Brooke Morrison endured a torturous childhood with an abusive mother. Escaping his hometown of El Dorado Springs, Missouri, Brooke followed his dream of earning his degree in Youth Ministry only to realize that his sexuality precludes him from practicing his degree in a church setting. Finding a job at a youth residential treatment facility, Brooke realizes that he still can have a fulfilling job and maybe, just maybe, he can be happy.
Brooke meets outgoing college professor, Jed Trevazza, after seeing him dancing in the elevator at the local gym they both belong to. The two start dating and Brooke cannot believe his luck, especially when he meets the family and realizes that not everyone’s family is as messed up as his own. With Jed, Brooke finds love and marries the man of his dreams.
Then Brooke is forced to return home, his fragile self-confidence is tested as he must confront the painful memories and past abuse he endured. As Brooke’s life begins to crumble around him, he is forced to find value in himself, in his marriage, and in the word around him.
In this coming of age story, readers meet Brooklyn Morrison – a man who is always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Good things just don’t happen to guys like Brooke – and when they do, he fears that it is only temporary. When he graduates from college with a degree in Youth Ministry, he didn’t even attempt to gain employment in the field, fearing his sexuality would prohibit him automatically. Instead, he applies for a position at a residential treatment facility where despite his nerves, he manages to get the job. Though it isn’t his ideal job, Brooke finds that the job is very rewarding – both for him and the kids that he works with.
While instituting a culinary class into the residential program, Brooke bumps into Jed, a man he’s seen at the gym before. Jed asks Brooke out and the two begin dating. As their relationship progresses, Jed brings Brooke to meet the family. Brooke is terrified, only to find that Jed’s family is nothing like what he expected. Jed proposes and Brooke begins to believe that happiness could be in the cards for him.
Except, he wasn’t expecting to find himself back in the place he couldn’t get away from quick enough – El Dorado Springs, Missouri. After an incident at the treatment facility, Brooke receives a call that he must return home. Though Jed will follow at the end of the college semester, Brooke is left to deal with his demons on his own.
Brooke’s mother, Rose, knows how to push Brooke’s buttons. She is by far, one of the most evil characters that I’ve had the pleasure of reading about. Honestly, she will have you questioning whether we should license people before they have children. She knows how to hurt Brooke and goes for the jugular every single time.
The strongest theme running through this story is the fear of gay men being pedophiles. Despite this being set in the middle of the Bible Belt, readers will be pleased to know that not everyone is running around with a Bible in hand preaching about the evils of homosexuality. In fact, there are quite a few people in this story who I would classify as being progressives and see no issue with gay men teaching children. As a reader, I appreciated seeing both sides represented so that this wasn’t really an issue of religion itself being anti-homosexual, so much as it was how bigotry influences how one interprets something like the Bible.
My one complaint about this story is that it is told in different parts and these parts don’t necessarily follow a linear format. Instead, we are given a prologue that teases us into wanting to find out what exactly happened back at the residential treatment program that had Brooke running to the place he hated most, before backing up to start seven years earlier. It isn’t until nearly 3/4 of the way through the book that we get to find out what happened…though I will admit, I kind of expected it to be what it was.
Overall, this was a great story that kept me engaged from the opening pages. I highly recommend it.
A review copy of this book was provided by DSP Publications.