"Magnanimous despair alone could show me so divine a thing, where feeble hope could ne'er have flown, but vainly flapped its tinsel wing." ~ Andrew Marvel
Patrick Hartford, of 'On Tinsel Wings' by Augusta Li, has always known he's different and hasn't been able to fit well anywhere, but the Renaissance Faire he's worked at for years, is the closest he has been able to get. The Faire is a wonderful place, even if it is only make-believe, and has a sense of family that he doesn't have at home. Patrick hasn't given up hope of finding his place in the world. Even if it seems illusive, his hope is always there, helping him look into the often dark tunnel of the future.
Patrick keeps a low profile, especially at home with his alcoholic, abusive bully of a father. It's just easier that way. His mother isn't much better. She deserted him when he was ten and now has another family. She frequently calls to brag about how wonderful things are with them knowing it's a huge contrast to the way he's living. Patrick has always felt unwanted by his parents and neither do much of anything to refute that idea. Although he doesn't seem to notice, most of the Ren Faire folks like him and appreciate what a hard worker he is. When his fellow employee catches him trying on some of the costume pieces, Patrick is mortified and fears the worst but, instead, is met with a calm understanding and even encouragement. This encounter opens up a new world to Patrick which affords him the opportunity of meeting another family in the Drag Queen circuit where he is loved and accepted for who he is. With that community on his side, he has two different, but equally as important families proving, once again, that being a family does not necessarily mean blood relatives, but any association where individuals are united by love and respect for each other.
Yu, wounded by past relationships, is afraid to get too close and plays push-pull; one moment he's incredibly attentive and romantic, within a make-believe scenario, but when reality hits, i.e., Patrick asks if he wants to live together, Yu runs like a scared rabbit, leaving Patrick hurt and confused. No two people react the same. Part of Yu's rejection occurred because he lacks the conviction to speak up for himself. He goes along with the flow until the inevitable happens and he is rejected. By following this pattern, Yu isn't creating a new life for himself, he's staying as much as possible within the perimeters of his former one.
Both men have decisions to make. Patrick has to decide if, or how much of himself he's willing to compromise to be with Yu. Yu has to decide who he is and what will make him happy; and if it's Patrick, he has to start thinking out of the box instead of staying with what's comfortable.
Although this love story is different from Augusta's usual fantasy stories, it's written with the same creativity and expertise which she always displays. It's well written, with realistic characters and real live angst. The settings of both the Ren Faire and the Drag Queen stage are skillfully portrayed, capturing the magical feeling surrounding by both. The Ren Faire was particularly poignant since I've spent so many hours at Renaissance Faires and understand that employees truly do consider themselves family. The Drag Queen setting is something I knew nothing about until Augusta enlightened me to it's its nuances and I can understand why such a community would also develop a tight knit unit. I loved reading about the costumes in both settings and would love to see a picture of Patrick dressed as Titania, the fairy queen. Besides the exquisite story telling, there are some important messages provided about never giving up hope, learning to be yourself, and finding family with others who are not related to you by blood.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes Renaissance Faires, Drag Queens, angst, intrigue, hope, coming out, love, and coming of age. Thanks, Augusta, for displaying your skills in a unique and enjoyable way.