Jonah is a Broadway actor who learns that he’s inherited his uncle’s estate on the same day his current show closes early and his boyfriend moves out. Sad about the change in fortunes, Jonah travels to Pennsylvania to attend to his uncle’s memorial service and settle the estate. He plans to sell off everything quickly and return to New York, but how does one sell a cemetery? Jonah’s a bit horrified about this piece of the estate, but he’s enjoying reconnecting to his estranged uncle via conversations with his neighbors, and Luka, the cemetery caretaker. Luka is a young Bosnian émigré, an attractive man that many folks in town ignore or discount based on his broken English and foreign culture. But Jonah sees lonely Luka, and respects that he was a great confidant to his uncle in the past year.
Luka left Bosnia in a cloud of shame for being gay. He was shunned, despite trying so hard to fit in that he impregnated the girl his parents arranged for him to marry. Luka’s despondent at having no connection to his family, and being a stranger in a strange land, but he and Jonah connect. Jonah’s uncle had worked hard to get Luka settled, and Jonah wants to help too—and not just because he’s attracted to the burly, hard-working man. But can Jonah justify keeping the cemetery just to keep Luka in a job? And, is it wrong to want a physical relationship with a man he pretty much employs?
I liked this one. Jonah is a decent guy, and his life in NYC isn’t emotionally satisfying. Not in the way that Jonah feels about being accepted in his uncle’s small town. He sees all the good work his uncle did, and it inspires him to engage with the community. The story blends in interesting themes of prejudice, and not just homophobia. The anti-immigrant sentiment was dealt with in a realistic way. And the Big City versus small town mentality was handled well, too. The cemetery ends up being an interesting labor of love that has unexpected finds, including Jonah’s family roots. Jonah’s sad to learn that his uncle had a male lover who died in combat decades before, especially when Luka confides that he’d never recovered from that loss. The sweet thing is Jonah’s uncle wanted Jonah to have opportunities to live openly, which is why he’s the sole heir. I wished we had a little more of Jonah’s family in this book. I wondered how his mother and her brother had gotten estranged, and if there would have been any healing there.
The time Jonah spends in Pennsylvania, learning about his uncle and feeling Luka’s pure affection, realigns his ideas about success and family. That felt rather realistic and the conversations Jonah has with his best friend further cement the changes in Jonah’s mind. There’s some yummy sexytimes, and tender conversations that bond Luka and Jonah together. Naturally, Jonah has tough choices to make: his future on Broadway or his future with Luka. It’s not super easy, but Jonah’s encouraged by his uncle’s example and makes their ending happy. The epilogue ensures that he and Luka have built a loving life together.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.