Rating: 4.25 stars
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Golden child Peter Stubbs never asked to be put on the pedestal where his mother placed him, but he never exactly fought it either. At this point in his life, Pete is the happiest he’s ever been, but he’s not exactly sure how to tell his family about the man in his life who makes him happy. When Pete is asked to partner up with the town’s only out and proud man for the country jamboree cowboy games, Pete knows it’s only a matter of time before the people he cares about figure out his secret. His secret? That out and proud man is the reason for Pete’s happiness.
Asher Gilford swore to himself he would never be another man’s dirty little secret. A string of failed relationships involving closeted men with promises of coming out, of changing, of being what Ash needed, has left him hurt more than once. Meeting Pete was an accident, but one Asher never regretted. But Pete’s procrastination in coming out of the closet and constant denial of Asher as even a friend in public is making it difficult to be patient with the man he’s falling in love with.
When the view from the public eye and pressure from his conservative, closed-minded family becomes too much for Pete, mistakes are made. Asher promised to take things at Pete’s pace, but he’s been burned before and it looks like he’ll be burned again. When the pressure is on, things are said that Pete would take back if he could. Now Pete has to make a decision between the man he loves and his fanatically religious mother’s love, while finding himself and unlikely supporters in the process.
Hometown Secrets is a fairly unassuming book. It’s a very sweet, angsty coming out story that hit all of my buttons. There was a point while reading this book that I had to sit back and figure out why in the world I couldn’t stop crying. Yes, this book is emotional and painful for Pete and Asher, but it’s not terribly sad. I finally figured out that this book hits pretty close to home for me. No, I’ve never experienced the confusion, fear, and frustration of coming out, but the small town is something I have a load of experience with. The town that Flemington portrays here is a small, close-knit farming community in Michigan. Well, I’m from a small, close-knit southern town that is mirrored in Delton perfectly. The religious zealotry, the place where everybody knows everybody, close friends, painful secrets, and striving to be the good child, the best of the best – this town is small town America, and for that reason I felt Pete’s pain. I felt his fear and his confusion, his need to remain perfect in the eyes of the people he loves. The fear of persecution and hate. This author did an amazing job of portraying all of those emotions in a way that kept me wanting so much more.
This author presents readers with a variety of characters to love and hate. Pete and Ash are among the best in this book. There were times I wanted to knock some sense into Pete, but truly, he was so lovable. His fear and confusion are palpable at times. He’s the town golden boy afraid of letting everyone down. Then there’s Ash who has been a doormat the whole of his dating life. He’s scared and wants to protect himself from pain. But he’s strong, mentally and emotionally. He knows who he is and refuses to be anyone else. Pete and Asher are the missing pieces of one another.
Then there’s Trenton-Lee, Pete’s precious teenage nephew who shows a strength that is rare and so courageous. Virgil, Pete’s dad, and his unwavering love and support for his son. Pastor Trumball, Ash’s uncle, who is supportive no matter what. Marlee, Pete’s sister and Trenton-Lee’s mother, and her all-seeing, unwavering love and loyalty. Randall – the womanizing, close-to-alcoholic redneck that puts his son above all others and refuses to lose Trenton-Lee over something as miniscule as being gay even when he may not understand. I could go on and on about the lovable characters in this story – Lucy, Cal, Rudy, Josh. They’re all fabulous.
And as well as this author can write likable characters, she can also personify the characters you love to hate, or even the characters you just plain dislike. And I won’t bore you with of a list of characters and their dislikable qualities, but trust me, they are worth reading this book for. The villains help make this book captivating. The writing and the emotional rollercoasters kept me enthralled.
The reason this book is a four-star read for me instead of a resounding five is the lack of completion. There were so many open-ended minor plot lines that left me unsatisfied. Pete and his mother’s relationship hangs in the balance without resolution, as does her crazy idea of a conversion camp. And who burned down the church? Is Rudy still the chief suspect? Who is Cal and why exactly was he staying with Ash? And who was the bald guy with the Stevenson brothers, and what does he have to do with this story? You see, I got my happy ending when it came to Ash and Pete, but everything else was pretty much left up in the air.
Overall, this is a very good book. I loved the characters (some of them I abhorred). And the story…well, I still get emotional thinking about it. The ending didn’t read like it would be the first in a series, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe all of the unanswered questions will lead to another book. I almost hope so. Maybe we’ll get to meet more of the townsfolk. Either way, I really liked this book. I definitely recommend Hometown Secrets by Dawn Flemington.