Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
In Loving Jay, we meet Liam and James who commute to work every day on the train. Each day, Liam hopes to catch a glimpse of a man he has dubbed “Jay.” Liam claims he is straight, yet he is more than a little obsessed with the beautiful, outrageous, make-up wearing, out and proud man. Missing their train one morning marks the beginning of their friendship. Over the following weeks, Liam and Jay become close friends, buying each other coffee, and meeting for their daily trips into the city. The only problem is that Liam is beginning to feel more than just friendship for Jay, and Jay thinks Liam is straight.
Their morning commute allows them the time to get to know each other as friends and the rapport between the two men is immediate, primarily due to Liam’s complete acceptance of Jay’s personality, which he finds charming. They share stories with each other as if they have been friends for years instead of a day, and as the weeks progress, Liam’s attraction and their friendship steadily builds.
One evening after work, Jay is attacked outside the train station and Liam jumps in and incapacitates the thugs. Liam’s actions start to cross the line between friend and lover as he realizes that Jay means more to him than just a friend. After the bashing, Liam’s true feelings for Jay solidify, and the two men give in to their physical desires. Jay remains patient and supportive even though Liam keeps one foot in the closet for fear of alienating his close knit family.
While at his parent’s house for their monthly dinner, Liam inadvertently comes out to his family during an emergency phone call from Jay, and assumes the role of protector, lover, and friend without a second thought.
Loving Jay is a well-balanced story with witty dialogue, some brilliantly written characters, and some heart breaking scenes. Jay and Liam are likeable men who exemplify the challenges and realities of life as gay men.
Jay, an out and proud gay man, skirts a fine line between being queenie/campy and caricature. Fun, flirtatious, and over the top, he appears one-dimensional at first glance but the more we get to know him, the more we realize he is like an onion; as we peel back the layers, we can gradually see that the man behind the platinum blond hair, outrageous clothes, and not so subtle make-up has hidden depths and maturity.
Liam, on the other hand, is the typical “straight man” in appearance and action. Where Jay is living the life, Liam is closeted and conflicted. Having denied his attraction to men for years for fear of disappointing and losing his family, Liam comes to realize that he cannot keep living a lie and after coming out to his family, learns that sometimes the reality is better than he thought it would be. I did have a pet peeve, though; Liam’s denials at the beginning got a bit tiresome and thankfully, the denials tapered off and Liam’s subsequent rants were humorous.
Liam’s constant internal dialogue was the true gauge of his growth and acceptance and I could just imagine the wheels spinning in his head as events unfold around him. Liam is charmed by Jay’s energy and zest for life. Jay is confident and yet understands that his appearance and behaviour lead people to think he is a “brainless fairy,” which as we learn is far from the truth. And all the while, the subtext keeps flowing in Liam’s mind and his outward appearance is quiet and calm.
New to a relationship with a man, Liam also feels a lot of guilt because he does not know how to treat Jay in public. He ends up behaving as if Jay was a lady by opening doors, pulling out chairs, and acting the gentleman but this causes him more worry as he does not want to slot Jay into the role of a woman in the relationship. Liam wants his relationship with Jay to be one of equals and but not communicating his feeling causes issues in the bedroom.
Even when the subject matter is serious, Renae Kaye manages to infuse laugh out loud lines that temper the story’s message without watering down the seriousness and severity of the events. Jay’s family dinner is an absolute riot and demonstrates that Liam and Jay’s feelings for each other are honest, sincere, and plainly obvious to everyone they meet on their journey.
Now aside from a continuity blip that made me go back and re-read a paragraph three times, it was well written, and I almost felt that I could picture the various locals visited by Liam and Jay, from the restaurant, to Jay’s house, to Liam’s work, and, of course, the infamous train station where it all began.
If you need a book that will brighten your day, make you laugh uproariously, and tug on your emotional heartstrings, I highly recommend Loving Jay. The characters, both main and secondary, are for the most part, brilliantly written. The story is filled with witty dialogue and will have you laughing out loud often enough to have family, friends, and complete strangers questioning your sanity. I am also man enough to admit that I cried while reading this book and will revisit it in the future.