Title: For Gom’s Sake
Author: AKM Miles
Cover Artist: Deanna C. Jamroz
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Length: 296 pges, 100,000 plus words
Rating: 4 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: Sensitive and appealing Gom—from Soldier, comes of age sexually and emotionally, while also investigating a series of devastating cases of teenage bullying. Wordy, worthy, but with its heart in the right place; somehow, it works.
Blurb: Gom Marsh is all grown up, but he looks years younger than he is. A police officer, he works undercover as a high school student to help fight the extreme bullying cases that school staffs can’t solve. The work is heartbreaking and wearing, but lucky for Gom, there’s a new man in his life. Casey Tanner, though, doesn’t like to be touched. That could be a problem. Gom’s still at Scarcity Sanctuary to keep up his cover, so Soldier and Dillon are always there to help. Can Casey redeem himself after a bad first impression? Hopefully so, Gom needs him.
For Gom’s Sake revisits Scarcity Sanctuary, the place embodying comfort in a cruel world created by AKM Miles in Soldier (reviewed here). The original boys have grown up, guided by Soldier and Dillon, to be good, caring young men.
This book concentrates on Gom, who along with Tommy has been adopted by Soldier and Dillon. At twenty-two, Gom has achieved a great deal. The child tortured by his mother and the adolescent beaten by bigots is no longer physically vulnerable:
Soldier had taught him many ways to fight, both clean and dirty…Gom had also had police training to add to his list of abilities in self protection. He was small, quick and deadly if the situation called for it.
I really liked seeing this growth in Gom’s character and that as far as his professional career is concerned he is no longer needy and fragile. However:
He was a brave man, had the training to prove it, but when it came to intimacy, he was really in a world of hurt.
Gom’s adult sexuality and emotional life has been delayed development—until he meets Casey Tanner, who helped a young boy, Trick, find refuge with Gom’s parents. Unfortunately Casey appears emotionally stunted in his interaction with Trick, not reacting when the boy unexpectedly tries to hug him. This possible flaw, used to create a little tension, is also a window into Casey’s back story. At fourteen, Casey, neglected and ignored by his parents, left home. He has no experience of the kind of nurture enjoyed by Gom from age eight.
“I thought with hugs you were supposed to squeeze,” Casey said. Gom’s eye’s immediately filled as he realized that Casey had never had a hug.
Nevertheless he is the spark that sets off Gom’s sexual awareness. Their slow growing relationship is explored with warmth in great detail:
“…Now, lets talk about the fact that if this is your first date, then I get to be your first kiss, huh?” Casey teased gently.
“Uh, Case,what if I suck?” Gom’s worry was genuine.
“I don’t think you’re supposed to do that so much with the kissing thing. Later maybe, now that…”
The story of Gom’s sweet coming of sexual age is combined with showing him dealing compassionately and bravely with a series of cases of serious bullying in high school which culminate with a tragedy. All the stories are described with real sympathy and a sense of reality that made them feel like fictionalized case studies. The tragedy of Byron Neighbor’s life is particularly poignant in revealing how many people are involved in bullying; not just the actual instigators but the bystanders and the condoning figures of authority:
“I can’t take it anymore. The people who made me do this know who they are. They are the ones who bullied me, the ones who outed me, and the ones who knew about it and did nothing. I’m sorry, Mum. ”
The episodic nature of these stories within a story does adversely affect the arc of the book’s plot development. There are four sub plots going on here and I really did feel that the books natural end was just after the elegiac assembly, and for me the last case was one too many.
The book’s serious message about bullying has been further developed by the publishing of a Young Adult form of the novel. Editor Kris Jacen explained:
And for those interested, FOR GOM’S SAKE is out as both a m/m romance through MLR and a YA (titled UNDERCOVER ASSIGNMENT) out through our YA/childrens imprint Featherweight Press. The story line could help too many if it was out there for them so we felt that it was necessary. The main difference between the two (besides titles and covers) is the lack of full sex on the page.
For Gom’s Sake is very much in the same mode as Soldier. It is a similar mixture of desperate angst, sex, love and comfort; everything is spelled out, and occasionally underlined. Somehow AKM Miles manages to create a virtue from a fault—it all still works. I liked the background details of comfort and support that Soldier and Dillon provide. I enjoyed Gom as an adult, openhearted, sexually brave, and now loved and supported by Casey—his own Soldier.
Because there is plenty of back story included, it is perfectly possible to read this as a stand alone novel.