The Dickens With Love

The Dickens With Love - Josh Lanyon Dickens was once a word from which I cringed. It's probably a crime in some countries to force people to read his work too young, before any understanding of the history and social advocacy could be properly understood. Couple that with the memories of a too-smug, arrogant acquaintance of my youth who lived and breathed Dickens and acted as if no one, but NO ONE could possibly understand them like he could.

Personal issues aside, I re-discovered Dickens later in life and found him not half bad. Preachy by modern standards, yes, but we are all a product of our times. So it was with a good deal of curiosity that I tackled this story. (Which was free, I will add, for the season, winning it extra points in my empty-wallet household.) Would Mr. Lanyon actually try to write Dickens? Would this story be a Dickens send-up, or an attempt at a modern Dickens fable with all the trappings?

Yes and no. We do have an orphan who had a brush with falling into bad company, a character who desperately needs redemption, an amoral, greedy villain, and a complex series of circumstances to lead us to a resolution. All classic Dickens, but there the resemblance ends. Thank goodness, or it would have been a rather dry romance. This is a more personal journey for James and Sedge, in which the "lost" Dickens Christmas story is only the vehicle. The heroes are both a little odd, a little adrift, each in their own way, but are both endearing. The story is told with wit and wry humor, never too heavy, even in its sadder moments.

I enjoy Mr. Lanyon's writing style - literate, intelligent, with a good feel for well-placed detail and an excellent sense of timing. My only real nits are the over use of angel/wing metaphor in the sex scenes (OK, I get it, Christmas time, nice and thematic, but it started to feel a bit forced after a bit) and the abrupt, if appropriate, ending. I felt as if I had been suddenly kicked out so they could have some privacy. Don't mind a few lingering questions, but there were just a few too many in this case.

Overall a lovely story for the holidays. And the faux Dickens? Quite believable and charming. It made me long for a story that doesn't exist. I'm sure it would have had a happy ending, too. Even for the mouse.