Jacen Ives has loved Kayne Henderson since he was 11 and Kayne was 14. Kayne was kind to him and stopped Jacen from being bullied. Confused about his feelings, Jacen talked to his older brother, Micah, and dad about being gay and is met with acceptance and love. But both caution him about being out at school and Micah makes him promise to never reveal his feelings to Kayne. Jacen keeps that promise until the night of their graduation party. It seems that Kayne has known all along about Jacen’s “crush” and he sends Jacen away to college with a kiss goodbye after telling Jacen that he is straight and has a serious girlfriend.
Six years later, Jacen returns to his hometown after being savagely beaten by an ex-boyfriend he met in college. His family gathers to support him. And to his surprise, so does Kayne Henderson. Kayne is now divorced and has a young daughter. Homeless,they both live with Micah and his partner, Sammy. When Jacen’s ex eludes the Melbourne police, everyone fears he will show up to threaten Jacen again so Kayne and his daughter move in with Jacen to protect him. But Kayne is hiding a secret, one he has carried since graduation. When the secret comes out, it will shatter friendships and leave Jacen vulnerable. Can both men accept change when it leads to a future both want with all their hearts?
One Last Kiss Goodbye was a lovely story of unrequited love fulfilled at last with an Australian touch. Nielson has done such a great job with her characterizations that each and every one comes off as a realistic portrayal of young men conflicted about their sexuality, driven to act under stress and duress that will seem so authentic, so real to the reader that they capture our sympathy and hearts immediately.
Jacen Ives is a loving portrait of a sweet, smart, young man who separates himself from his family and support system because he just can’t stand to remain and watch Kayne with his girlfriend. You have to remember these are the actions of a 15-year-old who has jumped ahead in school to graduate with older kids but still has the emotional maturity of his actual age. In fact, as the story ends, Jacen is only 21. Nielson understands Jacen’s emotional age and stays true to that level of maturity throughout the book. In moving away from family and friends, Jacen takes away his security and emotional backing as well. It is easy to imagine a 15-year-old on his own for the first time, homesick and grieving over the loss of Kayne, being vulnerable to someone who will abuse him in a relationship. Each of Jacen’s actions are completely comprehensible, including his quickness to tear up given his bruised emotional and physical state of being. Kayne is another character who jumps to life complete with his many frailties front and center. With Kayne, Nielson gives us insight into a man who was a 14-year-old confused about his sexuality and afraid of his emotions, so much so that he acts “straight” to all around him with grievous consequences. Here again the reader must keep in mind that Kayne is only 3 years older than Jacen, and his actions reflect that as well. These are two sweet and compelling young men struggling with the repercussions of past actions in their present day reality as well as the feelings they still have for each other. You will root for them with all your heart.
The things that did bother me about the story might have more to do with the difference between laws in the United States and Australia. There are certain events that take place that if they had occurred here in the States, they would have tagged as a hate crime and the participants jailed. Also what is described as vandalism here would be classified as an attack, a destruction of property, as well as a hate crime, more serious offenses. So I think my confusion here is due to the author being Australian with differing laws and not the fact that the events are considered less serious. I am not sure if Australia has a hate crime law in effect there. The other quibble has to do with Kayne’s daughter’s name. Jacen is extremely smart, so how does he not get the significance of her name? Also the ending seemed a bit rushed. The book is only a novella so the length did not seem to match the bigger story contained within. I enjoyed my time spent with Jacen and Kayne. I think you will too.
Cover: I loved this cover. Art by Reese Dante and photography by D.W.S. Photography, it is sheer perfection. The ages are spot on, the models sweet faced and sensual.