Book Reviews

When Things Happen Together by Jordan Clayden-Lewis at Deep Desires Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Artists/Actors/Musicians/Authors / Romance
Reviewed by Bob-O-Link on 27-October-2022

Book Blurb

Two travelers on the ultimate Australian road trip. Two numbers that will change their lives forever.

Thomas is in need of a change. Being an aspiring artist from London, he hopes a working holiday in sunny Australia will be the muse he’s been waiting for. But it isn’t Australia’s vast landscapes that are his source of inspiration…

After a string of unromantic dates, Thomas meets Bruce, a handsome Irish traveler with alluring almond eyes. The more time the pair spend together, however, the more they start seeing the numbers 1122 everywhere.

Are the numbers just a coincidence, or is something greater at play? Is Bruce really who he says he is, or is there more to him than he’s letting on?

A story about seizing the moment, finding a sense of home, and embracing love when it comes knocking.


Book Review

The author has chosen an introductory epigram which may have little meaning until well into the middle of the novel – but for your preparedness, here it is: “Synchronicity: A meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved.” - Carl Jung


Two gay visitors to Australia: Thomas – twenty-four, a starting artist from London, and Bruce – twenty-eight, a hopeful writer from Ireland, meet there by way of the internet. Thomas is in Coolangatta, on the eastern shore, perhaps one and a half hours south of Brisbane. Bruce is just about as far, but more inland. ‘When Things Happen Together’, as hinted by the prefatory quote, is a story of their time together and the effect on each of them. Writing a review (or a commentary, thesis, precis), while avoiding a tendency to become merely a paraphrase, verbosity is the risk of a critical analysis. With this truly appealing and engaging novel, how are relevant facts conveyed without telling too much? How to present the characters, without untimely revelations? It can be much like trying to be a chef, beginning with the visually and aromatically, whetting an appetite but not yet permitting the sating of hunger.


Absent a few recalled past events by the main characters, the story seems quite linear – but eventually we become aware that almost its entirety is Thomas’s recollection. Much as a tailor fitting an inseam, surprisingly, author Clayton-Lewis begins by grabbing our private parts – and we are off with a start – well, to the period six months earlier.


First, we meet the main characters, each having used the internet to find someone interesting in Australia, perhaps someone with whom to enjoy casual sex. Despite a small geographic distance, the two seem aptly paired in Australia – as Thomas has just concluded a one-year, failed relationship and Bruce has newly escaped a physically abusive partner. In their twenties, they are each engaged in fun exploration, preparatory to what may come of life. Now with music, drugs and a threesome, we have synchronistic new beginning!


Second, author Clayton-Lewis generously takes us on a travelogue-worthy exploration of Australia, which is so important to the feel of the main characters’ developing relationship.


Third, the supporting characters make valuable contributions to the novel’s success – some, as family members, with important details, and others merely in their passing. These all generate sense to the time and place and are reflective of the recorded happenings. As with much intelligent youth, Bruce and Thomas are engaged in building character and personal philosophies. Bruce: “When we live in the present, we are so much more ourselves… If we live in the past everything becomes clunky.” The men share these philosophies while binding themselves closer.


Despite the expected safety of emotional ambivalence, Thomas and Bruce quickly fall in love, share that knowledge with each other, and fully consummate their physical attraction. Speed was to be avoided, but does it all happen fast? Too fast? Oh no, “Because that’s what love is; it’s uncontrollable. It’s more about what you do with that love.” Evidence? They exchange Love you’s and Thomas learns to surf! (i.e., “And just like that, the wave dumped me harder than my first boyfriend.”) But the future starts to feel a little rushed, premature.


About the middle of this novel, as Thomas and Bruce are growing closer, the reader becomes more aware of Thomas’s asides (which are clearly italicized for us), emphasizing that this tale is Thomas’s recollection; the asides are but current commentaries and observations of past events. As issues between the heroes occur, Thomas's friend Courtney reminds Thomas that he can’t fix Bruce. It all re-enforces our developing sense of foreboding.


Having begun exploring each other, hoping to further create an “us”, the heroes now embark on a trip through central Australia, starting with a flight to hot and humid Darwin on the north coast, then driving down the continent’s center, past Alice Springs, Uluru (Ayers Rock), and intended to finish in Adelaide on the southern coast. (Reader: Now would be a good time to find a handy map of Australia, with its several time zones and varied coastal climates.) Their trip becomes an exercise in learning – geography, interpersonal relations, surrendering to the lack of control over their own lives. With alcohol and memory visions, they are also confronting touches of mysticism. Even repeatedly noticing the now familiar numbers “11:22” - does it mean progress, regression, or merely that they are stuck?


The tone accelerates in introspection; their emotional structure starts to unravel. To reinforce the tension for the reader, time bends more easily between now and then. Bruce, self-injured by his past lover, begins losing connection to his feelings for Thomas. I have always favored the “peak” moment in romantic novels – the denouement. Sadly, here that exquisite fulcrum of our tale is the collapse of the heroes’ relationship. Thomas: “What’s wrong with you?” Bruce: “Everything is wrong with me.” And, most sadly, that doesn’t really seem totally explicable.


Where, dear reader, do we go from here? Reconciliation? Learning to grow independently? The wind-up was wonderful to watch. The wind-down will require that you read it yourselves. Bruce needs healing, and Thomas must learn to become his own best friend – welcoming sadness as well as happiness. I need tell you that Thomas and Bruce do meet again, each being the same but also transfigured. There is an EA (that is, Ever After), but whether happy or not it may rest in each reader’s personal input.


Bob-O-Link’s Request:

Stories are so varied. We know where porn usually ends. Aesop’s Fables conclude with at least a moral certainty. But other tales are more problematic. so, will Rhett ever return to Scarlett? You get the idea.


My late cousin, a psychologist, advised that if a book was really disturbing me, “shut the damned thing and forget it.” I could have here. If, however, you are compulsive about finishing books which you start, you will eventually reach the end of this most splendid ‘When Things Happen Together’ and will better understand synchronicity. But, do Thomas and Bruce have a life together? Can they recreate their “us”? Please drop me a line or an email with your opinion of what future author Clayton-Lewis has left them with. I’d like to hear from you – or even the author.




DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Deep Desires Press for the purpose of a review.


Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 280 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 11-October-2022
Price $4.71 ebook, $14.99 paperback
Buy Link