Autumn Changes is the third novel in B.G. Thomas’ Seasons Of Love series and centers on Asher, one of the fab four whose lives the stories are all based on. Fans of this series will remember that Asher was once the stuff of Sloan’s every fantasy until essentially Asher did what he does best and cruelly tossed Sloan aside, unable to really understand or return his feelings of love. Despite that, Sloan, who went on to find his own love in Max, remains close friends with Asher, as do all the others in their circle. This installment picks up right after Scott has found Cedar and they are gathered at Asher’s home for their monthly get together.
Asher has been drinking way more than usual and his arrogance has taken a front seat, much to the dismay of his friends and coworkers. Now up for the role of a lifetime that could make or break his career, it is made painfully clear to Asher that his smartass attitude and love of self has laid a path that leads directly to loneliness and the possibility that he may never act again. But what no one really understands is that his selfishness masks a deep-seated fear that his grandfather was right so many years before when he called Asher an “abomination.”
Growing up with parents who had moved away from their Jewish faith and heritage, the link that Asher had to the faith was solely through his Grandfather, a highly respected Rabbi in the community. Having caught Asher exploring another boy’s body, his grandfather reacted in anger and hate, slapping Asher and referring to a scripture that had a dubious interpretation, but essentially called Asher’s sexual orientation an “abomination before God.” This one moment would influence how Asher moved through the rest of his life, never moving beyond one night stands, always topping, never being intimate, and full of self-loathing that communicated itself into a prima donna exterior of epic proportions. Asher, was in short, an asshole to most people he met, including Sloan’s work friend, Peni.
Peni was grappling with matters of faith as well. Raised Mormon and having recently lost his father, a man who lived the Samoan way of life, despite living in Independence, Missouri, Peni was terrified of being gay. He was so confused about his religion that stated it did not hate gay men, but that they were not allowed to act on their feelings toward other men. In short, in his faith, he could be gay but never have a relationship with another man, much less sex. All this plus the pressure to be the man his father would be proud of left Peni on edge most of the time.
When these two men meet, they instantly dislike each other. Well, to be honest, Asher barely remembers Peni as he was drunk on most of the few encounters he had with the young man prior to this point. But when their friend Wyatt undergoes a horrible life transition, Peni sees Asher as something more for the first time. He sees the compassionate and caring person Asher can be and decides he will give the man one more chance, but first Asher must keep a promise. He must be sober 30 days in order to have a date with Peni. Can he do it? Especially when he has just been signed on to lead in a play entitled, “Drunks”?
Where to begin with this novel? It was most assuredly a novel of rich self-discovery and forgiveness. But also a story of embracing the past, understanding and defining how religion can so often be wrong in its interpretation of scriptures and in doing so heap guilt and recrimination on the hearts and minds of its youngest believers. However these elements were only a part of the bigger scope of this sensitively written story about loving oneself first so that in turn you can love another.
Peni was so naïve at times it was painful to read his musings. Asher, so world weary and cynical that it sometimes was so very hard to see the deep layer of hurt and fear that lay beneath is brash and arrogant exterior. As these two men began to accept themselves and strive to be better people, the love they had inside leapt to the fore and lavished itself on each other.
Autumn Changes is a journey of two men who both long to be worthy of their heritage and find some hope that love does indeed exist for them. When they begin to understand that redemption can also be found in each other’s arms, this novel becomes a sweet love story fans of this series will to want to miss.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.