Title: When I See You Smile
Author: Karenna Colcroft
Length: 16k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, MLR Mixtapes, Rockers/Musicians, Music, Famous, a bit of BDSM, Coming Out, Light & Sweet
Rating: Pretty Good
Rocker Kieran West is ready to go public about his relationship with his lover–and submissive–Deacon Shea.
Although rocker Kieran West is openly gay, only a handful of people know about his relationship with his lover–and submissive–Deacon Shea. Although he knows the BDSM part of their relationship must remain a secret, Kieran wants the world to know that he and Deke are in love, and he wants to make Deke a permanent part of his life.
It has been a while since I read and reviewed one of Karenna Colcroft’s short stories — that last one being Chance Met, which I gave a So So rating — but I was excited to read this one because of the rocker theme. And I’m glad that I did, because this story did what a short romance does well. It doesn’t try to pack a whole romance into a short format but it gives us a glimpse into the life of the characters and their romance.
Kieran is a forceful presence, a musical star combining country and rock with a solid fan base, and publicly gay after coming out over a year before this story starts. But he also has a secret life that he’s held in check, mostly at the urging of his manager and boyfriend, who just wants to support his career and not jeopardize it. Kieran is a forceful presence, yes. He knows what he wants and he takes it, which makes him successful. But he also likes to carry that power into the bedroom, and he has a permanent partner there who likes to submit to him. Secretly, Kieran has been dating the man who works at his right hand, doing much of the behind-the-scenes work for his music and on his tours. Deacon is known to most as his best friend, but they’ve been lovers in a part-time BDSM relationship for a year now.
But Kieran is tired of hiding. He finally made the leap and convinced his management and studio that he should come out. But so far they’ve convinced him not to admit to his relationship with Deke, hoping to continue to play on Kieran’s heartthrob status and unsure if the same people who supported him coming out as gay would feel similarly about him as a gay man in a relationship. For Kieran, however, it is past time. When a man from the studio tells him to record a cover on his next album of the song “When I See You Smile” from the 80s, it serves as a catalyst for Kieran to stick it to the man. Kieran West doesn’t do covers, and he sure as hell isn’t going to keep Deke a secret any longer. But will Deke agree?
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, this story works as a glimpse into the lives of our characters at an important moment in their relationship, without using conflict to drive the plot. Of course, there is a little bit of conflict. The people around Kieran are pretty adamantly against his decision to go public about Deke, but there’s no real conflict because Kieran has already made up his mind, and like I said, he’s a strong personality. His resolve only serves to make us closer to him because we always respect people/characters who are steadfast and self-aware, especially in defense of their partner. And Kiernan’s decision to go public is really about honoring Deke, who deserves to stand up as his boyfriend as much as Kiernan wants to stand by his side. The BDSM flows outwardly from that, in the sense that it’s an extension of their personalities, but also that their sexual lives take a backseat to their romantic lives and their public lives. There is a touch of BDSM in the story, but it isn’t the focus.
The removal of real conflict works here if you’re looking for a light and sweet story, and it isn’t really needed to push the plot forward at 16k words. The story is short enough to keep a steady pace just from getting to know Kiernan and Deke, and the little bit of conflict that propels the story in the beginning as we start to see the dynamic in their relationship and how it changes when they move out of bed and return as equal partners. Deke remained a bit of a mystery for me, and to rate this story higher I would have liked to get to know more about him. The story reads well as it stands, however, and is definitely good for you if you’re in the mood for something sweet and heartwarming. And of course, rocker characters always draw attention and Kiernan does well playing the bad boy with a heart of gold.