Kibbie’s (Rustle, 2017) novel follows a British gay couple who explore their pasts to make peace with their present.
In London, small-business accountant James Wilde and his partner, Arthur Pensinger, a construction worker, are in love but fear for their safety daily. They tell no one of their union; they’re simply “two lads sharing the rent” to the outside world, because “if anyone knew the truth, they would go to jail.” The men acquire their first television, truly a luxury item, in order to witness British history in motion as Queen Elizabeth II is crowned. The men soon learn of the heartbreaking death of their close friend Harold Marlin, the butler to wealthy Baroness Lady Barlow who’d cared for them as children, many years prior. James and Arthur evacuated London to avoid the Nazi bombings during World War II, and they were taken in at the baroness’s Willowind House. Harold’s dying wish spurs James and Arthur to travel to Scotland to investigate whether the now-deceased baroness’s suicidal son Matthew is still alive. With eccentric, hard-drinking landlady Viola Wylit and Harold’s grandson, Lance, along for the ride, the men begin digging into Matthew’s past. Over the course of this historical novel, Kibbie displays a talent for characterization, and he also exhibits a firm grasp of British conversational style as well as common colloquialisms, which add an air of authenticity to an already engrossing story. Even more enticing are the flashbacks that reveal details of James’ and Arthur’s childhoods. A sense of suspense and mystery propel the narrative forward, which eventually results in surprising confessions and an emotional reunion. Overall, it’s an ambitious, dynamic debut.
A rousing story of love and sacrifice.