For twenty years, Owen Fortescue, a down-to-earth farmer in upstate New York, has had an on-again, off-again relationship with volatile New York City artist Kerry Ruehling. Now that same-sex marriage is recognized in New York, Owen wants to tie the knot. But Kerry responds to the proposal with instant, angry withdrawal. Owen resolves to prove to Kerry that, regardless of the way his family of origin has treated him, family ties don’t necessarily tie a man down. With help from his grown daughter, Laura, who loves them both, Owen hopes to convince Kerry that his marriage proposal isn’t a trap, but a chance at real love.
Reviewed By: J9
In a Nutshell: This novella is a haunting story with a realistic, semi-sweet romance between two different and mature leads. This romance stuck with me after I read it and made me wish for either a longer story or a continuation in the future.
The Set Up: Volatile New York City artist Kerry has been visiting upstate farmer Owen for twenty years in an on-again-off-again relationship. Owen wants to marry Kerry now that it’s legal but Kerry’s restlessness will make this a challenge.
Why I Read this Book: Love books with older leads and with the setting in my home state, this was a no-brainer choice.
What I Liked: This is a haunting romance because of the characters and the way they interact, which is realistic, complicated and messy. Owen is a homespun farmer who has trouble talking about his feelings and just wants to quietly build a life with Kerry. Kerry is restless, emotional, hostile and slightly combative. He wants to love Owen but he doesn’t know what that means to him or how it would work between them. Kerry’s life has a reckless abandon full of pain and sorrow over AIDS deaths in the gay community in the 90’s. Kerry can’t imagine a long term relationship with Owen but the fact remains he’s been boomeranging back to Owen for twenty years. Kerry is full of contradictions like these the entire novella and Owen’s bewildered attempts at loving Kerry are emotional to read. But in this I could see why Kerry’s vibrant personality would cause Owen to emotionally wake-up when Kerry would visit. This is an unconventional relationship at novella’s beginning and it stayed true to that the entire way, even at novella’s messy conclusion that isn’t quite the HEA this romance reader wanted.
What I Also Liked: Owen’s daughter, Laura, is a lovely character and the farm setting is so well written it’s almost a fourth character. Laura is as complex as the two men and her honest examination of how she feels about Kerry and Owen and them as a couple is lovely. The sheep farm that Owen and Laura own is the perfect backdrop to this intense but quiet novella. I love the inclusion of the sheep husbandry and yarn spinning as it added depth and richness to this story. Since I’m a native, I can also say that the author did a stellar job of showcasing the push-and-pull between the City (as we call NYC) and upstate and she did this by personifying each in Kerry and Owen.
What I Didn’t Like: I was troubled by a few things in this novella, like a sore tooth that I kept coming back to. One was when Kerry told Owen that he hadn’t been sleeping with other people for a decade, only to admit to himself that was a total lie. This disturbed me greatly because it reeked of dishonesty and it didn’t seem to me that the mercurial Kerry would ever need to lie; Kerry always brashly did and said what he wanted. It would have seemed more true to the characters to let the issue of exclusive sex be a non-issue between the men instead of setting up a lie that only Kerry and readers know about, especially since Owen places so much emotional stock in Kerry’s proclamation.
Second, Kerry doesn’t feel Owen understands his pain of losing friends to AIDS in the 90’s but instead of talking to Owen about this when the perfect opportunity arises, Kerry says nothing. Owen was sharing his acceptance that Kerry may have brought an STD to Owen from the City and this was the perfect opportunity for Kerry to share his pain with Owen but nope, doesn’t happen.
Third, I kept returning to my initial feeling that Kerry was selfish. I’m the last person to condemn someone for thinking of their needs in a relationship but here I felt like Kerry ONLY thought about himself. Owen and Laura accepted Kerry for who he was but Kerry was so busy fighting ghosts that he couldn’t fully appreciate them for who they were. This wasn’t a satisfying emotional conclusion for me but it certainly fit the realistic, messy romance.
IMO: This hundred page novella packed an emotional wallop for me, and not all of it was positive. Still, this romance and the characters have stuck with me and offer such a compelling read that I recommend it to other MM readers looking for something different.
P.S. This is as PG as an MM romance gets!