laughing, probably thinking that’s cute.
The first half of the book juxtaposes Stella’s encounters with several random men, with her life as a middle-aged mother gradually losing touch with her teenage son (Tristan). Her whole backstory is revealed in a piecemeal manner through glimpses in dreams when she was a wife and a mother; reflected through the vaguely portrayed ‘special friend’ in Craig who has come back to her post-divorced life; and unraveled through Matthew, the recently divorced father of two whom she met in Chicago in one of her “flying” adventures.
In either of the lives that she leads, you get a sense of anger in her. Unlike the pervading theme of loneliness in Tear You Apart, which also employed a middle aged heroine, Stella has the feel of someone lashing out. There is sorrow but it’s mixed with anger in dealing with some form of cruelty that has been dealt her in the past.
And it’s always hard to be sympathetic to someone who is angry because it is a very selfish emotion.
So for a stretch of this book, I was pretty pissed at everyone but most of that hatred was focused on Stella. And Matthew. But mostly Stella, because Matthew is a spawn of her seemingly interminable self-centredness.
Because she reminds me of my 25-year old self. I'm going to leave to the imagination the details on that one, but there were fragments in this book that felt personal to me. In that I can imagine a sepia-colored, primitive version of myself in this forty-something, imaginary person. Those pathetic little moves, the games she played in not playing, the kind of monster birthed from the paranoia and insecurity of long-distance relationships were frighteningly vivid.
Ladies and gentlemen, my hormones.
At its heart, Flying is about control: about people losing it, the sharp thrill in their struggle and desperate need to get it, but once achieved leaves everything dulled and bland. But Megan Hart doesn’t just flat out give you that in endless permutation of over-the-top dramatic dialogue and obscure metaphors. She does indulge in these contrivances from time to time (there were dialogue exchanges between Matthew and Stella that made me cringe and she does love her water and drowning metaphors). She really gives you enough latitude to think and fashion the story to whatever depth you deem it is worth and still make it work.
I don’t usually get that in contemporary literature. Much less in books labeled ‘erotica'.
Her characters are never stagnant, there is growth and lessons learned in a believable pace and manner. Then she usually ends ambiguously, an unapologetic trademark I heard, which maybe why I’m signing on to the fan club. This author does not aspire to be your mother, your friend or your patronizing confidant. She doesn’t insult my intelligence by shoving her perspective obnoxiously with telling me how this story is supposed to be read, interpreting it for me while telling me about it.
She gives you the barest necessities: the sticks, the oar, the glue and the sail, to make the life raft. It’s all up to you to find the shore and paddle your way to it.
Then he kissed her. And again. He kissed and kissed her, and suddenly everything felt as though it was all going to be all right.
ARC provided by Harlequin-MIRA thru Netgalley for review. Quotes taken from uncorrected proof.