Title: Big Love
Author: Rick R. Reed
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: April 4, 2016
Page Count: 200
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5
Teacher Dane Bernard is a gentle giant, loved by all at Summitville High School. He has a beautiful wife, two kids, and an easy rapport with staff and students alike. But Dane has a secret, one he expects to keep hidden for the rest of his life—he’s gay.
But when he loses his wife, Dane finally confronts his attraction to men. And a new teacher, Seth Wolcott, immediately catches his eye. Seth himself is starting over, licking his wounds from a breakup. The last thing Seth wants is another relationship—but when he spies Dane on his first day at Summitville High, his attraction is immediate and electric.
As the two men enter into a dance of discovery and new love, they’re called upon to come to the aid of bullied gay student Truman Reid. Truman is out and proud, which not everyone at his small town high school approves of. As the two men work to help Truman ignore the bullies and love himself without reservation, they all learn life-changing lessons about coming out, coming to terms, acceptance, heartbreak, and falling in love.
“God made you just the way you are, honey. Beautiful. And if you’re one of his creations, there’s nothing wrong in who you are. You just hold your head up and be proud.”
Rick R. Reed’s new book “Big Love” is set in fictional Summitville Ohio, with several plot lines that intertwine beautifully. Freshman Truman Reid’s first day of high school is a harsh reminder that one does not wear a rainbow tee proclaiming “It Gets Better” in small town America, even in 2015. Dane Bernard, beloved English teacher, learns on the same day his wife Katy has died in a car accident, leaving him and their two children, Joey and Clarissa. You can feel Truman’s sobs as he realizes high school will be a continuation of bullying and torment, while Dane’s entire life shatters in one moment, leaving him with regrets and the knowledge that nothing will ever be the same.
During substitute teacher Seth Wolcott’s first week, Dane inadvertently outs himself to the entire school while helping a traumatized Truman. Going forward, “Big Love” balances all three viewpoints – Truman as a young man coming to terms with “holding your head up and telling the world you’re proud of who you are,” Dane learning to become comfortable with his own sexuality and Seth, the wiser more experienced gay man, tutoring both in the ways of the world.
I gave “Big Love” a heat level of 2 stars, due to mild sexuality and no overly graphic scenes. But do not let this rating deter you. Seth and Dane fall in love over the course of the book and their relationship is beautifully told with much emotional depth, while Truman explores the joy and heartache of first love. The flow of the book is perfect, as Reed effortlessly moves between story lines, and the ending is so satisfying. Secondary characters like Joey and Clarissa are fully realized and even though we only meet Dane’s wife Katy “off page” you feel you know her. Also, I particularly liked how Truman’s mother Patsy is portrayed so lovingly.
“Big Love” gets 5+ stars from me plus a “Recommended Reading” banner. I could probably write at length about why the book touched me so deeply, but simply put, Rick R. Reed writes from the heart. A husband wonders if his wife died knowing that he truly loved her, while realizing with her death he can finally reveal his secret self; a 12-year-old boy asks “Are we just gonna leave Mommy here? […] We can’t just leave her” as they depart the hospital after her death; a gay teen knows he can either “withdraw so deep down inside himself that no one would recognize him” or embrace and celebrate his true self; a mother wishes someone could see beyond her appearance and wonders if “anyone would ever come to see her for what was real and good inside her.”
In ending, here is my favorite quote from “Big Love” which Seth shares with Truman:
“You’re going to find people like you. Compatriots. Others who march to the beat of a different drummer. Maybe not today. Maybe not this year. And maybe it will only be a scattered few, but I promise you, they’re out there. And when you find each other, you’ll know. And they will be family.”