Home > contemporary, Genre, LGBTQIA+, romance > Book Review: Listening To Dust by Brandon Shire

Book Review: Listening To Dust by Brandon Shire

Sepia image of dust floating up into the sky in the countryside with the book's title "Listening To Dust" in brown in the foreground and the author's name "Brandon Shire" in black at the top.Summary:
A chance meeting between orphaned British writer, Stephen, and American soldier, Dustin, leads to a passionate love affair in England.  But when Dustin chooses to go back home to his small Southern town to care for his mentally challenged brother, Stephen is left behind, sending letters that are never answered.  He finally decides to follow Dustin home and arrives only to discover that Dustin is no more.

This is my second read by Brandon Shire.  The first, The Value Of Rain (review), blew me way with its passionate, multi-generational family drama featuring a gay main character.  I was thus eager to accept a second arc from Shire, and I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed.

There are some commonalities in the stories.  Both feature a gay man who grew up in an unaccepting family and show the impact that has on their lives.  But that’s where the similarities cease.  Listening To Dust is really about a gay man who grew up with an accepting and loving grandmother trying to come to terms with who his lover is and was and how his lover’s family affects and affected him.  This book is really more about what it is to love someone who suffers from deep childhood wounds.  The difficult path that is to follow and how many pitfalls exist in it.  Although I wasn’t a huge fan of Stephen’s voice, I still respected his experiences and the difficult situations he found himself in.  I also appreciated seeing the far-reaching impact lack of love and family acceptance has.  It doesn’t just affect the people raised in that family.

The writing is again gorgeous.  Even now I can feel the hot dustiness of Dustin’s hometown and also the comforting cool greenery of Stephen’s grandmother’s French cottage.  Shire elicits both place and emotions so powerfully that it is impossible not to be moved by the story.

I also really enjoyed the various commentary throughout the book on love, words, and actions.  What love is, what it does, and whether words or actions are worth more.

So I guess we were both right, and both wrong about actions and words.  Like the two of us, one is empty without the other. (location 1014)

The sex scenes manage to be steamy and emotional.  What I might call literary sex scenes.  When I read them, I felt them in my knees.

Even now I can feel the heat from your palm as you cupped the back of my head and pulled my lips those last few inches, how you opened your body and begged me with your soul. (location 1726)


So what held me back from 5 stars?  As previously stated, I wasn’t a huge fan of Stephen’s voice, although I respected his experiences.  He sometimes grated on me a bit.  I’m not sure if it was his slight Britishisms or how much he got hung up in his own head but he sometimes irritated me in a way that kept me from getting completely engrossed in the story.  But this is a small thing, really, when compared to the story as a whole and the beautiful writing.

Overall, this is a book that sweeps the reader away to multiple, disparate places to explore both love and the far-reaching affects of a harsh family life.  It should appeal to any who enjoy a heart-breaking contemporary LGBTQIA+ romance.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

Buy It

Note: 10% of all proceeds donated to LGBT Youth Charities combating homelessness.

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