Please help me welcome Sherrie Henry to Gay Book Reviews today chatting about small town life.
It’s the second stop on my blog tour to promote my newest release “Flag on the Play.” Thank you Gay Book Reviews for having me!
Growing up in a small town with very small town views, I had a very bleak look toward life. I thought my only purpose in life was to get married, have children, work until I die. I can’t recall anyone in my small town who officially ‘retired’; instead of working full-time, they worked part-time. No one traveled, no one wanted to venture out of that 2,600-person town. But I knew there was a world out there, a world that needed exploring.
I channeled my confined feeling into my main character, Liam. While I am not and was never a young, gay male, I did put my frustration at my trapped life within him. I couldn’t be who I wanted to be, couldn’t express myself they way I wanted. To dress beyond the custom, to go against the religious norm, none of that was available to me. And for a girl who loved the crazy getups of the 80s, to be forced to wear the plain clothes from the 50s drove me nuts. I wanted to look like what I saw on MTV; not that I got to watch MTV all that often, we didn’t have cable or satellite. I wanted to mimic Madonna, wanted the crazy hair and the lace gloves. Well, that wasn’t going to happen in my hellish version of Mayberry.
Liam faces similar struggles; parents who won’t let him watch current movies or listen to current music, feelings for a person not of the female gender, a church that continually tells him what he is feeling is wrong and he will be damned for it. Cody becomes his life preserver, showing him that life doesn’t begin and end in his small community.
It’s a hard journey in which Liam is torn in two; his upbringing telling him one thing, his heart, another.
Please check out the story, available through Dreamspinner Press/Harmony Ink. Releasing on 7 February 2017.
Title: Flag on the Play
Author: Sherrie Henry
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Release Date: February 7th 2017
Genre(s): M/M YA Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 180 pages
Reviewed by: Belen
Sixteen-year-old football punter Liam Hartley has come to terms with being gay, but it isn’t something his religious and conservative community will ever accept. He’s isolated in his Midwest town until Cody Williams transfers to his school from Chicago. A proud bisexual young man, Cody shows Liam he isn’t alone—or abnormal—and they soon become more than friends.
Despite the intimate, secret world he shares with Cody, Liam is in pain. The hatred spewed by bigots has an effect on Liam, even if Cody carefully hides their relationship with a pretend girlfriend. Liam is jealous—he doesn’t want to have to share Cody, and he doesn’t want to have to live in shame. Cutting himself seems to be the only way to deal with everything he’s suffering, and things only get worse when Liam and Cody are outed in front of the school. And even if they can make it through the hardship, they know their relationship is destined to end when Cody’s family returns to the city.
Liam can’t go back to facing the hatred and religious judgment by himself. He won’t survive it. Somehow, Liam and Cody must secure a future for both of them, and that means finding a way to stay together.
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Everyone went home around nine that evening except for Cody. He and Cody had started a game of Scrabble when his parents came into the kitchen.
“Liam, does your friend need a ride home?” Liam’s dad set a glass on the counter.
Cody looked over to the clock. “I’m so sorry, I lost track of time. I can call my mom.”
“Maybe he could stay over?” Liam hardly knew the words that came out of his mouth.
“I don’t know—”
“It’s not a school night, and I’d like to finish our game, if that’s okay.” Liam felt a little hopeful and nervous at the same time.
Liam’s dad looked over at Liam’s mom. “What do you think, Sarah?”
Sarah smiled. “I think it’ll be okay. I’m thinking Liam should have a bit more freedom anyway. He’s sixteen now. He can determine when he goes to bed. As long as he gets up on time, of course. You two enjoy the game. Try not to stay up too late. Your father and I expect you for breakfast at eight.”
“Of course, Mom.”
“Cody, please make sure it’s okay for you to stay. Otherwise we can take you home.”
Cody pulled out his cell phone and got permission from his mother. “I’m good to go. Thank you for letting me stay over.”
“You are very welcome. I’ll set some extra pillows and blankets on your bed. Good night.” Liam’s mom went up the stairs with his dad.
“Thanks, Mom, Dad,” Liam called out to them, then focused back to Cody. They continued their game for about fifteen minutes, until Liam didn’t hear any other noise coming from upstairs. “I had no idea they’d go for that. I’ve had sleepovers before, but it was always a group.”
Cody shrugged. “I think they expect us to stay up all night playing this game. Do they really give you a bedtime?”
“Well, before tonight, it was kinda understood I’d be in bed by ten.” Liam raised his eyebrows. “Was kinda surprised to hear that from Mom. Maybe they won’t be as strict anymore now that I’m sixteen.”
Liam felt Cody’s fingers on the back of his hand. Their fingers intertwined and for the first time in his life, Liam was holding hands with someone other than his parents. “Your hand feels warm.”
“Not too sweaty, I hope.”
“I’m glad. First times are supposed to be memorable.”
It was then Liam noticed how close Cody was sitting. How close Cody’s face was to his. How close his lips were—and then he felt a slight pressure on his own lips. Just a peck, just enough to be an actual kiss. Then Cody came back into focus.
Liam felt absolutely stunned. His mind was a whirlwind of thoughts, feelings.
Liam came around as Cody shook his shoulder. “Wha…?”
“You okay? I didn’t mean to push, but I thought for your birthday—”
“This is the best birthday ever.”
“The kiss was awesome.”
Cody gave him a huge grin. “Glad you liked it.”
They finished the game then decided to head to bed. There wasn’t room for both of them on the bed, and really, Liam didn’t want to take any chances in case either of his parents came in unexpectedly. He pulled his sleeping bag out of the closet.
“It’s not the Ritz as they say, but it should do.”
“I’ve camped out with less. Between the sleeping bag and the blankets, I’ll be fine.” Cody sat down on the bed.
Liam rolled out the sleeping bag and laid the blankets on top of it. “I’ve been camping a couple of times. But it was in log cabins with cots.”
“Totally not the same.”
“Maybe we could go camping someday.”
“Not much time left this year. It’s already getting in the fifties on some nights.”
“Maybe next summer?”
Cody cocked his head. “If I’m able to come back, sure.”
It hit Liam like a ton of bricks. Cody was only going to be here until the new year, maybe just a tad longer, then he was headed back home, leaving Liam. After just a few days, Liam had become attached to Cody.
“I didn’t mean to depress you.”
“Why do you say that?”
“You got this look of utter sadness. I’m sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry about. You don’t have control over where you live or how long you’ll stay there.”
“Well, I don’t want to upset you.”
Liam sat down next to Cody. “It’s just, I like having someone I can really be myself with.”
“I get that. You’re pretty much alone here, even with the possibility of other gay people.”
“Yeah, no one can be themselves. It’s like everyone has to pretend to be these perfect people with no flaws. It’s tiring keeping up the façade.”
“It’s only for a couple more years. Once you get to college, you’ll be in an entirely new atmosphere. You won’t have to hide.”
Liam sighed. “Two years. At our age, that’s a lifetime.”
Cody turned on the bed. “Come here.”
Liam turned to face Cody. “What?”
Cody put his arms around Liam, pulling him into a hug. They stayed that way for long minutes. Liam finally pulled back. “Thank you.”
“For accepting me as I am. For giving me some great firsts to remember. For giving me hope about myself and helping me realize I’m not an abomination.”
Cody furrowed his brow. “They really call gay people abominations?”
“Among other things.”
“And they believe we are. Damned.”