We Three Kings, by A.F. Henley
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Release Date: March 1, 2017
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Chicago 1982 is a goldmine for the construction industry, and Eric and his two business partners are thriving. Once nothing more than orphans in a Catholic boys’ home, they’ve overcome poverty and abuse to obtain success. Now living the lives they once only dreamed of, they’re sure of one thing: they will never look back.
Then the past returns, by way of a cheap polyester suit and a smile Eric has never forgotten—and all the dark memories come crashing back. Lucky for him, Jimmy has no idea who Eric is, or who Eric used to be…
Content Warnings for:
Mention of Sexual Child Abuse
In this gritty and emotional novella, A.F. Henley seamlessly blends the past and the present to bring us a story of brotherhood, redemption and forgiveness.
“Funny thing about the past though. It never stays buried for long.”
No one knows that better than Eric. Along with his two best friends, Mark and Devin, they have all managed to overcome the trauma of their time in a church run orphanage to build up a successful business in real estate development. While they each have their own way of keeping the past firmly in the past, all of Eric’s walls come tumbling down the minute he sees a pair of familiar gray eyes. Suddenly, he’s remembering a time when he wasn’t a successful businessman, but an angry teenager with every reason to hate beauty, to hate innocence, when those things were cruelly taken from him.
“Did I do something to offend you?”
Yes, I want to tell him. You offend me for every reason that you offended me back then: that you’re gorgeous and sweet, and soft and afraid; that you can still seem so nervous standing in front of me; that you somehow didn’t turn out hard like they made me.
But Eric isn’t that angry teenager anymore and he’s more than ready to make amends. When he offers the stormy-eyed Jimmy Rose a position within his company, he does so with the intention of offering up penance for his past deeds. But Eric has no idea that it will set off a chain of events that will make him reevaluate every terrible thing he thought about himself, and about what really happened all those years ago.
Given the content, it seemed unlikely that this book would be anything but depressing, but in the author’s gentle hands, it becomes a heartfelt and touching story about second chances – not only the ones you give others but the ones you give yourself.
“There are thousands of days in our life, boss. Millions of minutes, and with each new moment, a new breath, a new glance, a new view.” He lowers his hand and sets it on my arm. “A million new chances to try again.”
Each chapter begins with one of Eric’s memories of his time in the orphanage with Mark and Devin, and each of those memories is cleverly related to the events of the present day. I thought it was an excellent way to weave both timelines into the narrative without it becoming confusing or bogged down in details.
We Three Kings is a compelling, complex and uplifting read. This novella feels bigger than it really is, likely because it takes the reader on an complex emotional journey without ever feeling like it’s too much. Yes, it’s dark in places, but it ends on a hopeful, joyous note.
If you get told often enough that you’re worthless or that you’ll never amount to anything […] there’s always going to be a voice nagging in the back of your consciousness that says you haven’t done enough. That you haven’t done it right. […] If we’re really lucky, someone comes along and they tell you something different. They whisper in your ear that you’re perfect just the way you are. They make you say it along with you until you believe it, too.
Henley was born with a full-blown passion for run-on sentences, a zealous indulgence in all words descriptive, and the endearing tendency to overuse punctuation. Since the early years Henley has been an enthusiastic writer, from the first few I-love-my-dog stories to the current leap into erotica.
A self-professed Google genius, Henley lives for the hours spent digging through the Internet for ‘research purposes’ which, more often than not, lead seven thousand miles away from first intentions but bring Henley to new discoveries and ideas that, once seeded, tend to flourish.
Henley has been working with Less Than Three Press since 2012.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.