Author: Rick R. Reed
Cover artist: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link:Buy Link Homecoming
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novella/32,233 words/126 PDF pages
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
A guest review by LadyM
Review summary: Emotional story of loss and new beginning
Blurb: After losing his partner Toby, Chase faces a long, painful road back to life and love. At first, he doesn’t see how he can go on, but then Chase and Toby’s old friend Mike cajoles him into returning to Chicago for the annual International Mr. Leather Competition. There Chase revisits a world of hot, casual sex that he had forgotten existed, meets a friend who cares more for him than he ever realized, and discovers the possibility that he might yet find his way home.
There aren’t many authors that can evoke strong emotions with every single story they publish and such a variety of them as well. Rick R. Reed is one of those authors and Homecoming is not an exception. This is the story about one man’s journey from terrible, shattering loss to hope and, possibly, the new beginning.
Chase’s longtime partner Toby dies on a day that shouldn’t be anything but joyous. And, if that wasn’t enough, Chase gets to, kind of, witness his partner’s death. Now, when I’m reading a book for the review I have what I like to call “reviewer glasses” on – meaning, the knowledge that I read the book for more than simple pleasure and entertainment, additional distance and concentration that should give me a bit more objectivity and little less emotional involvement. The beginning of the story blew that entirely away. I found myself completely caught up in Chase’s pain and, then, loneliness. The range of Chase’s emotions described here – from shock, disbelief, anger, desperation to numbness and grief – will be believable to anyone who has ever experienced a personal loss and, possibly, bring tears to readers’ eyes – like they did to mine.
Two months after Toby’s death, Chase is living like this:
This routine, coming home from his job at a veterinary clinic where he answered phones, filed, and greeted clients and patients, hadn’t varied since Toby’s funeral. The sameness of it, Chase conceded, was somehow comforting, and yet at the same time underscored the emptiness he now felt each time he walked in the door.
Chase’s bleak life is interrupted by Mike, his and Toby’s friend from Chicago where they have lived before moving to Seattle. He invites Chase to International Mr. Leather Competition, the biggest gay leather event in the world. Chase has been a part of this event both on his own and with Toby, but he is afraid that going back to Chicago, where he and Toby spent many years together, would be too painful. He has good memories about it though and he believes Toby would want him to go on, so finally he agrees to Mike’s invitation.
I liked Mike since he appeared at the beginning of the story and here we had an opportunity to learn a bit more about him although, in my opinion, not enough. Mike is a self-proclaimed pig, a man who enjoys sex and changes partners often. He was originally Toby’s friend and they were both involved in the leather scene, although we don’t know to which extent. Mike appears shallow, but his inner goodness and joyous nature clearly shine through. It is clear that he was a good friend to both Toby and Chase. He cares for Chase and encourages him to move on with his life.
As unlikely as International Mr. Leather is for a background of this kind of story and it could potentially make some of the readers uncomfortable, I liked that contrast between Chase’s loss and grief and uncompromising sexuality of IML. It was a brave and, in my opinion, right thing to do in this case. From the moment he lands in Chicago, Chase is facing several similar contrasts and emotions they bring forward: sex as affirmation of life and his own attractiveness and sex as empty exchange, the desire to move on and the guilt because of it, friendship and loneliness, etc. After only two days in the city, Chase is overwhelmed and decides to leave. Mike persuades him to spend the rest of his vacation in his parent’s house outside of Chicago and Chase agrees. The simplicity of their time spent together stands in stark contrast (again) to “contained Disneyland for adults“. And… I’m not going to say anything else.
The narrative is interesting mix between the past and the present, Chase’s memories and dreams and actual events. It gives us an insight in his relationship with Toby. It’s also subtle: a line here, a word there suggests the attraction between Mike and Chase even before the opportunity for any kind of relationship between them arises. I have two minor complaints. I would have liked to know more about Mike. Additionally, I think the story would have benefited from more Chase and Mike together. This is not really a romance in a classical sense, but rather a story about the ending of one and potential beginning of new love. While Mr. Reed’s description of Chase’s pain and his reactions was flawless, I think these two things would have given us a glimpse of his promised future.
Homecoming is well-written, deeply emotional story and I doubt that many readers would be indifferent to it. It’s entirely self-contained, however I can’t help but want to know more of these characters and their future. I can only hope that Mr. Reed will decide to give us another story about them some day.