“Living on Air” by Susan Mac Nicol follows aerialist Cary Stillwell, who not only is adept at his craft but is also skilled at hiding his dangerous addiction and at keeping others at arm’s distance. His isolation and penchant for self-punishment is disrupted by the arrival of a personable well-known photographer, who sees him as nobody else ever has. Each man has demons from the past, but their attraction refuses to be denied. Unfortunately, both of them may not be willing or able to accept a loving relationship.
This adult m/m story is both moving and sobering. Those with triggers should use caution (as should those who are squeamish) as there are fairly graphic and sad events described. I enjoy this author’s stories because her worlds are so vividly described (and given her descriptions of her research, I can see how she gets such rich detail, lol) and this was no exception.
The heartbreaking story that is gradually revealed provides an explanation for the extreme coping method that Cary uses, although that doesn’t make it any less gut-wrenching. I was captivated by the story from the very beginning, and although I winced at some of the descriptions, I was still driven to finish the story, despite some of the darkness that permeates sections.
Most of the secondary characters are also captivating, although they have their share of pain and challenges, and I hope all of these folks show up in another story at some point. I had a little trouble believing one of the unusual coincidences that connects the two main characters, and I wasn’t thrilled by the tragic resolution to one of the inciting issues, but that’s just me. I like that not everything is tidily resolved at the end of the story (which makes me hopeful we will see everyone again) because it gives credence to the seriousness of the conditions and provides a realistic ‘happy for now’ conclusion. I look forward to more striking stories by this talented author.
PIERCING THE NIGHT
Cary Stilwell has been existing since he was ten years old, and each year it gets harder to find meaning in his bleak life. The only exception - his work. As a top-billed aerialist in a popular travelling circus, he enjoys accolades and applause, but little else. When notable photographer, Rhys McIntyre, joins the circus to catalogue its inner workings, Cary fights the attraction that hits him from the moment they meet. But a kind soul wrapped in a beautiful body has a way of battering all the walls Cary has built around his cold, dark heart.
Rhys McIntyre is on his third iteration of reinventing himself. Once a hotdog financier, he embraced his passion for photography and became an eminent war photo journalist. Until one too many bullets lodged in his body, and he gave up the front lines for the softer side of chronicling life. When he accepts the assignment to record life in a circus, the last thing he expects is to find the man crush of his dreams. Except Cary Stilwell is a cold, tortured man who seems incapable of any warm emotion, never mind love. But Rhys is known for his persistence, and this time the pay-off might be more than he could have ever imagined.