I love it when short fiction gives us another glimpse of characters we already know and love, and Alyssa Cole does this with “No Valley Low,” which returns us to the wonderful Sofronia and Ivan, from Let It Shine, and sets the clock ahead a few years into their relationship.
And things… aren’t going well. Ivan is returning home after time away, and he’s realizing that he has left too much unspoken after he and Sofronia suffered a terrible loss. I cannot tell you how much I truly appreciated Cole showing us a couple who loved each other, truly and deeply, but who were in a place where both were fragile after a loss and had stumbled away from communicating. To Ivan, it feels like a silence during a moment where he feels he should have said more (and done more) has only really grown, and now he’s heading back for Valentine’s day with a gift and the hope he can make it right.
What follows is a beautiful moment between two loving people—and a really welcome brief burst of humour—which caps off their story in a way that felt really grounded and, above all, healing and with a potential for something more. You don’t often get to read about characters who are already together moving forward through a tragedy in romance, and I appreciated it.