Title: How Could Love Be Wrong?
Author: B.G. Thomas
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: contemporary m/m romance
Length: Novella (68 pdf pages)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary review: A beautiful, moving story that transported its serious message with heartfelt honesty.
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Blurb: As a teenage boy, Clay finds love for the first time with his best friend, Matthew—a love shattered by Matthew’s guilt and religious dogma. Later, as a young man, Clay is blessed with the love of a woman, a close companion who accepts him for who he is even though he can never give her the devotion she deserves in return. But Clay might be able to put his guilt and disappointment behind him—if he can learn to accept love from an unexpected source.
This book is part of the Dreamspinner Press Daily Dose “First time for Everything” series.
As an eighteen-year-old, Clay was in love with Matthew, a preacher’s son. They started out as best buds, practically in first grade, and grew and matured together, their friendship slowly turning into more. One day Matthew broke up with Clay in a very harsh way, quoting bible verses and demanding Clay “grew up”, making it clear it had all been a game to him. Matthew broke Clay’s heart so badly that Clay even attempted to end his life.
Luckily, a neighbor’s daughter came by right then and found Clay in time. Sherry didn’t judge him when Clay blurted out all his pain and heartbreak, but comforted him and offered him her friendship. With Matthew gone, Sherry quickly became Clay’s best friend. Clay, convinced he could never be open about his sexuality, much less form a real life-partnership with a man, eventually took up on Sherry’s offer, married her and had two sons with her.
Sherry befriended Matthew’s wife, and Clay and Matthew came together again, now as friends. Matthew had two daughters and one son, Luke. As Luke grew up, Clay got the impression that the boy might be gay. Determined to spare Luke the pain and denial he had to endure, Clay did his best to contradict the homophobic doctrines Luke’s grandfather has fed him and encouraged him, if not in so much words, to remain true to himself.
Meanwhile, Matthew got into an ugly downward spiral of alcoholism, domestic violence and self-neglect. Although Clay could barely stand Matthew anymore, he continued to welcome him, for old times’ sake. But when Matthew laid hands on Luke, Clay confronted Matthew about it, and their friendship ended. It was around this time that Clay realized his feelings for Luke weren’t fatherly any longer. However, since Clay was married and Luke was still a minor, Clay never thought about acting on his feelings.
Although Clay could never love Sherry passionately, he took every effort to do right by her and be her a good husband. Even though Sherry knew from the get-go that Clay was gay, she loved him deeply – how deeply, Clay learned only shortly before Sherry died from breast cancer.
Sherry made Clay promise to find a new relationship, and she practically pushed Clay towards Luke.
In the months following Sherry’s death, grief and a feeling of guilt rendered Clay barely functional. Only when Luke got badly hurt, Clay was able to pull himself out of his fog of sorrow.
After Luke had healed, Clay told him everything. He still didn’t want to act on his feelings, since Luke, although nineteen now, was so much younger than him, and he didn’t want to take advantage of him. Yet, Luke made it very clear to him that the feelings were mutual, in every aspect. For the first time in his life, love wasn’t an one-sided thing for Clay anymore.
The writing was mostly narration, with many aspects simply told rather than shown. However, given the predicament – a man writing down the story of his life over the course of a full-moon night – and the short format, I really couldn’t say how this could have been done otherwise.
Since we’re only privy to Clay’s thoughts, the view on the other characters is naturally one-sided. Especially Sherry, unselfishly loving wife, was larger than life, almost a saint. Nobody is that good—but, seen through Clay’s eyes, she would of course appear thusly. The same is true for Luke, who for Clay can’t do any wrong.
The best worked-out character was Matthew, since Clay’s view of him was the least emotional. Other supportive cast, like Clay’s sons, Clay’s mother, Matthew’s wife and daughters, mostly only get a mention in passing, which again might be due to the short format. And there were a number of convenient plot elements, like the devoted wife passing away just in time when Luke reached adulthood, or the bad-dream-turned-to-making-love. I took note, but they didn’t bother me as much as it was the case in other books, mostly because they made sense in the context here.
Most of all, this is a honest book. The titular rhetorical question, “How can love be wrong?” is answered here by a relationship which “breaks almost every role there is” and still feels right, for both Clay and Luke. I got the impression that the core of this story was striking up a blow for loving relationships that don’t fit into any pigeon-holes, and even though the case was a little overstated at times, the message came across as a matter close to the author’s heart.
All in all, this was a beautiful, deeply moving and comforting story which I can recommend if you’re in the mood for something sweet, sad and honest with unexpected depth.