Counterbalance, by Aidan Wayne
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: September 12, 2016
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
John loves his job as head rigger for Cirque Brilliance. The heavy scarring over half his face makes it a little hard to meet new people, but John’s got a good crew and a nice found family, and he’s content with his lot in life.
When Cirque hires talent for a new show, John meets Bao, a bright, ever-cheerful acrobat. Bao seems drawn to John and becomes a constant presence at his side—talking to him during downtime, spending time with him at lunch, and generally seeking out his company.
John doesn’t know what to make of this. Sure, he likes Bao—maybe a little too much, honestly—but he’s had enough experience to know that Bao couldn’t possibly like him back. Or so he thinks, anyway. Fortunately, Bao seems determined to prove him wrong.
Happy For Now Ending
Counterbalance is an adorable and charming novella that is difficult to resist. Set in a Cirque du Soleil style circus which ‘only accepts the best of the best’, the story is told from the point of view of John, head rigger and equipment organiser for the troupe, who due to a tragic event in his past has severe burn scars on his face and arms. Reserved, wary other people and unused to receiving affection, he becomes the object of an acrobat’s energetic attention. Newly arrived from China, Bao is eager to make friends and becomes instantly attached to John, who is bewildered by this unexpected, but certainly not unwelcome, companionship. John refuses to believe the cheerful, graceful, immensely talented Bao could feel anything but friendship for someone so introverted and aesthetically unappealing, no matter how much he wishes it could be otherwise; meanwhile Bao is clearly pining and doing his best to bring John out of his insular shell – with only moderate success.
The catalyst for their eventual consummation was easily predictable, but pleasingly believable too. There’s very little actual plot in this story, but you’re too busy caring about Bao’s gentle, encouraging kindness for lonely John that it doesn’t really matter. While at first it seems odd that Bao has fixated so completely on someone so taciturn, the reasoning behind it makes sense, and Bao’s personality is definitely the balm John needs to feel whole again. I do wish there had been more actual descriptions of the acrobatics and other performing acts, and the ending felt rushed for a couple who deserved a true happily ever after. I also felt uncomfortable throughout reading not knowing if Bao’s dialogue was an accurate depiction or not – while he never uses ‘pidgin’ English his language is stilted and formal, and it’s obvious he’s a foreigner. I hope it’s okay, because he really is a sweetheart.
‘Short but sweet’ describes this engaging novella, where finding love under the big top may not be the greatest, but certainly is the most important, show on earth.
Aidan Wayne is a big believer in character-driven stories with happy endings. This is not to say that stories can’t contain a little (or a lot) of grief, just that at the end of it all expect there to be bandages and hugs. They particularly like to write about minority characters because damn it, they deserve happy endings too.
When not writing, Aidan enjoys practicing aerial, martial arts, and ASL, and watching reality cooking shows. They are probably in the middle of twelve projects as you read this.
You can find them online at https://aidanwayne.wordpress.com/
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.