Every New Year’s Eve since 1946, Nate Meyer has ventured alone to Times Square to listen for the ghostly church bells he and his long-lost wartime lover vowed to hear together. This year, however, his grandson Blaine is pushing Nate through the Manhattan streets, revealing his secrets to his silent, stroke-stricken grandfather.
When Blaine introduces his boyfriend to his beloved grandfather, he has no idea that Nate holds a similar secret. As they endure the chilly death of the old year, Nate is drawn back in memory to a much earlier time . . . and to Walter.
Long before, in a peace carefully crafted in the heart of wartime tumult, Nate and Walter forged a loving home in the midst of violence and chaos. But nothing in war is permanent, and now all Nate has is memories of a man his family never knew existed. And a hope that he’ll finally hear the church bells that will unite everybody—including the lovers who hid the best and most sacred parts of their hearts.
Guest Post: Why Nate?
By Amy Lane
People are going to ask it—I am well aware.
Why Nate Meyer? Why a Jewish son of a clock maker?
When I used to teach The Canterbury Tales, one of the things I would point out to them is how diverse a high school classroom was. As they grew and matured, and their lives and jobs became more specialized, they would be, more and more, hanging out with people more like them. A classroom was a true cross section—income, background, intelligence, and potential. Beyond an honors program, there was no winnowing process, and even in the honors program, the spectrum was pretty vast, and they’d never see the like again. I told them that the thing that made The Canterbury Tales special was that, like in high school, all walks of life were represented, so you had the noble Knight alongside the not-so-noble Summoner and Pardoner, and all three of them in the same group as the lusty Wife of Bath, and don’t forget the blue-collar Miller and the Joiner telling bawdy stories to give each other crap.
A pilgrimage to Canterbury was the only place you’d find that cross-section of English society together in a group.
The same thing was true of WWII.
Everybody participated. From a hard-scrabble farmer from Idaho to the middle-class Jewish son of a clock-maker in Manhattan. People signed on in droves and went off to fight—and, unlike in our wars today, most of them were over twenty, and had some life-experience and some responsibility under their belt before they were asked to kill strangers.
And unlikely friendships were made, unlikely partnerships forged. If I was writing a romance, I would want to explore that idea of completely different people being thrown together, to see what they have in common. But it was more than that.
Very often, in contemporary Gay Romance Fiction, we sort of glorify the idea of coming out of the closet and living our sexuality for us, and not for the world around us. But homosexuality was a crime back then. In the 50’s, the guy at the pharmacy developing your pictures could turn you in for obscene acts, even if you were just kissing your lover’s cheek. In Germany, the “Pink Triangles” were tortured, imprisoned, and put to death just like the Jews. And just like the Jews, that scar wasn’t going to go away because the war was over. This sort of contemporary idea of “living my life for me!” didn’t exist. In fact, it was the baby-boomers, the children born after the war who grew up to invent that idea, but before that? You lived your life for your family, and part of living your life for your family was doing what the world expected of you.
And in this day and age, we think “That’s awful, how did anybody live back then!”
But for many people, their group, their church, their family, their tribe, was a comfort. They lived back then—and lived happily, as much as they could—because they had the solidarity of their fellow humans around them. It wasn’t the happy ever after that we expect from our lives today, but it wasn’t imprisonment, slavery, torture, or death either.
So I wanted to explore that idea—that when our hearts are grieving, we will take the comfort of family, even if that means we have to give up one of the things that makes us “us”.
That was Nate’s choice. I wanted us to see why he made it. Nate was a part of two groups that were horribly alienated, through no intrinsic fault of their own. Choosing one of these groups over the other is an incredibly difficult thing. Why would he make the choice then that appalls us today? What’s changed in the world since then? Has it changed enough, that three generations later, another young man can make a happier choice?
I hope so. I know that the book ended in that hope. I pray that the readers see that hope too.
About the Author & Links:
Amy Lane exists happily with her noisy family in a crumbling suburban crapmansion, and equally happily with the surprisingly demanding voices who live in her head.
She loves cats, movies, yarn, pretty colors, pretty men, shiny things, and Twu Wuv, and despises house cleaning, low fat granola bars, and vainglorious prickweenies.
She can be found at her computer, dodging housework, or simultaneously reading, watching television, and knitting, because she likes to freak people out by proving it can be done.
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