Author: Rick R. Reed
Randy Kay has the perfect life with his beautiful wife and adorable son. But Randy’s living a lie, untrue to himself and everyone who knows him. He’s gay.
Marriage and fatherhood, which he thought could change him, have failed. He doubts if anyone can love him for who he really is—especially himself.
With his wife’s blessing, he sets out to explore the gay world he’s hidden from all his life.
John Walsh, a paramedic with the Chicago Fire Department, is comfortable in his own skin as a gay man, yet he can never find someone who shares his desire to create a real relationship, a true family.
When Randy and John first spy each other in Chicago’s Boystown, all kinds of alarms go off—some of joy, others of deep-seated fear.
Randy and John must surmount multiple hurdles on the journey to a lasting, meaningful love. Will they succeed or will their chance at love go up in flames, destroyed by missed connections and a lack of self-acceptance?
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Now and then I do enjoy reading stories with a powerful emotional punch. Something that leaves you dizzy for days, but with a huge smile in your face. Yes, that must be some kind of masochist conduct. One I’m not afraid of exploring willingly or, in this case, be surprised by it. With this book I have been emotionally assaulted in such a good way! Even though I’m still licking some bruises, I would repeat it all over again. This is not a book for the faint of heart, so you better pick a box of tissues before picking it!
We travel in time and space (without the aid of a TARDIS) to the Chicago of 1986. There we meet Randy, a married man with a beloved 5-years-old son. The poor man is in his early thirties and has been living a lie that whole time. He is secretly gay and has a hard time accepting it. So hard, that he prefers commiting sucide rather than talking with his wife and friends. Thankfully, his wife Violet was clever enough to realize what his husband was enduring and offers her shoulder to help him face the facts. She even encourages him to go out and meet other men, even though that would mean the end of their marriage. Randy shyly starts giving the firts steps in the direction of his recently accepted sexuality and ends in a famous local were the gay men of Chicago gather to have a good time. There we find John, a good humored guy who instantly knows that Randy is a newbie in that world. His nature is helping those in need, so he has zero doubts about approaching him and starting a conversation. Would John be able to crack Randy’s shell without spoiling the contents or the baggage Randy is carrying will prove to be way heavier than his wide shoulders can handle? Don’t forget to breathe now and then until the answers is revealed…
This story is tough and merciless. You can plead for a breather, but it will give you none. You can only go deeper and deeper or risk being stuck in the dark place, even though the horizon looks even darker. While reading this story I felt like I was marching to an unknown fate. I know there was a door at the end, but I have no idea if there was a huge guy with a mean axe waiting for me or a happy ending. I know that this is Romance and the chances for the former one are slim, but this book made me doubt. It is kind of a hypocrite of me, because I’m always complaining about the endings in this genre of being all a bit too obvious. So the time I thought I was getting something different, I didn’t want to accept it. Isn’t reading a blast? Any way, I have loved the emotional journey. The first chapter with Randy is an eye opener that makes you uncomfortable in the right places. Then there is some calm, but it is just a cruel game to get the readers distracted so when the shit hits the fan, the effect is more brutal. The last chapters are just heartbreaking, soulwrenching, tear inducers… The lump in my throat was stuck and I had the feeling that if I stopped reading I wasn’t going to be able to release the pressure. Glorious feeling.
I must admit I was at first a bit lost with the story. I jumped to it without paying attention to one important detail: the book is set in 1986. So when the characters start talking about AIDS as if being a plague and something surrounded with so much prejudices I was a bit disheartened. I know it is not a piece of cake now-a-days, but I want to think the situation is not as dreadful as the book protrays. So I was rather pissed that the author were exagerating so much to enhance the drama… until one of the main characters mentions an answering machine. Or a exchange of telepones in a piece of paper. That made my brow lift. There was something that didn’t match, so I went back a little bit and payed attention to the header I had ignored. Never do that. It can change a book utterly. Once I knew when in time this book was taking place, everything clicked in its place and made much more sense. I was 2-years-old back then in 1986, so I have no idea how the the life of a gay man was during that period. I have no doubt the author has made his own research (or maybe it hasn’t been necessary depending on his age), so I consider this book has some valuable history lessons that nobody taught me during school.
The characters have driven me crazy. Sometimes in a good sense and other times I wanted to introduce their faces to a concrete wall. Randy is a joy to read. As same as John, I wanted to grab his hand the moment I met him. He is such a good guy dealing with some of the hardest situations life can throw at you. It is a miracle he doesn’t break every other day of the week. Part of that is thanks to his wife Violet. I have a love/hate opinion towards that character. At first I was amazed about her sacrifice and willingness to make Randy happy no matter what. Only a superb person can have a heart big enough to do what she did. But then she kind of ruined everything. I can’t blame her, though; but it made me so angry. It made me much more distressed and bloodthirsty. During those moments, John’s behaviour didn’t help at all. I want to like the guy, but there is something about him that rubs me the wrong way. Not sure what it is, though.
I can’t finish the review without menioning another thing I love about Randy and Johm: they both hate smoking and the smell of smoke. It was great reading them complaning about it and making that vice a flag against a person they want a realtionship with. I feel less alone now.
Before picking a word, I need to point out the remarkable quote by Serdar Özkan this book has printed before starting the story. I found it simple to understand, but very deep in meaning. It is perfect for this book.
I’m nothing great. But I’m a rose… I’m a rose whether I’m admired or not, I’m a rose whether anyone’s crazy about me or not… Like I said, nothing great. Just a rose… But, do you know what it means to be a rose, my friend? Being a rose means ‘freedom.’ It means not existing by the praises of others or not ceasing to exist by their disapproval.
Well, without further ado or whatever, here I present you the chosen word:
piddly: an informal Australian variant of piddling
piddling: small or unimportant
I had to put the second one to understand the first one…
Is Rick from Australia? The bio in the book doesn’t mention his place of birth. If he is not, it would be curious that he uses the Australian form instead of the one used in America.