Buy Link: Too Soon for Love
Author: Kimberly Gardner
Publisher: MLR Press
Michael Stricker has just lost Phillip, his partner of 12 years. The men were together since Michael was just 19, so Michael has essentially spent all his adult life in the relationship. He misses Phillip intensely, and is also overwhelmed by the attentions of Phillip’s family. Michael is blind and the family worries he can not handle things independently. Michael bristles under their constant hovering. At the same time, he realizes that over the years he has lost the ability (or the confidence) to do many things independently that he once could because Phillip handled so many things for him.
Goddamn Phillip for dying on him. And goddamn himself for letting his independence slip away from him. He didn’t even know how it had happened, how he had lost the ability to function on his own, or what the hell he was going to do about it now.
Alan Stuart has been attracted to Michael since he served as a nursing assistant hired by the family to help care for Phillip after his stroke. When Alan drives Michael home after the funeral, the two rekindle the friendship they developed during those long hours at Phillip’s bedside. Alan is craving being with Michael, but knows he can not push things so soon after Phillip’s death. Although they do have sex one night, Michael admits he is not ready for a relationship. However, the two become close friends and Alan spends a lot of time helping Michael manage his affairs, reading mail and helping with paperwork.
It is during this time that Alan finds some information that Phillip was hiding from Michael. He knows Michael will likely never find out, and Alan isn’t sure whether to tell Michael the truth or to try to save him the pain. Complicating this, of course, is the fact that he is so attracted to Michael and he knows that revealing the situation will influence Michael’s memories (and mourning) of Phillip.
I feel like this book was really two stories: Michael’s journey back to independence and rediscovering himself, and the romance between Michael and Alan. And while I loved Michael’s story, I feel like the romance just took too small a role for me.
Most of the book focuses on Michael. He is struggling with his grief and working to get back his independence. The story covers his relationship with Phillip’s family and how he strives to set some boundaries with the well-meaning, but overwhelming, group. It also deals with Michael relearning to do things he has forgotten and regaining his confidence in his abilities. This insight into the life of a blind person was really fascinating. Gardner did a great job showing the day to day life of someone who can not see. She both highlighted Michael’s difficulties, as well as showing how independent a blind person can be. I really loved this part of the book and enjoyed Michael’s journey through this process.
My problem is that the romance between Michael and Alan felt very secondary to this story. Although they have sex early on, Michael is not ready for a relationship at that point and the men remain friends. Alan has feelings for Michael all along (and Michael shares the attraction), but nothing romantic happens between the men until the very end of the story. Things were definitely not drawn out and no artificial road blocks were thrown up between the men. It is just that the story wasn’t ready to go there yet. But I did feel I was missing the romance of it all and wanted to see how a romantic relationship between them could have impacted Michael’s journey.
Just a note, both men have sex with other people during this book. It occurs both in flashback between Michael and Phillip, as well as for both men after they have had sex with each other (but before there is a romantic relationship between them). It is definitely not cheating, but I mention it because I know this is something that bothers some folks.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I loved Michael and liked watching him regain his confidence and sense of self. Gardner brings in a lot of side stories and characters and blends them all in together wonderfully. Although I wanted more romance, I would definitely recommend reading Too Soon for Love.