Title: Blue Umbrella Sky
Author: Rick R. Reed
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: March 19, 2019
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Hurt/Comfort/Healing
Page Count: 191
Reviewed by: CrabbyPatty
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Milt Grabaur has left his life, home, and teaching career in Ohio to start anew. The Summer Winds trailer park in Palm Springs, butted up against the San Jacinto mountain range, seems the perfect place to forget the pain of nursing his beloved husband through Alzheimer’s and seeing him off on his final passage.
Billy Blue is a sexy California surfer-type who once dreamed of being a singer but now works at Trader Joe’s and lives in his own trailer at Summer Winds. He’s focused on recovery from the alcoholism that put his dreams on hold.
When his new neighbor moves in, Billy falls for the gray-eyed man. His sadness and loneliness awaken something Billy’s never felt before–real love.
When a summer storm and flash flood jeopardize Milt’s home, Billy comes to the rescue, hoping the two men might get better acquainted…and maybe begin a new romance.
But Milt’s devotion to his late husband is strong, and he worries that acting on his attraction will be a betrayal.
Can they lay down their baggage and find out how redemptive love can be?
First off, “Blue Umbrella Sky” is a beautifully written story of loss, grief, addiction, failure, redemption and recovery. What it isn’t is a garden variety M/M romance full of steamy, sweaty sex against any number of surfaces. So, perhaps adjust your expectations … and get ready for an absolutely wonderful book.
If you’ve read Reed’s “Big Love” (and you definitely should – it is exceptional), Milt is Dane Bernard’s friend and fellow teacher in Summitville, Ohio, and after the death of his beloved husband Corky, Milt decides to move away and settle in a Palm Springs, CA trailer park. Caring for Corky and watching his gentle bear of a husband disappear bit by bit to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease has left Milt depressed and convinced he will never love again.
Enter Billy Blue, a recovering alcoholic living in the same trailer park who has watched Milt from afar and is harboring a crush on the lonely attractive widower. A flash flood brings the two men together and they begin a friendship based on long hikes and shared meals. The pace of the story is slow, but necessary as we get a series of flashbacks and learn of Billy’s dreams of being a singer, his fierce battle with alcoholism and his recovery via the community he finds at AA. We also see Milt caring for Corky while hoping that deep down inside the man he loves is still there and realizes the extent of his care and devotion.
I love how Reed uses Ruby, the frightened rescue dog Milt saves at the start of the book, as a metaphor for both men. “But, God, she was a scared thing. I’d lift my hand to pet her and she’d cower, tail between her legs, terrified eyes looking at me, just begging. It broke my heart.” Just as Ruby changes due to Milt’s love, Milt’s loneliness and self-isolation changes in the kindness Billy exudes. And as for Billy:
Billy himself had been an abused animal, and the abuser had been the worst kind of enemy – himself.
Reed’s writing is eloquent as he slowly unfolds this tale of two men who emerge from their respective losses to find one another, to truly see one another. 5 stars and a Recommended Read for “Blue Umbrella Sky.”
Yeah. I know this is something, what we have here. I know it is not in my head so much, but in my heart. My head tells me all the things Dane would say. But my heart knows. The heart always knows what it wants, what it needs. […] Who it needs. What matters.