Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
A.E. Wasp’s Heartsong is a heartbreaking story about acceptance. I imagine in the realm of MM romance there is quite a bit of focus on this theme. However, Wasp’s focus on it feels fresh in that the type of acceptance here isn’t from the outside; Heartsong focuses on the acceptance from within in a way that feels different from other MM stories.
In this book, Sean has left his hometown, intent on finding his space in the world to live as a gay man. His hometown in West Virginia isn’t diverse in its ready acceptance of him, so he leaves for Burlington Vermont to attend the university and assist his uncle’s military buddy with renovating his home.
Cooper’s life has been upended by his time in the military. An accident has left him with a disability that requires an adjustment. Even more, Cooper’s past adds a shadow to his life. When he meets Sean, these two are instantly connected even though Cooper is much older than Sean, and he worries that Sean will want to live the life of a young man once he starts attending college. As time progresses, Sean and Cooper are unable to deny their attraction, and Cooper undertakes, quite willingly, teaching Sean about living life as a gay man. However, there is a darkness in Sean that seeks to derail the life that he and Cooper are building together. Will Cooper be able to help Sean understand that living life as a gay man isn’t abnormal?
There are so many delicious layers to A.E. Wasp’s Heartsong. At its core, there is an interrogation of the idea of “normal.” Through Cooper’s characterization, Wasp looks at the “normality” of disability as Cooper struggles to find the “normal” of his new life. Prior to Sean, it’s clear that he isn’t living a life of dreams, but a life of survival. With Sean’s characterization, Wasp highlights the “abnormality” inherent to a heteronormative lifestyle, and the way that Sean’s family has inherently biased him to that world. There is great trauma in the lives of Cooper and Sean, and Wasp’s insistence on exploring it through their love story allows them, once they’ve broken the seal on their attraction, to explore these problems with their love intact. This keen storytelling assigns the meaning of Heartsong to the issues surrounding Cooper and Sean, not their love. That is foundational to this book and maintains it throughout.
If I had any criticism, it would be at how quickly Sean resolves his conflict internally. In my opinion, Wasp moves us too quickly through that. I wanted more discussion, more introspection, not easy acceptance. Even more, the ending of this book seems underwhelming emotionally, given the gravity of emotion throughout much of Heartsong.
I will say that the two final chapters of this book, Sean’s haikus and his “story,” are poignant to end the book. And also, as a writing professor myself, I ADORED Sean’s poetry professor. Her presence in this story adds more profundity to it as she asks him to explore his identity through his poetry. I would have LOVED to hear her response to his haikus.
Sean and Cooper feel special to the world of Vino & Veritas. I hope we find them in later books because their presence seems necessary to gradation of story in this world. A.E. Wasp’s Heartsong is a beautifully wrought story about love overcoming our internal conflicts and providing us with happy endings.
In love and romance,