Rating: 4 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
“But I see you as you. You are who you are, and that’s pretty amazing to me.”…”Never let anyone make you feel less than you are…”
Love comes to us in all forms, some as simple as an off-the-cuff, tossed out goodbye or an often overused sentiment. If we are very lucky, we hear it from a person we have chosen to live out the rest of our lives with or perhaps as a precious affirmation from a child. But the power of those words, “I love you” is so often lost over time and too often nothing more than a meaningless phrase merely rattled off during a hasty goodbye. Rarely does it stand the test of time.
Unconditional Love by Andrew Grey shows us a love that not only transcends the casual but stands the test of time and distance and family forces that threaten at each turn to destroy it. It relates the story of two boys turned men who will nurture it, over the span of a decade or more.
Donny Pottier lives with his mother on the eastern shore of the U.S., barely scraping by in a near poverty existence together after the death of his father years before. His life, while simple, is one he enjoys, despite the constant threat of bullying by the town thugs. He is quiet, sweet, fiercely loyal, and loving to his mother and… gay. Every summer his small town opens its doors to the tourist trade. One summer Jason (Jay) comes to stay with his wealthy, often absent parents.
Jason, whose parents often look through rather than at their son, give him free rein. He is a ball of energy, but kind and generous. He lives under the iron rule of a father who, as a surgeon, will eventually buy his son’s compliance in most things. Jason, having never really wanted for anything, will eventually be trapped by the money and opportunity his father will hold over his head and be forced to turn away from the most important thing in his life… his love for another boy. Jason is gay, in a family that hates the very word, much less the lifestyle.
The two boys meet, fall deeply in love, and their story unfolds over the next decade and more. It is one of missed chances, forced separations, miscommunications, doubts, and finally… the threat of terminal illness. Through it all, one thing will remain, fierce and strong, often buried, yet right beneath the surface… that first love… that one love… that, “we are meant to be” love.
Unconditional Love is admittedly a sweet, sweet romance. If you have come to this novel expecting an in-depth analysis of relationships, or some gritty realistic trope about love and angst and loss and so forth… well, dear reader than you have come to the wrong place. Author Andrew Grey, unapologetically, writes a sweet story of first love and of how its strength can stand the test of time.
I have no doubt that many will look at this story and say that it was too easy, to easily tied up into a pretty package. They will watch as Unconditional Love follows the lives of these two boys into manhood and shake their head at the implausibility of the “insta-love” factor surviving the test of time and distance. I will tell you that there were times when I shook my own head and thought that this story was a bit too predictable—that surely this time the stumbling blocks the author chose to include and throw down into this relationship would cause it to implode and crumble. I thought that the author was very brave in unapologetically stating that there are people who fall in love at an early age and are able to maintain that same deep level of love over years of separation. Brave, but… well a bit sappy too.
But therein lies the beauty of Andrew Grey and this Seven Days series. He stands in the face of all the barriers and, I assume, critics, and says—here is a story—it is sweet, it has a touch of angst, but it also is filled with hope… and love… and the notion that happy ever after truly exists.
The story is well written. Grey is a master storyteller, and his characters are rich and full—they leap off the page, fully developed and achingly familiar and land with a solid thump into our hearts where they nestle in and take up space for a while.
Perhaps my only criticism with this kind of story is that there is so much thrown at the main characters—that sometimes it borders on the unrealistic that cannot be overlooked. After a while, the roadblocks the author devises tended to wrench me from the story and I felt myself groaning just a bit and wanting him to “get on with it”—to let this couple “catch a break” for once.
However, this was minor to an overall beautifully written story of love—love that dares to look life and all its snares and hurts in the eye and say, we will survive and blossom despite the forces that are intent on pulling us apart.