5 Stars, Alex Kidwell, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Kim, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Gumption & Gumshoes by Alex Kidwell

TNA Page Turner Resized

Title: Gumption & Gumshoes

Author: Alex Kidwell

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 207 Pages

At a Glance: Alex Kidwell, you now have a new fan, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your work.

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: August Adahy Mendez would rather be buried in the world of his detective novels or a good film noir movie than in real life. He’s overweight, undermotivated, and stuck in a dead-end job. As a Chincha, he’s part of a long line of chinchilla shifters, but the greatest accomplishment in his life so far has been moving an hour away from his close-knit herd. That all changes when August’s grandfather leaves him enough cash to pursue his dream: becoming a detective himself.

Sam Ewing is a bitter divorcé who enjoys watching football and being alone. It’s easier when his only interaction with people is when he collects rent from his office building tenants. Then August rents space from him to set up his new detective agency, and Sam is drawn to him despite his misgivings.

Sam soon finds himself involved with one of August’s cases, and the men join forces to catch their criminal. The greater challenges they face, however, are how August makes Sam want to give love a second try and how Sam makes August believe that real life might be even better than fiction.


Review: Have you ever had something on your TBR shelf that’s just been sitting there gathering dust, figuring you’ll get to it sooner or later? Well, I’ve challenged myself to finally read that backlog of books this year as part of a personal challenge, and dang, I came across this cute little jewel that has been out and circulating for awhile.

Apart from being a chinchilla shifter, August is basically an ordinary person, and I easily fell in love with the character. With the help of his grandfather’s inheritance, August is finally following his dream of becoming a detective. Unfortunately, the reality of being a detective is not what he expected. The job is mostly about chasing down cheating spouses, and the pay sucks. It doesn’t take long before the inheritance is almost gone, and the office August is renting becomes just a tad difficult to pay for on time.

Rent day… Sam figured when he bought an office building, he’d have a nice little nest egg for his retirement. What he didn’t count on was that when rent was due he’d have to chase down some of his tenants to get his money. Sam does start off as a bit of a jerk, but once you get to know about his history, and realize that he’s built this wall of gruffness to protect himself from hurt, it doesn’t take long to really like him. Sam turns out to be a romantic marshmallow when it comes to August, and Sam sees August as one hell of a sexy man.

Of course, August finally gets a real mystery to solve, and the rent is due, which brings these two together. The fact that August is a chinchilla shifter makes the plot even more interesting as well as cute. I loved how Sam found out about August being a shifter.

Breaking down the main obstacles these two characters have: Sam sees himself as too old for August, and August considers Sam to be one of the beautiful people who would hardly give him a second glance, what with his belly rolls. His own self-image screws with him. It’s the relationship building between these two MCs, and how they both overcome their self-image issues to find their HEA, that made me fall in love with Gumption & Gumshoes.

Alex Kidwell, you now have a new fan, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your work. I also would love to listen to Gumption & Gumshoes in audio. It’s a reread for me.


You can buy Gumption & Gumshoes here:

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

Alex Kidwell, Dreamspinner Press

Grab The Popcorn And Let’s Talk Film Noir With Alex Kidwell. Then Get Ready For A Giveaway!

Several years ago, I had a friend who introduced me to the world of film noir. She loved the battle between good and evil that was never really resolved, the gray areas that the anti-hero would play in, the dames with their legs up to here, the down-on-his-luck detective who would try to make things right. She made me fall for it, too.

So when another friend expressed a wish for a chinchilla shifter story, I knew I had to dip back into that genre. However, I couldn’t imagine doing a super serious book about such a fluffy, adorable creature. So August Mendez came to be. He’s overweight, under-motivated, stuck at a dead end job and he loves anything to do with old school detective stories. Oh, yeah, and he can shift into a chinchilla.

For Gumption & Gumshoes, I pulled from the film noir inspiration, but I very much wanted to develop the story into something lighthearted. August’s journey is towards becoming comfortable in his own skin, whatever that skin should be. He is given an opportunity to pursue his daydream of becoming a private eye; within that, though, he has to remove the fantasy and realize that worthwhile things don’t come as easily as the movies.

Sam Ewing is August’s love interest in the book, and I have to admit, I fell in love with writing him. He’s gruff, bitter, divorced, fifteen years August’s senior, and very much a softie under all that grumbling. Throughout the story, he helps August’s confidence while August helps him realize that he can let go of the pain of his failed marriage. They’re a great partnership.

It doesn’t start out great, though. This excerpt is from the first time the reader sees the two interact:

Most days, Sam found, it wasn’t worth getting out of bed. Just flat-out was not worth the time or bother. And really, what was so great about the outside world? People were dicks, by and large, and dealing with them only put him in an increasingly foul temper.

All of this held doubly true on rent day.

Rent day was like a holiday designed by a masochist. Owning a building had sounded like a great idea before he’d actually, well, owned the damn building. Before, it’d just been a job where he would be his own boss, set his own rules, where he could insulate himself from the dickbags of the world. Do some repairs when they were called for, change light bulbs, paint once a year—the whole thing had been perfect. But that was before he’d known about rent day.

Sam slammed his fist on the door, barking out three quick beats. “Mrs. Pritchett, it’s Sam Ewing. It’s the sixth, Mrs. Pritchett, I’m sorry, but I need to collect the rent. Lights don’t go on by themselves, you know?” Yeah, this was exactly what he wanted his life to be. Harassing little old ladies for the rent to their offices. At least it wasn’t apartments. If he had to throw someone out of their home he was pretty sure he’d just give up completely.

Mrs. Pritchett owned a little hair-and-nail salon on the first floor. It was good for business, nice storefront, drove foot traffic. People liked to rent in a building that had all that shit. Four floors, seventeen tenants, and him living in the walk-out basement he’d converted. It wasn’t a bad gig, really. Except for today. Today he had to be up at seven to try to catch people before they opened for business, knock on doors, and be the bad guy.

He wasn’t the fucking bad guy. He was just the guy who wanted to get paid.

Sighing, he fished out one of the Rent Due notices from his pocket and stuck it to the door. Someone was bound to see it when they came to open up, and if he didn’t hear from Mrs. Pritchett by noon he’d have to come back. Silently, Sam begged her to call. He hated coming back in front of customers; it was just… awkward.

Next stop was the fourth floor. Room 403 was the smallest office space he had; he almost hadn’t bothered renting it at all. It was barely big enough for a desk, some bookshelves, and a coffee maker. But every so often a fledgling business liked to get a cheap storefront to start, and it wasn’t hard to keep up with the maintenance on it. So Sam rented it for a song, made the lease six months instead of twelve, and kept it pretty well occupied. He hadn’t had much cause to come up there, really, rent day or no.

At least, not until five months ago.

Five months ago he’d gone against his gut and signed a lease with some chubby, wide-eyed kid in a damn fedora. Something told him that he’d be trouble, but Sam was a sucker for brown eyes, and he’d been cute, in a roly-poly kind of way. Aw, hell, in any way, though Sam was trying real hard to not think about it. At first, it’d been fine. Rent had been paid on time, guy had been quiet, no worries. For the first month.

“Mr. Mendez, it’s Sam Ewing.” Sam frowned at the door, repressing the urge to sigh heavily. He could hear the squeak of a chair, the distinct noise of someone stumbling, a muffled curse. “Mr. Mendez, it’s the sixth.”

There was another curse and a heavy crash. The brass sign on the door proclaiming August Mendez, Private Detective reflected Sam’s face back to him, the eye roll of disbelief echoed there. Finally, though, cautious footsteps approached the door and August opened it, peering through. Sam was struck again by how attractive the guy was, dusky skin and dark, wavy hair framing a round face that seemed to broadcast every emotion. Not that he was there to flirt. Not that Sam flirted anymore.

“Uh. Hey, Sam,” August said, giving Sam his best innocent smile.

“Mr. Mendez,” Sam sighed.

He was interrupted by, “I told you, you can call me August. Or Auggie, whichever. You probably wouldn’t be the Auggie type, though, you know? Not that there’s a type. Or that that’s a bad thing! Just, you’re all stern and you’d probably look weird calling me by the nickname I got as a baby when you’re just, you know.” August trailed off, smile faltering, a miserable expression taking its place.

“Not a baby?” Sam suggested, expression still firm even as the corners of his lips twitched slightly.

“Exactly.” August nodded before he seemed to hear what Sam had said. Horrified, he quickly amended, “No! I mean yes, you are definitely a man. An old man. Not that you’re old!” Letting out an explosive breath, August sagged against the doorframe in surrender. “I’ll have the cash for you this afternoon?”

“Thank you, August.” Sam turned, hiding his smile and heading toward the elevator. Well, that had been slightly better than expected.


I always love being here at TNA. Thank you again for allowing me to share about Gumption & Gumshoes.


Alex Kidwell, Dreamspinner Press

Sex? In Public? Go See Where Alex Kidwell Says He’d Do It… (How’s that for a catchy title?)

Today’s guest at The Novel Approach is Alex Kidwell, author of the utterly sublime After the End, which, if you haven’t read it yet, is a novel you ought to very much consider adding to your TBR and placing it right at the top. Just don’t forget the box of tissues you’ll need to get through it. :-P

So, go pour yourselves a cuppa, or whatever it is you like to drink, and help me welcome Alex to the show. :-D

Q.) How long have you been writing creatively, and is there one particular person you’d credit for fostering your love of storytelling?

A.) I’m actually a relative newcomer to creative writing. I’ve always made up stories, and my love of books means I’ve developed quite the daydreaming habit, but when I was younger I took most of my creativity out in theatre. I wrote plays and monologues through high school and college, but somewhere in the back of my mind I always wanted to write a book. About eight years ago, I tried my first short story. I still remember sitting there, tentatively poking out words, making my roommate read every sentence. It was nerve-wracking, it was terrifying, and I got hooked immediately.

I have somewhere in a hidden part of my hard drive my very first novel. It’s terrible and should never see the light of day, but it’s finished, and doing that proved to me that I could do it. It took me another six years before I tried again, but when Robin and I had the crazy idea to start Blood Howl, just knowing that I’d written something that long before and managed to complete it was huge.

There’s not one specific person, I think, who really pushed me into writing. More like a series of people – my dad, who gave me A Little Princess one Christmas, which is still my most cherished book, and who constantly was encouraging me to read new and different things; two friends that happened into my life and pushed me to try something terrifying and dare to be geeky and proud in my writing; Robin, who constantly makes me step up my game and who is a source of boundless inspiration – who have set up different stages of my road to becoming an author.

As for people I don’t know personally, much to my constant sorrow, I point to four writers as my biggest heroes – J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis who filled out my childhood with stories and places that formed my imagination, Madeline L’Engle who captured my adolescent angst for something more, and Rob Thurman, who was my inspiration to attempt to write professionally.

Q.) If I’m not mistaken, this is your first solo novel (without partner Robin Saxon). What made you decide to venture out on your own with Quinn and Brady’s story?

A.) The short answer is boredom.

Robin lives in Australia much of the time while I’m in the States. Visas are hard to come by for same-sex partners, so mostly we’re fourteen to sixteen hours separated. We write when we can together, but there would be large blocks of time when we’d be on our own, and we decided that we’d each try to write our own novels in our spare time. So Robin came up with The Royal Road, and I sat down to write After the End. It was honestly the scariest, hardest thing I’ve ever done, but what started out as a kind of experiment and a way to pass the time turned into characters I love and a story I am extremely proud of.

Q.) Speaking of After the End, tell us about the writing process for this book, because I don’t mind admitting I was sobbing before the end of Chapter One. How did the idea of writing a novel about death and grief and the whole process of recovery come to you? And please, be honest, how emotionally draining was it on you?

A.) The idea of After the End was to distill the emotion of grief and write a very simple, very pure story about the stages of it. It came from missing Robin one night and honestly feeling like I couldn’t move for how deeply I ached with that. We’re simply separated by distance; I started to wonder how someone could handle something more permanent, and the idea of writing through that developed from there.

When I write, I start always with the characters. Quinn came to me first, the idea of someone who’d had the love of his life, who had already had his happy ending, how do you go on from there? Actually, the original idea was to do a short story and Brady didn’t exist at all. It was just going to be Quinn dealing with his grief. But as I started to play around with Quinn’s character, I realized that I was writing a fairy tale; the flip side of one, where the happily ever after happened and then ended. Quinn was frozen, unable to force his way out of his own coffin. In order to really tell that story, I needed to find the person who would help him thaw. And so came the character of Brady. I always wanted to explore the idea of someone who had loved so completely figuring out how to live when that love was gone, and I felt, in the end, that having Brady there to support Quinn through his recovery – a recovery that happened not for Brady, or because of him, but that was helped by his presence – allowed for hope and for the promise that eventually you can live with your grief.

I’m an emotional writer. If I don’t feel the story or the characters, I can’t continue. Needless to say, writing After the End meant I was very involved in the emotions that were happening. It was draining, yes, for sure. I think that writing a good story always is, in some ways. But this book felt personal for me; I wanted the readers to walk side by side with Quinn through his grief, through the numbness and the haunting agony of loss, and then come out the other side with a sense of hope.

Q.) When writing the book, did you find it difficult to strike a balance with Quinn, to keep his dark from becoming too dark?

A.) I think the character himself is really what keeps it from veering into totally dark. I mean, here’s a guy who has lost the biggest thing in his life, and he’s still pushing forward. His coping methods aren’t that great, and he’s shut down a lot of himself, but he’s trying, and I think that’s huge. We open the book with hope and we follow Quinn as he learns to accept that. I don’t know, I just loved writing him because while he might not be emotionally healthy, he’s at least trying to figure out how to get there. He’s so sad and so lost, and I think his question is really a universal, poignant one – how do you say you loved someone when you’re trying to move on.

Q.) Aaron Paterson is such a larger-than-life, tangible influence in the story, yet he never spends a single moment on the page. Did you purposely set out to make him such a forceful presence in the book, or did he simply turn out that way as the story evolved?

A.) The one thing I knew from the start was that I wanted people to fall in love with Aaron. For Quinn, Aaron was not the lesser choice. He wasn’t someone he settled with for ten years. He was the absolute, hands down love of Quinn’s life. They were happy, they were fulfilled, and losing him absolutely destroyed Quinn.

If Aaron hadn’t been that important, or if Quinn hadn’t really been that in love, then the moving on part wouldn’t have been as heartbreaking for Quinn. It was incredibly important to me that we could feel how much Aaron and Quinn had been in love, and that they be a couple you would root for in any other circumstance. Their love story is the central theme of the book, really.

Q.) Brady Banner is, hands down, one of the most romantic characters I’ve ever read. What’s the most romantic gesture you’ve ever made?

A.) I really would say I’m not that romantic of a person. The interesting thing to me about Brady is that I never intended him to be overly romantic, either. I do think he’s like Robin in the sense that both of their love languages are in actions. How people express love is often how they believe love should be shown, and so I think Brady’s actions, in this book, definitely speak for how he’s feeling, even when he doesn’t say the words.

Q.) Do you foresee there could be a sequel to After the End? Not that I’m pressuring you or anything. Unless begging would help, in which case, I am indeed begging and/or groveling. ;-)

A.) Actually, just the other day I sat down and mapped out the plot of the sequel! I wasn’t sure if I was going to. I felt like After the End was a fairly complete story and I didn’t want to tack something on that wouldn’t have the same emotional weight. But I can say now that I have found a plot I’m very excited about; we’re going to get the next part of their story from Brady’s perspective and I’m really looking forward to writing it.

Q.) Of all the characters you’ve created, do you have one who’s your absolute favorite? If so, whom and why?

A.) Oh, man, good question. While I love all my characters equally, I will admit to a special kind of pleasure that comes from writing Jed Walker from the Sanguis Noctis series. He’s this great mix of foul mouth badass and vulnerable good guy that I really enjoy. The things we have planned for him in the future are really going to stretch him way beyond his comfort zone, which is where I love him most.

Q.) Are you a plotter or a pantser?

A.) Totally depends. With Robin, we are hard core plotters. We have plotting documents that would rival novellas in length. For After the End, I had nothing written down. My current projects vary – the one that was just submitted had a few paragraphs, the one I’m in the middle of has a few pages. I’m unfortunately not very consistent with my process, but once I find what each story needs I get into my groove for that book.

Q.) What makes you laugh?

A.) Robin. Honestly, no matter how bad of a mood I’m in, no matter how much I don’t want to laugh, Robin can always make me.

Q.) If you could sit down to dinner with one famous person, past or present, fictional or not, whom would that be, and why?

A.) I am actually terrible at questions like this, because in a real life situation with someone I like or admire, I wouldn’t be chatty or brilliant or witty. I’d more than likely sit there with a big dumb grin on my face or fall down or burn myself on the soup. But I’d love to sit there and listen to J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis while they down pints and discuss theology and philosophy and the nature of fiction. I’d never be able to say a word, but I think that would be something magical.

(Lemme ‘splain, people, that the next three questions were submitted by Rhys Ford, and one of them made me blush so I wasn’t going to ask it, but then she told me to put on my big girl panties and ask anyway. Oh yes. The gauntlet was thrown and I accepted her challenge, and dear Alex had this to say: “I am an open book, my dear, and no question is too naughty.” :-P So, here with go…

Q.) If you were on death row and were down to your last meal, what would you order?

A.) Something that counteracts poison. (Hah.) Seriously, though, probably a turkey dinner. I’m a big fan of simple, homey meals, as my cooking skills are sadly lacking (I think the Food Network is a magic show). Turkey, my mom’s cranberry orange relish, which is my favorite food ever, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, and a peach pie for dessert. I’d just nap through my execution.

Q.) Where’s the most romantic place you can imagine having sex in public, without that pesky risk of worrying about being caught? ::blushes::

A.) I think half the point of having sex in public is that thrill of possible discovery. But if I got my choice, I am a huge fan of the idea of being under my partner’s desk, slowly teasing them with my tongue, completely undoing them while they’re having to pretend nothing at all is going on. ::Oh myyyyyy:: :-D

Q.) What’s your favorite swear word, and why?

A.) Fuck. God, I love the word fuck. I was never allowed to curse as a kid and I think I overcompensate now – I have a mouth like a salty sailor.

Q.) Do you have any Works-In-Progress you’d like to share a bit about?

A.) I have a few that I’m really excited about. The first one is Bloodlines, which is the third book in Robin’s and my Sanguis Noctis series. In it, we’re delving hardcore into the lore of that world. Jed and Redford are getting tangled up in a brewing war, we’re introducing new characters, and we’re really exploring this idea of wolves within the supernatural community. In it, Jed and Redford are having some growing pains, which is both fun and heartbreaking to write. The book is basically about family – what it means to be born into one and what it means to choose your own – and I have to admit, it’s my favorite one so far.

I just submitted a solo novel called Gumption & Gumshoes. It’s extremely lighthearted, which is a nice change, and I had a blast writing it. It’s the story of August, an overweight underachiever who gets to pursue his dream of being a detective like in the film noir movies he loves so much. Oh, and he’s also a chinchilla shifter.

Sam is a gruff, bitter divorcee who is also the landlord for August’s detective agency. Together, they fight crime! (**ETA: Gumption & Gumshoes is scheduled for publication with Dreamspinner Press in August/September 2013!**)

What I’m working on now alone is The Women in the Water. It’s a murder mystery that, I hope, will be an homage to the likes of Agathe Christie. It’s set around an isolated lake town with a serial killer on the loose, two characters who alternate between suspicion of each other and outright dislike, and a snowstorm that traps them all. It’s a very different type of thing than I normally write and I’m finding it to be a very thrilling challenge.

And then there’s Happily After, which is the sequel to After the End. I won’t give away too much, but as I said, it will be from Brady’s perspective as he and Quinn start to make a life together. There will be heartbreak for them, of course, but I really hope to be able to capture the hope and love they have together as well.

Q.) Will you share an excerpt from After the End with us?

A.) Here’s a snippet from Brady and Quinn’s first real date. They’ve gone to the movies and are now off to get a piece of the infamous peach pie:

“Pie?” Brady asked, tugging my hand lightly. “Come on, I know this great diner. The coffee is strong enough to hold up a spoon.”

“Sounds like my kind of place.” Our steps matched as we wound our way through the evening crowd. “So, this is kind of embarrassing, but other than the fact you’re a party planner who hates overly fussy cocktails and enjoys fried cheese—”

“Which, by the way, is what makes America great,” he interjected with an impish grin.

I huffed out a laugh and nudged his shoulder with my own. “Fine. Besides the fact you’re a good American cheese-loving man, I don’t know much about you.”

He opened the door for me, a bell chiming lightly to announce our entrance. There were tables scattered around a long counter, the clank of dishes and hum of quiet conversation, and the delicious aroma of coffee. We got seated, and I ordered the promised peach pie, Brady adding a scoop of ice cream to his order.

“Well,” Brady said, sprawled out on his side of the booth, looking good in his tight black sweater. Not that he wasn’t perfectly aware of how he looked. His deep brown eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled at me, and he drummed his fingers on the back of his seat. “I’m a middle child. I went to school for biology for three semesters before I realized I couldn’t stand it, dropped out, and started working catering.”

“Wait.” A smile curled up my lips. “You were a science geek?”

“A very handsome science geek,” Brady shot back, poking a finger at me with a haughty look that only lasted through the beginnings of his laugh. Rubbing a hand through his hair, he shrugged. “I like knowing what makes people work. But now I use that knowledge for creating beautiful moments instead of cutting open frogs.”

Our coffee and pie came out and I dug into the sweet fruit. As promised, Brady reached over to steal my crust. I batted at his fork with mine, but he triumphed, grinning. I didn’t mind at all.
“How about you? Tracy mentioned something about a store?”

Shifting a bit, I fussed with my coffee, adding cream, keeping my eyes down. “Uh, yeah. I own a comic book store.”

People had different reactions to that. Mostly, I got laughed at. Yes, the grown man still spent his days talking about comic books. And Brady did laugh, yeah, but it wasn’t an unkind sound.
“Really? That’s kind of adorable.”

My eyes lifted to find him smiling at me. Something tight lifted in my stomach, a soaring kind of lurch, and I fiddled with my fork. “Adorable?” I murmured, quirking up an eyebrow.

“Yeah.” His hand stole across the table to find mine, that smile still doing weird flippy things in my chest. “Cool. Adorable. Kind of awesome. Take your pick of adjectives.”

“You really shouldn’t be this sweet,” I managed, kind of abruptly, though maybe it just felt that way because my cheeks were all red and I was barely able to keep from stuttering. “I just…. You’re the first person I’ve done this with in a really long time. And Aaron….”

And Aaron. Wasn’t that always the coda in everything? The start and the end and the fucking middle. And Aaron. Only there wasn’t any and anymore.


Q.) Thanks so much for that, Alex! Where can we find you on the internet?

A.) I am all things and everywhere. The internet is in my blood.

Robin and I have a website: www.saxonandkidwell.com

I’m on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/alexkidwellwrites

Occasionally I tweet @KiddingAlex

And Robin and I are on Tumblr, where we reblog incredibly geeky things and give anonymous love to strangers as saxonandkidwell

We are both really friendly and I hardly ever bite, so if you’d like to drop me a line about books or writing or how amazing Doctor Who, Sherlock, or Hannibal are (seriously, we are huge geeks), I am always up for a chat.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all these nosy questions, Alex! It’s been a pleasure having you here and getting to know you a bit better. :)

And thank you! I had a wonderful time answering these.

Alex Kidwell, Dreamspinner Press

Grief Is A Dish Best Served Told – After the End by Alex Kidwell

Grief is the price we pay for love. – Queen Elizabeth II

Quinn O’Malley knows a little bit about grief; it’s buried him, after all, under the pale ash of a life devastated by the very act of surviving when the one he’d lived for, the one he’d loved for, left him; and with that death, stole all the color and definition from the world.

Alex Kidwell’s After the End is this: a story of grief and of survival and of renewal, told in the juxtaposing voice of a man who understands moving through each day but doesn’t understand the meaning of the words “moving on”. For Quinn, those words somehow translate to betrayal and forgetting, and when a man as alive and as vibrant as Aaron Paterson slips the bonds of being, he leaves a gaping hole in the fabric of all the other lives his was meticulously and joyously woven into, and he is impossible to forget, let alone attempt to replace. There is only the pain of remembering and the bitter aftertaste of regret left for Quinn to sustain himself on. But the dichotomy of it all comes in the form of a man who sweeps in and slowly, meticulously begins to leach the weeping wound that’s been Quinn’s existence for the past two years.

Two very separate and distinct forces of nature have cut a swath through Quinn’s life, though they are similar much in the same way a hurricane is to a typhoon; you are either swept up in their power and embrace what they wreak, or you get out of their way. Quinn embraced the first storm with everything he had and was left with nothing but pain and memories for his efforts, left behind to attempt to rise from the wreckage of loving with abandon and then being abandoned by that love. When the second storm blows in, Quinn does everything in his power to close himself off from what he believes can be the one and only ending, but Brady Banner is nothing if not persistent and is patient enough to wait, to carefully begin to thread his way into Quinn’s life until, in the end, that thread is indispensible to the warp and the weft of Quinn’s remade existence.

After the End is the eloquent fairy tale of the knight who lays siege to a fortress and slays dragons to rescue a man who didn’t realize he was even in danger of being wholly consumed until he was kissed awake and with eyes wide open, was finally able to see the ghosts of his past and his present, and could see that allowing himself to move on didn’t mean forgetting; it meant healing. Brady delivers Quinn from the “I was” to the “I am”, from the end to the beginning, transforming the tense of his existence from past to present so that he was finally to embrace what could be.

Alex Kidwell brings friendships and family together to tell an utterly romantic story filled with universal truths and emotions, and does so with words that I didn’t read so much as feel; this is a story that washed over and through me, and I was reaching for the tissues before I even made it out of chapter one. This is a book that exemplifies the difference between reading a book and living a story, and is the difference between words written on a page and a portrait being painted with words, in all their contrasting colors, from the blacks and grays of sorrow to the rich and vibrant and sometimes violent tones of happiness and love and guilt and anger and hope and fear and redemption.

It is a story that introduces this profound truth: when life’s music inevitably changes, so must the steps we use to dance our way through it.

You can buy After the End here: