Seattle sparkles with snow that stayed, and Pike Place Market vibrates with color and starry-eyed shoppers. Beck Justice adds music to the mix, but he doesn’t believe in holiday joy—not until Oleg Abramov joins his ethereal voice to the intricate weavings of Beck’s guitar. While Oleg and his large, loving family brighten Beck’s bleak winter mood, Oleg thinks Beck could be the man to fill the void that nevertheless remains in his life. The two men step out on a path toward love, but it proves as slippery as Seattle’s icy streets. Light and harmony are within reach, but only if they choose to believe, risk their hearts, and trust.
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Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 5
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: True Love
Word Count: 27,000
Setting: Seattle, Washington
Languages Available: English
SNOW IN Seattle is often an ephemeral thing, covering the city by night, gone by day. But this time, contrary to predictions, it not only remained but kept falling, creating sledding hills out of residential streets and blocking doorways with drifts. On Friday, the shoppers still came to the Market, and Christmas music proceeded to echo through the halls, including that produced by Beck’s guitar. If anything, the people were a little less hurried, maybe their smiles a bit more genuine, but they still wanted “White Christmas” and “Jingle Bells,” and Beck didn’t think any real goodness resided at the heart of the holiday season, whether white or blue or even rainbow.
The snow stopped Friday afternoon, but started again in the silver dawn Saturday morning, and that day the Market seemed as whisper quiet as the rest of the city. Around four in the afternoon, Beck was performing in one of the Market’s coldest and generally least bustling corners.
Of the few people passing by, not one stopped to listen, and Beck’s fingers responded of their own accord by simply stopping. He sat down in the corner, his back against the wall, and looked out a long window opposite. The sun shone momentarily, its isolated orange rays slanting through the falling flakes as if giving a wave to remind the city it still burned. The sight was mesmerizing, and Beck didn’t think at all before he started to play a song he loved—a song of a Christmas day grim and harsh, one which, unlike storefronts and Santa photos, might harbor true compassion.
Beck’s fingers coaxed a dark, cold wind from the strings, and he felt the words of the hymn he played rise in his throat and form on his tongue. He let them loose, speaking them like a poem of loneliness, and left them hanging in the air on frozen breath.
“In the bleak midwinter frosty winds made moan.
Earth was hard as iron, water like a stone.”
He wanted to stop the words. They made the music more beautiful, more true than ever, and he wanted to listen to it, to hear what his hands were telling him. This wasn’t the kind of music to play to a Christmas-shopping crowd at Pike Place Market—he knew that. Yet where moments before no one had even looked at his happy caroling guitar as they passed—even if they tossed money into his open case—now he saw through the screen of his eyelashes that people gathered. They waited for something, a small crowd still as a deep winter night.
Despite his reluctance, his words continued to steal out into the world as if they had every right to his voice, but then he heard something else. At first he thought it an echo—the market was full of them—but it gained in strength and beauty, and he understood. Someone had begun to sing. Clear, brave, flawless as Beneventan chant.
Like an angel in a cathedral.
His own words became a whisper, his fingers grew more sincere as they traveled the strings in pursuit of a beauty that would match the singer’s voice. He lifted his gaze to search the small crowd that had gathered, but not one among the men, women, or children moved their lips or seemed to do anything but listen, perhaps as enchanted as he was by the sounds. It seemed a moment touched by something beyond the mundane, and he thought of his grandmother’s rosary hanging as always around his neck, though it meant nothing religious to him at all.
Beck wasn’t, in fact, a man of religion. And though he admitted the possibility that something more existed than what could be seen, the closest he knew to spirit lived right there, in the music. In the tones born in the body of a fine guitar, the passage of breath through the vein of a flute. In the flight of sound on the wings of a perfect voice. Like this one.
“Snow was falling, snow on snow.” The singer wove the words over and under the harmonies Beck offered up with fingers and strings, turned them into something different, something more.
The song ended, as all songs do. But this time, when the words stopped and the echoes died away, Beck felt a thrill of panic, for he still hadn’t located the person who’d been singing. What if he never found the singer, never again heard that soaring voice, never looked into the eyes of the man who sang. Yes, he thought, a man. He hadn’t been sure at first, as the alto voice had reached notes high for the range. But it’s a man, he thought again, and he knew it because of the way the voice had touched him.
He stood and again scanned the crowd. He asked an older couple standing near, “Did you see who was singing?”
They shook their heads, but the woman smiled gently, as if the soul-deep need he felt could be seen on his face, heard in the phrasing of his question. He tried to smile back.
As quickly as he could, he gently laid his guitar in its case and ran. He rounded the corner of the shop and looked up the long, dimly lit hall that sloped up to the next level of the market. A slender man in jeans, with long, curling hair and a loose flannel shirt trailing behind him like a cape, strode quickly away. It’s him!
“Wait!” Beck called, and the man half turned as if to obey, but instead spun back around and kept moving. Away from Beck. He turned a corner at the top and was lost to sight. Beck warred with himself—he wanted to follow and find him, needed to. But he also needed to eat and pay rent. If he followed his heart, the money people had tossed in his guitar case wouldn’t be there when he came back. Nor would his instrument, his livelihood, his only means of staving off damp cold and gnawing hunger. So he turned back, picked up his Seagull, and began a catchy rhythm for “Up on the Housetop.”
He didn’t care about “Up on the Housetop,” and though people were smiling and tossing money in the case, he had never been more certain that Christmas was nothing more than hype and a good sales strategy. “Bah,” he muttered into his instrument. “Humbug.”
Except. Somewhere out there was a man with an angel’s voice.
Gone. Like everyone else. I’ll never see him again.
Lena Grey on Rainbow Book Reviews wrote:
Ingredients for the perfect holiday season story.
Beck Justice, a jaded and cynical loner who thinks Christmas is a fraud.
Oleg Abramov, a cheerful man who comes from a large family and believes in the wonder and joy of Christmas.
Soul-sucking loneliness and grief.
A chance encounter in Seattle's Pike Place Market.
A chemistry neither man can resist.
A misunderstanding that threatens to tear them apart.
Throw in a Christmas miracle and you get a beautiful, sweet, grab-you-by-the-feels, poignant, heartbreaking yet hopeful, lovely, and delightful holiday tale guaranteed to leave you saying "Awww!"
(Reviewed first edition)
“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter, long ago.” ~ Christina G. Rossetti, 1830-1894
For Beck Justice, of 'Falling Snow on Snow' by Lou Sylvre, music is the “medicine” that soothes his pain. It keeps him from giving up even when the world seems to be against him. December is Beck's worst month of the year. Seeing all the so-called joy of people around him only makes him more cynical. Beck earns a living by playing his guitar, bringing smiles, admiration, and hopefully, tips from the people at the mall where he is a busker. One day during the Christmas season, the voice of his guitar is joined by one of the clearest, purest voices he's ever heard. Hearing that perfect voice gives him pause, causing a crack in the wall around his heart. Beck knows he has to find the man with that voice.
Oleg Abramov is a Russian immigrant whose greatest joy is to perform with his large, loving family. Oleg knows he's more fortunate than most because of the acceptance and compassion he has at home. He's lonely and, sadly, to slack his physical needs, has anonymous encounters in bars and alleys that leave him feeling even emptier than before. Due to his family, he knows what a loving relationship feels like and, more than anything, that's what Oleg wants for himself. When he hears Beck playing one of his favorite tunes in the mall, Oleg can't help but sing. When his eyes meet Beck's, he feels a real connection, a possibility of something more, but he's so afraid he will fail and end up heartbroken, he runs away from it instead.
Beck is puzzled when Oleg leaves so suddenly but is still hopes to run into him again. For the first time in a long time, Beck feels something for another man and, although perplexed by Oleg's reaction, he decides that he wants to know more about the beautiful young man who sings like an angel. Fortunately they run into each other again at a church where Oleg and his family are practicing for a concert. Oleg invites Beck to come hear them perform and he agrees. Oleg is ecstatic; he's finally met a man with future possibilities and can't wait to see Beck again. Unfortunately, life isn't that easy. Beck runs into his alcoholic stepfather, the one who threw him out of the house for being gay at fifteen. He is down on his luck and very ill. As furious as Beck still is at the man who ruined his life, he also has a good heart. Beck can't leave anyone in the cold in that condition, even his stepfather. Unfortunately, helping his father prevents Beck from attending the concert he is so looking forward to. Beck feels defeated once again. He figures that Oleg will assume he's stood him up and their relationship will end before it even has a chance to begin; he also prays that, if he gets an opportunity to explain, Oleg will understand and forgive him.
Lou has created a powerful, emotion-packed story about two broken, kind-hearted young men, who are brought together through the universal language of music. Both are loners, desperately needing to be with someone who appreciates them. They've both about given up on that ever happening. Lou's descriptive prose is carefully crafted affording me the opportunity to experience what her characters feel. It's an emotional roller coaster at times, but ultimately fulfilling as Beck and Oleg's barriers are broken down by what could be described as a Christmas miracle.
This is a story of despair, hope, joy, forgiveness, and redemption. The happy ending touched my heart and made me smile. Thanks so much, Lou, for the awesome holiday read.