Midsummer is an M/M May/December gay-for-you contemporary summer romance novella. It’s also about someone who may – or may not – be a changeling.
There are no vampires lurking in the theater basement, or werewolves in the trees outside the Theater in the Woods, the summer stock company at which Midsummer is set. But there is Michael, the boy who plays Puck in the company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Michael is twenty-five, but he looks much younger. He’s short, slight, and loves to run around outside barefoot and without a shirt as often as he possibly can. He can climb to the top of trees, and is perfectly at ease with dirt on his face and leaves in his hair. And he has a strange affinity for nature; he’s drawn to storms and strong weather, and the natural world — plants and trees and animals — affect him in the way they don’t most people.
John, the hero of Midsummer and the man who falls in love with Michael, sometimes wonders if Michael is even human. He’s not quite sure what, exactly, Michael would be if he weren’t human. But there is something so otherworldly about him — especially at night, under the trees and the full moon of a Midsummer’s Eve — that John just can’t be sure he’s not as much a member of the faerie folk as Puck is.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays with the line between dream and waking, fantasy and reality. It’s never quite clear what is real, and what is all just a figment of the imagination. Michael exists in a similar state. He may not be a changeling or a faerie or a ghost or anything else John ever wonders — but he also may be. And while Midsummer is not a mystery — it’s not interested in answering the question of what Michael is — it is interested in telling the story of how a boy like Michael, lives, breathes, interacts with the world, and falls in love.
John Lyonel, a long-time theater professional and teacher, heads to Virginia to play Oberon in the Theater in the Woods’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, intending to focus on his work. John is recovering from the tragic loss of his family and needs a break. The last thing he expects is to become captivated by Michael Hilliard, the professional actor playing Puck, especially since John has never been attracted to men, let alone one so much younger.
They rush headlong into an affair which falls apart dramatically over secrets that John and Michael are keeping from each other. A steep learning curve, the gossipy cast of the show, and the sometimes sinister magic of the woods conspire to keep them apart. But stage lights and stars might work their magic and help them define a new future.
Costume fittings and dress rehearsals means that John finally gets to see Michael costumed as Puck. The human characters are dressed contemporarily, in suits and cocktail dresses that become increasingly disheveled as the show goes on. The fairies, though, are dressed in greens and browns with crowns of strange wildness — thistles, cornsilk, and Queen Ann’s lace. Michael as Puck looks deeply inhuman, covered in leaves as if dragged in from the wooded grounds. For their first dress rehearsal, it takes all of John’s considerable experience and willpower to actually focus on the play and not Michael. As taken as Oberon is meant to be with Puck, he should actually be able to remember and deliver his lines.
“Whose idea was this?” he asks Michael afterward, catching him before he can change. Michael blinks at him with eyes done up in silver and green. John wants to devour him.
“Do you like it?” Michael asks, more distant and coy than usual, sliding his hands up John’s chest which, like his own, is bare.
All John can do is groan when Michael looks up at him from under his lashes. He stands on his tiptoes to kiss John briefly, and then vanishes. When he reappears he’s Michael again, in t-shirt and shorts, but John can’t forget the image of him transformed.
Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese are authors of the gay romance series Love in Los Angeles, set in the film and television industry — Starling (September 10, 2014), Doves (January 21, 2015), and Phoenix (June 10, 2015) — from Torquere Press. Their gay romance novella series Love’s Labours, set in the theater world — Midsummer (May 2015), and Twelfth Night (Fall 2015), is from Dreamspinner Press. They also have a story in Best Gay Romance 2015 from Cleis Press and edited by Felice Picano.
Racheline is a NYC-based performer and storyteller; Erin is a writer and blogger based in Washington, D.C. They write stories and scripts about the intersection of private lives, fame, and desire. You can find them on the web at http://www.Avian30.com.