Sometimes life seems bigger than we are. If we're not careful, challenges can become problems that loom over us, casting a shadow over the person that we really are, and driving us to do what others would label as just plain crazy.
In Javier A. Robayo's debut novel, "The Gaze", Samantha Reddick, the main character, meets Tony Amaya at a point when he seems to have hit rock bottom in the love arena. The first time she sees him, hunched over a table in the diner she works at, he is sobbing and scrawling his pain across a place mat. Immediately she is intrigued and drawn to him. The two of them are lonely and immersed in their own personal hell, but find temporary comfort in each others arms for a brief weekend. In the years that follow, Samantha is haunted by the memories of their passionate encounter, although she does try to get on with her life. By the time the reader is allowed to catch up with her, she seems to have been almost swallowed whole by her demons, and they begin to take over. This "not so nice" side pushes her to hunt Tony down and friend his wife on Facebook, in the hopes that she will find a way to break them up and have Tony to herself. The phrase, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans" comes to mind as Samantha's idea does not really go as she had hoped.
The book is an unlikely parallel to Samantha's private nature, and the author is careful not to reveal everything at once. As we get to know the story and trust is built, pieces to the puzzle are released a step at a time, and the reader begins to understand why Samantha makes the choices she does.
Mr. Robayo came to the US from Ecuador in 1988, when he was thirteen years old. He didn't know any English, but kept diaries of his experiences as he learned. "The Gaze" is so well written that not only can you NOT tell that English is his second language, but the reader easily gets lost in the story and forgets that anyone but these characters exist.
Readers Beware! Emotions will run high! I found myself so caught up in the drama that I bobbed and weaved through laughter, anger, frustration, and hope. Javier A. Robayo does his job so well that it was easy to root for Samantha to clean up her act while simultaneously wanting to slap some sense into her.
Lewis, the gay bestie from across the pond is a cool drink of comic relief. His one liners like "No, it's the bloody Queen of England" are phrases one might see written across a baby tee or hash tagged on Twitter for all to use on someone not lucky enough to have read "The Gaze", or someone fortunate enough to be "in the know".
The support of Sam's family; Grandmum, Lewis, Alicia, Nathan and Jason Stephen; is admirable. We, as the observers, wish for a safety net like hers; a troupe of loyal, loving people to catch us every time we fall hard, fast, and as often as Samantha does.
Tony Amaya is the man of the hour. In the spirit of writing what you know, Mr. Robayo loosely models his leading man after himself. Both are steel workers, with two adorable young daughters, and a beautiful, loving, and forgiving wife. In fact, Javier's wife graces the cover of "The Gaze", wowing us all with her exquisite eyes, and making all of us "marrieds" long to be so adored by our spouse that we are the object of his life's work.
Readers who are drawn to romance, suspense, and smart writing will be pleasantly surprised by "The Gaze". Every time I thought I knew what was going to happen, I was confronted with the unexpected...and I'm not easily fooled. I've never been so happy to be wrong.
I give this book FIVE OUT OF FIVE BOOKMARKS...one for each of my favorite parts...it was impossible to pinpoint just one.
This book is available at AMAZON in print or via KINDLE
A few fun facts about Javier A. Robayo,the author of "The Gaze":
1.He's terrified-in danger of fainting petrified-of party balloons, especially if some little kid is hell bent on popping them
2.He screams at the TV during Penguins hockey games...he has no control...over his yelling...or the outcome of the game
3.He happily trades sleeps for writing engaging stories in the hopes of finding at least one person that would enjoy reading his work as much as he has enjoyed writing it...mission accomplished Sir
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