I was intrigued to read this anthology of October-December stories because the subject has interested me ever since I wrote a book with a May-December age gap and, through that, met another writer, Don Schecter who tackles the theme in his stories. (He is now in his late seventies).
Since then, I've got to know Don quite well, and he regularly beta reads my stories. Over time, we have discussed his feelings about age and the different relationships he has with younger men, so the topic is quite familiar to me, hence my interest in how Habu treats the same theme.
It probably helps that I'm in the November category myself, so I understand the changes in both body and desire. I have contemporaries in vastly different stages of health and happiness. Some former superfit people are on a slew of medications. Others have put on weight and lost fitness. Getting older is the pits but the alternative is worse.
This collection begins with the concept of age being a state of mind. A more confident older man challenges a fifty year old to stop being an observer of life and to get out and live it. This is a great lesson for everyone. Time seems to accelerate as we age and if we're not proactive about creating and ticking off that bucket list, it will be gone and we will have done nothing. Inertia rules, okay.
The next one was an older more confident executive moving confidently in on another at a crossroads in his life. Once again, he learned that you have to believe in yourself, so you can grab opportunities as soon as they become available.
The next story, "Play On" had a tennis coach who hadn't lost any of his cunning or sex drive. Told from the viewpoint of a younger man who had always felt totally out of his depth, we get this same reaction as he blunders helplessly along, despite his age, still a pawn of an older man.
Tennis is again the theme of the next story which is set in a retirement community. For a change, the author has three elderly females putting their spin on what they are seeing. Then we see what actually happens in a tender, heart warming encounter and finally we switch back to the three original onlookers. This was the perfect way to show this simple but heartwarming reaffirmation that grief may be there, but happiness can still be found no matter how old you are.
"Tempting Memory" has a lovely twist in it. This story of the ageing rocker with his even older, manager lover was a treatise on memory as the title suggests. How much we owe to what has gone before. It's a story about loyalty as much as anything. Even if that is all that there is left.
The final tale "Tuscan Memory" also appears as a standalone Tuscan Twilight
This explores how much are we ruled by who we are and where we are. And poses the unspoken question, what happens when duty and tradition take precedence over following personal desires. What happened in the past was only mentioned, yet it was amazing how strongly that reverberated.
What the author did well, as usual, was creating with only a few words, characters who have their own distinctive story arc and baggage. You quickly appreciate that the Conte, Damien and Dakota have very different agendas. But each feels justified in their own actions, both past and present. The setting adds a beautiful backdrop to it.
The preoccupation with appearance and physical beauty is a common thread as well as the ability to perform. Yet each character is different and each situation different.
This ability to quickly depict unique individuals is the biggest strength of Habu's writing. No doubt this stems from his job as an intelligence analyst, having to sum up thousands of words in his reports to his superiors and accurately portraying the strengths and weaknesses of the people involved and the situation they were dealing with.
I just wish he'd make a decent bibliography of his short stories and show where and when they appear in his anthologies. Switching titles slightly adds to the confusion. Luckily in this instance, I hadn't bought Tuscan Twilight, but I would have been annoyed if I did later and discovered I had it in an anthology.
His anthologies are good value, money wise, and are an excellent way to sample his writing.
These are the sorts of stories that I think people jaded with mm romance might like. They show men with all their fears, flaws and fantasies. And if the sex is impersonal and physical, lacking much emotional connection, maybe they are a more honest depiction of the situation, romance tropes notwithstanding.
(reviewed 5 days after purchase)