At forty-three, Jay McGhee doesn’t know how much longer he’ll be able to withstand the physical rigors necessary for active duty in the Roseville, Indiana Fire Department, but that doesn’t mean he’s willing to be put out to pasture just yet. For most of his adult life, he’s had to place his needs on the back burner, including the fact that he’s a gay man in a small rural community. His career is not going to take the same route.
When twenty-seven-year-old Frank Kaplan breezes into town, Jay ignores his immediate attraction to the younger man. After all, he’s an old pro at pretending. The long-haired, tattooed drifter shouldn’t even be his type, but the friendship they strike up satisfies a space in Jay’s life he never realized was empty.
Two men. Two lives in flux.
Fireman Jay McGhee met Frank Kaplan when he was injured fighting a fire and needed a ride to seek medical attention. Frank had only been in Roseville for a few days and was staying with his grandmother while finishing his book. After Jay was treated by the local doctor who raised the old chesnut about when he was going to retire he was not feeling particularly charitable towards his fellow man, but he did notice that Frank was very attractive although he was at least a decade or two younger than him. However, since Frank was not gay it really didn’t matter how young he was.
Not long after Jay’s accident he and Frank met again at the local hardware store when they were both running errands. Jay ended up at Olive’s, Frank’s grandmother, where he found out that there was a lot more to Frank than being a drifter with no job. Later they shared some of their life stories and Frank discovered that Jay had been married a long time ago, was now divorced, and there was no one currently in his life. Frank, who was also alone, didn’t talk much except to say that he had walked away from his last job almost a year ago and had been living on his savings or staying with friends since then; he did not volunteer any information about the tattoo on his arm which seemed to have a lot of significance. After the BBQ Jay invited Frank to his house and Frank dropped by often, which led to them getting to know each other a lot better. Having Frank around emphasized to Jay that sometime soon he would have to consider his options if he decided not to continue as a fire fighter which was not something he wanted to think about, but the writing seemed to be on the wall that he would be forced by others to make a decision shortly.
More and more as Frank got to know Jay he was struck by the manner in which he was treated by the townspeople. Everyone seemed to be dismissive about his contribution to the town and Dr. Gorham in particular was aggressively trying to push Jay into retirement even though he was still fit to do the job. Jay’s world was crumbling around him and he didn’t know where to turn. One evening when Frank came by to visit, the good doctor was there and Jay was not in any mood for company. Things went from bad to worse after the doctor left and Jay and Frank had their first fight which resulted in Frank confiding, after they had cleared the air, that he was gay. Clearly neither Frank nor Jay had any gaydar because they were each surprised by the other’s reaction to Frank’s confession! The attraction that had been simmering between them all along meant that they had to decide if they were going to do anything about it, or just continue to hang out as friends until Frank left town. Of course they had sex, which made it hard for Jay to face the fact that Frank would soon be leaving and he would be alone again. Then he was forced to decide his future when the Fire Chief and Dr. Gorham requested a meeting with him.
This book is about a man (Jay) in a mid life crisis about his fast disappearing job and his new love life, as both would be horribly empty when Frank was gone and he couldn’t ride the fire truck any more. The option available to him of moving into management, while attractive to someone else, did not appeal to Jay who struggled with what he really wanted. He definitely wanted to stay in Roseville, a town that had been home all his life even though the townspeople didn’t seem to appreciate him, however he also wanted Frank, but what future was there with a man who didn’t even have a job?
The book was a bit slow in the beginning and the sex didn’t happen until about 3/4 of the way through, but when it did it was very hot and emotional. Frank opened up to Jay who found out at last why he had left his old life behind and the significance of his tattoo. They tried to work around the issues in a new relationship which didn’t seem to have a chance of going anywhere because everything was stacked against them and there was no light at the end of the tunnel. The author did a great job of coming up with a feasible solution that was not pie in the sky but realistic because of Jay’s limited career options. The characterizations were well drawn and three dimensional, particularly Jay, and I liked the emotion between two characters who couldn’t be more different.
If you’re looking for a romance that’s different – a protagonist who’s a little older and in love with a considerably younger man and has to deal with the challenges faced by men at that time in their lives, then Colliding in Free Fall is an enjoyable read that I recommend.