Rating: 4 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance
Message of Love is the sequel to Jim Provenzano’s excellent first book, Every Time I Think of You. I jumped at the chance to review this book, since Every Time ranks as one of my favorites of all time and dealt with a difficult theme that is almost never tackled in romance novels — that of physical handicap, more specifically paralysis. It was different than anything I’d read before, and written by the skilled Provenzano, it not only captured my heart with the story, but with the lyrical quality of the prose and the overall great writing.
In Message of Love, the main characters, Reid and Everett, whose very difficult journey to find each other was the basis of the first book, are a semi-established couple, who now must navigate very difficult years in an era that was not overwhelmingly kind to gay men. And while this story takes place during the 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic was just being discovered and hatred and bigotry were something the two men had to contend with every day, it is also about a couple who are trying to make it through college and have to decide if they’re meant to be together. Also at the forefront is Everett’s paralysis, and the author does not shy away from the kind of stuff that gets glossed over in other books, not only the emotional devastation that Everett suffers but even the physical logistics of daily living that able-bodied people don’t even think about.
Provenzano, while being a beautiful writer, is not concerned about making things too comfortable or too romantic. He’s very realistic in his descriptions and, while Reid and Everett are complex and likeable characters, they are certainly flawed. Everett continues to be a bit out of touch with those who are not as privileged as he is, including Reid. Their relationship together is not always easy, though one would expect no less from two men at the prime of their lives, who oftentimes are only held together by the immensity of their love for one another. They attend different colleges, live together for some years and remain separate for others. They find they’re attracted to other men and explore what that means within the bounds of their relationship.
If my description of the plot of this book seems meandering, it’s because this book takes place over several years and is not held together by any sort of tight narrative thread. I would say this was the book’s biggest weakness. It is quite a lengthy book, and sometimes it felt too long, ending up in the same place as it begins but not seeming to have made much progress along the way. If you’re a fan of Reid and Everett, it’s fun to revisit their lives and their love for each other. However, I expected to feel the kind of love for them that I felt in the first book, and it never seemed to have the hold on my heart that the first book did. Perhaps it was because it covers a period of time when lives are in flux, both for the men, who were discovering things about themselves and each other in their early 20s, and also gay men throughout the country, who were starting to hear about AIDS, and were simply trying to find their way in a world that was still largely antagonistic toward them.
I see the purpose for the way this book was structured, but it didn’t work for me as well as I would’ve liked. I had high expectations for it and they simply weren’t met. However, I still strongly recommend the first book in the series, Every Time I Think of You, and, if you like that, you should definitely read this one as well.