The Runaway by Jaime Samms – review

Rating: 8/10 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 

Title: The Runaway
Author: Jaime Samms
Genre: M/M Romance
URL: Freya’s Bower
Price: US$1.49
Warnings: None
Summary [from publisher]: After his father’s death, Miles returns to the farm he ran from ten years ago. When his past returns to haunt him, he has to decide if the memories will fence him in, or if he’s ready to free himself from remembered pain and return home.

My Review: There’s something about real life stories that I just adore.  Don’t get me wrong, I like sci-fi and fantasy and I like both when mixed with m/m romance, but stories about true life, those slices of life stories that may not be dependent upon plot, per se, just grab hold of me especially when they are done well.  And Runaway by Jaime Samms is done exceptionally well.

The piece is deceptively simple in its set-up, but underneath lies a wealth of imagery and emotion that hits home.  Miles is returning home following the death of his father, a drunkard whom Miles had left behind ten years ago.  But Miles has done anything but leave his past behind.  Like all of us, he carries part of it with him, deep down inside where it gives birth to resentment and pain and colors how he sees the world.  But when he returns to the farm his equally abusive and manipulative Uncle had run, Miles comes face to face with his past in the form of Dillon, his Uncle’s step-son, who now manages the place.  The past catches up with Miles and he might just realize that you can’t–and perhaps don’t really want to–run away from the past.

I don’t want to go too much into the relationship between Miles and Dillon and their respective relationships with the now absent fathers in their lives because unfurling it all is what makes this piece so wonderfully romantic and touching.  Samms does a remarkable job in describing Miles’ return to the farm.  Her description of the setting is so well crafted, you can practically smell the hay, feel the hot sun, hear the thrum of the grasshoppers.  But woven in subtly with that description is the emtotional response Miles has as he comes back to a place he never thought he would.  It is ripe with longing and sadness and even the joy that Miles has very nearly forgotten about his home.  And when he meets Dillon again, he sees all that was good, that everything might not be the shit he remembers it being.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  This story is not filled with over-the-top angst.  Samms keeps everything very subtle, extremely real. We’re never told all the details of the past, but we don’t need to be told.  Samms gives us just enough so that the past hovers around the characters, informs who they have grown up to be, but never does it turn them ugly.  Sure, these guys have their wounds, but they aren’t crippled by them in any way.  They both simply have their regrets and when they come together again, the reunion is understandably cautious, but also suffused with a warmth that I can really only describe as “true home.”

As for the characters, Samms gives each of them depth and their own distinct personalities and demeanors. Both are immensly attractive, confident in their masculinity without being poor stereotypes of gay boys trying to be butch.  They are genuine midwestern guys who just happen to be gay.  Samms accomplishes this depth and distinctiveness by giving us tiny snippets of their past relationship, they dynamic of who they were combined with who they have become, and only a very brief glimpse of their past sexual relationship. And, I must say, Samms uses her setting to build her characters as well.  Storm, the horse from Dillon’s farm, which plays an important part of bringing these two men back together, becomes a fully-realized character in its own right, while serving as a metaphor for the boys’ past and possibly future relationship.  It really is wonderfully full.

This is a short story (14 pages), but Samms packs a lot into it, managing a richness of setting and character in an effortless style that just warms you.  She does this by relying on her audience to read between the lines, to imagine the unspoken words and sketch in the details of these characters’ lives from our own memories.  In short, Samms doesn’t talk down to her audience, never has to spoon feed us anything.  The result is a wonderfully romantic tale about moving on from the past, returning home, and perhaps just a little about seeing some things differently than maybe we want to.

I cannot recommend this more highly.  It just put a smile on my face.

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