Timothy James Beck isn't actually one man: he's three men and a lady.
Together, the four have written some of the most delightful romantic comedies with gay characters I have ever read; the books are a kind of series, in which each book is told from the perspective of a different character in a group of friends who've relocated from Eau Claire, Wisconsin to Manhattan.
I knew about the books for years before I actually read them. We shared the same publisher, Kensington, and our mutual editor always spoke very highly of their novels. While I always wanted to read them, I sadly never got around to them.
I'm not sure how I became friends with TJB, frankly--I do know it was the summer before Hurricane Katrina, and I know that we connected somehow through our blogging on Livejournal. I do know I spent a glorious afternoon on the phone with two of them one August afternoon a few weeks before the storm came ashore, the levees failed, and I wandered the country for six weeks.
It was during the evacuation that I spent two days reading their novels: It Had to Be You, He's the One, and I'm Your Man. That fall, a new one was released that wasn't about my beloved Eau Claireans, Someone Like You, which I also enjoyed. I even drove over to Houston to do a book signing with them, and finally met them in person.
But When You Don't See Me, the last TJB novel to be published, that I want to talk about here.
I remember I read it on a plane; I was traveling to upstate New York to visit the publisher I then worked for, and read the book as I flew to Philadelphia, where I changed planes. As with all of their books, I was hooked by the second sentence. I found myself falling in love with the main character, but being a little disappointed that the book really didn't feature any of the Eau Claireans I'd fallen in love with the three earlier novels. But I kept reading, and I remember the big surprise that came about two thirds of the way through the book hitting me like an uppercut to the jaw. I literally gasped out loud, scaring my seatmate, and my eyes filled with tears--and I immediately turned my head and looked out the window so no one could see the tears running down my face.
And in the clouds I saw a rainbow.
I remembered that God sent the rainbow as a hope and a promise to mankind, and I realized that part of the reason I love these books, the reason I loved this collective writing teams, was that their books were always full of love--and hope.
I finished reading the book, and to this day I treasure it.
This was the last book TJB published, and I--and many others, I am sure--look forward to the day when we can hold another book in our hands by Timothy James Beck. It will be a rare treasure, to be sure, but all the more precious because of its rarity.