A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: Two men, badly scarred by life, come together to build family for abused boys. Warm, very sentimental, page turner.
Blurb: When Soldier shows up to check on one of his properties, he’s amazed to find the old house in disrepair and full of scared boys being cared for by a man who makes him believe in angels. Dillon falls for this big bald man, so scarred inside and out, who comes to mean so much to all of them. All of the boys have such heartbreaking stories and these two men’s mission in life now becomes to make life better, easier, and most of all, safer for the children in their care. Love is all important in building their dream.
This story has been previously published.
Set in Texas, this story starts with our first introduction to eight year old Gom—short for Montgomery—one of the seven heartbreaking, abused children Dillon has somehow come to care for out on the blurred edge of the Social Services, boys who who can’t cope within the system. Gom has spotted somebody lurking in the garden. Although the intruder looks threatening—very big, bald and scarred—he unexpectedly turns out to be the unhappy, depressed but very rich owner of the run down house they are all officially squatting in.
Bitterly abused, Gom, who looks like a five year old, can’t sleep, won’t be touched except by Dillon and cries soundlessly, is caring, loving and brave, and this is the trigger to a change in Soldier’s unhappy life. Physically and mentally scarred by war, Soldier is unexpectedly taken by Gom, who not only spotted him half hidden in his camos, but who wants to both protect Dillon and care for the intruder, bringing him a peanut butter sandwich, in case he was hungry. Gom falls asleep in this stranger’s arms, out in garden.
So you get the idea, almost a Walt Disney scene set, sweet lullaby playing, it’s as comfortable as an old pair of slippers. Later there are puppies and rescue dogs…all things I am very susceptible to. The viscious situations that have led the boys to this shelter are rooted in reality and that upsetting, discordant note saves the book from being drowned by the sweetness, but it was still a little saccharin for my taste.
The situation is precarious; Dillon has to work hard scrounging and asking for leftovers to even get the boys enough to eat. Food is clearly a metaphor for love; Soldier provides them with good food, serving the boys fried chicken as he gets to know them,
Gom came forward and held up a paper plate and said, ” I’m Gom and I love you “
As instant as the child’s trust is for Soldier so is the attraction between the two men. Both are scarred, and wary of life. With his damaging experiences of war Soldier has fallen out of love with life. You quickly get the sense that all these characters embody the old blues line:
If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.
There is always the feeling that really bad things could happen at any moment as these boys cling to the raft that Dillon has made them. This tension is nicely offset by Soldier, with his big heart, bringing financial security and sensible, practical treats. The shopping scenes with the wide eyed, grateful kids are good fun, but is balanced by what they reveal about Tommy whose world doesn’t usually hold something for nothing,
“You won’t want us to…you know…”.
Both Soldier and Dillon have put their emotional and sexual lives on hold until this instant attraction drives them forward. The careful juggling they have to do in order to finally get some hot sex is amusing and also touching. As when Tommy becomes aware of what they are doing in the laundry, this again reveals more about his abuse; prostitution by his own mother. We are in the Amy Lane territory of ”driving while gay” as in ” Keeping Promise Rock”, “Talker” and “Talker’s Redemption”, but the writing is very different. Without the clever contemporary edge, AKM Miles work feels traditional, wordy, slightly worthy, and very sweet. The general emotional feel reminded me of The Walton’s—readers of a certain age will know what I mean…I hope. On her website the author says of her work:
You can expect there to be a happy ending every time. You can expect for the two to find each other and choose to be together fairly early on, and then face conflicts, trials, and experiences as a couple.
She also says:
Often called for being too mushy or romantic or sweet…
although she discounts this, I think it is fair comment. However, the book is a real page turner, the story following this newly forged family as they cope with various future threatening events. The practical situation of how it is possible for the two openly gay men to care for the boys within a system which includes homophobic police is necessarily dealt with but in some detail:
“…We have to decide if this is a foster parent family or a sanctuary for boys. That makes it more a business- type deal. You might have less trouble with the gay thing with that. I’m still doing research.”
The practicalities of their lives together is, again, all spelled out, the explanations of being gay to the boys and how that affects their living arrangements: when Dillon and Soldier have private time, the bedroom door will be shut, but the kids can knock on the door, wait, and it will always be opened for them.
One of my problems with the book was the ages of our protags—Soldier at thirty three and Dillon at twenty five—as both characters felt to me as at least a decade older in attitude and emotions.
“…You are my other half, Soldier. I waited my whole life for you.”
And Soldier replies
” Yeah. I never thought I’d have somebody…I just thought I’d be alone all my life…”
This age anomaly might well be a device because of the need of later books, which deal with the boys as adults, and Soldier and Dillon are required to be parental not grandparental. I will be reviewing Gom’s story, “For Gom’s Sake,” next week, a book I liked very much. I read this before Soldier and that might be why I prefer it.
However although Soldier is a little over-sweet for my taste, this heartwarming story is pleasant, well-—written and enjoyable.