Thursday, August 7, 2014

That You Are Here by Meredith Allard: One Question, Review, & More!

That You Are Here
by Meredith Allard

Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance

On the outside, handsome, successful attorney Andrew Whittaker has everything in life. On the inside, he has everything too, only he doesn't know it. He hides the love of his life, Mark Bryce, from his family and everyone else where he lives in Portland, Oregon. Soon the weight of the secret becomes too much for Andrew. After wrestling with himself and his place in the world, he must decide how he’s going to live—with or without Mark.
Carly's One Question

Carly: That You Are Here is about keeping secrets, and how those secrets can not only change our lives, but who we are. Can you tell us about a secret you kept, either good or bad, and how it changed you?

Meredith: In That You Are Here, Andrew Whittaker struggles because he’s gay and in love with a wonderful man, and he fears sharing that side of himself with his family and the people he works with. While I’m not a gay man, I’m not even a gay woman for that matter, I can certainly relate to Andrew’s struggle to keep a secret. And I can relate to his feelings of being an outsider. I’ve spent most of my life trying to hide (usually not successfully) the fact that I have a pretty severe hearing loss. 

It might not seem like a big deal in this day and age, having a hearing loss, but the idea of “deaf and dumb” doesn’t translate the way it used to. Dumb used to mean not speaking, but people still think of dumb when they think of deaf, only now they think not being able to hear well means you’re less capable somehow. My mother used to tell me, “Just tell people you can’t hear.” What she didn’t understand was that people changed toward me when they found out I couldn’t hear, and not for the better. 

I don’t know sign language. I don’t read lips as much as expressions. I don’t wear a hearing aid because they don’t help much for the type of loss I have. There’s nothing about the way I speak or pronounce my words that would lead anyone to think there’s something wrong with my hearing. But because of the way I’ve been treated in the past when others found out about my hearing loss, I try to hide it as much as I can and I tell people only when absolutely necessary. 

How has it changed me? Let me count the ways. I think I’m an introvert by nature, but I’m sure the hearing loss compounded that. I’m a homebody, probably because even being out running errands can be hard. I struggle to hear the woman behind the cash register at the grocery store, the guy at the post office, the kid selling Girl Scout cookies. By the time I get home I’m physically exhausted. I hate talking on the phone. I’m sure it’s why I’m so drawn to writing. When I’m writing it doesn’t matter that I can’t hear well. I’m in a world of my creation. 

Like Andrew in That You Are Here, I’ve had to learn to feel comfortable in my own skin. That’s something everyone can relate to in one way or another. Whether someone is gay like Andrew or hearing impaired like me, we all have aspects of ourselves that we have to learn to accept. 

When Andrew truly looked at Mark for the first time he realized the boy was beautiful. Mark stood as tall as Andrew at six feet, and he was slender-built though he had strong arms and a strong back. He had golden-chestnut hair that fell in a wave over his forehead and eyes nearly the same color, more gold than chestnut, though they were translucent and sometimes looked dark and other times light depending on where he stood under the fluorescent beams. Then there were those eyelashes that never ended. Andrew had heard the term doe-eyed too many times, yet it applied to Mark, certainly.

“Thanks, Mark,” C.C. said. “From the bakery?”

Mark nodded. “I made them this afternoon.  The cake is in the back. Let me know when you want to bring it out.”

“Everything is perfect. How much do I owe you?”

“It’s my contribution to the party.”

C.C. gave Mark a friendly hug. “That’s very generous of you.” 

A young man at the end of the bar flagged C.C. down. With C.C. out of the way, Andrew had a better view of Mark. Mark looked to be three years younger than Andrew at 24, and when Mark smiled at something someone close to him said, Andrew saw an open, kind smile, and he had to know who this Mark was. 

Andrew slid from his stool and walked the four steps to where Mark had his back turned while he plated a few more pastries. Suddenly, Andrew realized he didn’t know what to say. He didn’t have a pick-up line. He always thought pick-up lines were cheesy. And it’s not like he had dated many people in his life. All these thoughts, and a hundred more, flashed through his mind leaving him tongue-tied. When Mark turned around, he stopped cold, the pastries still sliding on their plate, the only movement between them. Mark’s gold eyes were wide, as though Andrew was the last person in the world he expected to see standing there.

My Review
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Andrew moved across the country after finishing college to get away from the disapproving attitude of his father, unfortunately for Andrew, his family followed him.  Working long hours everyday to make partner at his law firm, Andrew seems to have the perfect life, but he isn't happy.

Mark lights up every room he enters and every life he touches with the pure joy that fills his heart. The first moment he lays eyes on Andrew, Mark starts to fall in love. A year later, he lives to love him, but Andrew lives to work, and it is slowly breaking Mark's heart.

A story of self discovery, That You Are Here depicts the journey of two very different men. Recognizing when to accept life as it is, and when to recognize that things can be better and to strive for change is a lesson that both men have  yet to learn.  A contemporary romance written by Meredith Allard, who is best known for her historical novels, the writing has a very old world feel to it.  A slow moving story with highly descriptive wordage, I found it to be a touching but easily forgettable reading experience.

Author Profile
Meredith Allard is the author of The Loving Husband Trilogy, That You Are Here, Victory Garden, Woman of Stones, and My Brother’s Battle (Copperfield Press). She received her B.A. and M.A. degrees in English from California State University, Northridge. Her short fiction and articles have appeared in journals such as The Paumanok Review, The Maxwell Digest, Wild Mind, Muse Apprentice Guild, Writer’s Weekly, Moondance, CarbLite, and ViewsHound. She has taught writing to students aged ten to sixty, and she has taught creative writing and writing historical fiction seminars at Learning Tree University, UNLV, and the Las Vegas Writers Conference. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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  1. I enjoyed the excerpt, thank you.

  2. Thanks for the excerpt, I have to read this ASAP.

  3. Hi Meredith, I enjoyed your excerpt, look forward to reading your book.

  4. Hi Meredith, I found your response to Carly's question about secrets very thought provoking and I totally understand your reluctance to reveal your hearing issue with those not in your close friends and family group. I have enjoyed following along with your tour and getting to know a bit more about your book, characters and your inspiration for writing.

  5. My son has a severe hearing loss. We all use sign language. You can tell by his speech that he is deaf - it sounds like a foreign language, but we can understand him.

    1. I learned the basics of american sign language when I was in college. I'm pretty slow, because I have to spell out all the words I don't know, but I've never regretted taking the time to learn, because I have used it many times over the years. I think it is something that everyone should learn. Thank you for stopping by!