Author: Leta Blake, Indra Vaughn
Release Date: September 10, 2015
Page Count: 420
Reviewed by: Jewel
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Can a priest and a rock star obey love’s call?
Seventeen years ago, Jasper Hendricks and Nicholas Blumfeld’s childhood friendship turned into a secret, blissful love affair. They spent several idyllic months together until Jasper’s calling to the Catholic priesthood became impossible to ignore. Left floundering, Nicky followed his own trajectory into rock stardom, but he never stopped looking back.
Today, Jasper pushes boundaries as an out, gay priest, working hard to help vulnerable LGBTQ youth. He’s determined to bring change to the church and the world. Respected, admired, and settled in his skin, Jasper has long ignored his loneliness.
As Nico Blue, guitarist and songwriter for the band Vespertine, Nicky owns the hearts of millions. He and his bandmates have toured the world, lighting their fans on fire with their music. Numbed by drugs and fueled by simmering anger, Nicky feels completely alone. When Vespertine is forced to get sober, Nicky returns home to where it all started.
Jasper and Nicky’s careers have ruled their lives since they parted as teens. When they come face to face again, they must choose between the past’s lingering ghosts or the promise of a new future.
In general, I don’t like to read religious themed books. All the guilt and hate (both self-loathing and hate directed at the MC’s) just makes my heart hurt. Sometimes, though, I feel compelled to make an exception, when it’s an author that I know I like and I am willing to take the chance. I’m so glad I read this book! Vespertine totally blew me away!
This review may get a bit wordier than my normal, just to warn you. As I read Vespertine, I found myself having a lot to say about the characters, especially Jasper, so buckle up folks, this could be a long one.
Father Jasper Hendricks is a deeply religious man. He’s always found a lot of comfort in his beliefs and the rituals of Catholicism. Growing up gay and Catholic was undoubtedly difficult for him, but he still managed to find peace. Jasper and Nicholas Blumfeld were best friends from the moment they met, and the summer they were both seventeen, they became much more. Two boys in love and finding their way.
Jasper was conflicted, though. He felt a calling to go into the priesthood. And due to some outside influence, he decided to pursue that path, leaving Nicky behind. Seventeen years later, Jasper has a congregation of his own. He’s out as a gay man, but as a man of the cloth, he is celibate. He is very unconventional. Very modern in his thinking. And he is able to reconcile his faith with his orientation (humans are quite adept at compartmentalization when they want to be).
In spite of the good Jasper does, he still finds himself at odds with the church due to their stance on homosexuality. He is tolerated only so long as he does not rock the boat too much. He managed to get approval to open a LGBTQ group home for kids in the foster system and he runs it his way, for the most part. But now, the Archbishop is trying to use it to control Jasper, under the threat of losing the support of the church for the center. It’s despicable, really.
And now that Nicky is back, Jasper’s conflicts are back in spades. He’s now questioning the path he chose. Honestly, I think the only reason he has been able to stay a priest is because Nicky wasn’t around and he didn’t give himself the opportunity to let someone else under his skin.
“I always loved you,” he whispered. “I can’t even pretend I loved God more, back then. Every minute I spend with you now I wonder if my calling wasn’t a coward’s path. If I shouldn’t have grabbed onto your hands and taken that dive with you.”
Nicholas Blumfeld is one messed up man. He was found when he was a few days old, after being left for dead in a dumpster by his drug addicted mother. That experience left him with attachment disorder and he always had trouble bonding with people – except for Jazz. Nicky has always felt as if he was on the outside. And to make matters worse, so many people treat him like he’s not good enough. Always judging. Everyone except his parents and Jazz wrote him off as “trouble”. Nicky and Jazz were inseparable, growing up. They were best friends, always together and they made each other happy.
As an adult, Nicky is a burnt out, drug addicted musician. Ever since Jazz left him to join the priesthood when they were teenagers, Nicky has done his best to self-destruct. Where once, his music soothed his soul and gave him life, now he just sees it all as a burden. After coming out of rehab, Nicky went home to Little Heights, Maine to stay with his parents while he got his footing again. Intending to build a bridge, and in spite of the fact that he has never believed in god, Nicky went to confession when he knew he would find Jazz. But he hadn’t let go of his anger or his hurt and he kind of made a mess of things.
Well, Nicky is definitely angry and more than a little broken. And he has many doubts as to if he will be able to fix himself. Nicky wants to be a good man, but he’s afraid he doesn’t have it in him. He’s made so many bad decisions, and some of them nearly killed him, he’s scared. But the truth is, he is a good man who has not always had the support system he needed in order to cope with the pressure of being in the limelight. And because of his many emotional issues growing up, he was poised to self-destruct before he was even out of the gate. When he shows the truth of his heart, though, he is beautiful. He wants to make the world a better place. And reconnecting with Jazz, even platonically, was so good for them both.
Making his way through his anger and deciding to accept help from Jazz reignited something long dormant within them both. Having their foundation of lifelong friendship and respect helps them both find their way. And though I would agree that their belief systems are pretty incompatible, I’d also say that it really depends on the people involved. Jazz and Nicky have always had a connection. Jazz sees his god in that connection. Nicky sees only Jazz. And what they have is just so beautiful; I want to believe they can make it. And I do.
“I’ll always choose you.”
When Nicky is with Jazz, he feels whole. He feels strong. Jazz is his center, his beacon. Through all the heartache and anger, there is still so much love between them, it’s palpable. It’s always been Jazz and it will always be Jazz that Nicky would choose.
I highly recommend Vespertine.