Thomas likes his life. He’s a successful architect, and has just enough friends and an assortment of young men who drift into and out of his life like so many delectable treats. He’s not looking for a comitment or a happily ever after. He just wants to be happy in the here and now. After ending it with his last toy, Thomas finds himself, for the first time, interested in something — and someone — more worth his time. Brodie, who happens to be older than the twenty-something twinks Thomas favors by some thirty or more years, who works as a barista, and who doesn’t want to toss Thomas into bed.
Brodie is HIV positive. He has been for thirty years. He’s sworn off all things romantic and has decided to be happy with life as it is. He owns his own business, has friends, and a good life. Once his eyes land on Tommy, though, everything Brodie thought he was happy with isn’t enough. He wants the younger man. Badly.
Ugliness brings them together. An ugly breakup with Tommy’s ex, an ugly scene at a party, and an ugly rooftop that needs to be transformed into something remarkable. Brody wants to take it slow, Tommy wants to take it fast, and they both want to take a chance with each other.
This is the second book in the May/December Promenade series and is written as a standalone. It’s also not very May/December. It’s more late-October/December and while there are hints, early on, that this is going to be a Daddy/Little relationship, it never develops that way. Brodie isn’t a daddy or a master, and Thomas — while he wants someone to love him — isn’t looking for a father figure.
Thomas hasn’t spoken to his father in years, and has no interest in doing so. When his father found him kissing another young man, that was the end of their relationship. Thomas has a new family, now, of loyal friends who have been with him for years. They tweak him when he needs it, laugh at him when he’s funny — whether he means to be or not — and care for him. Thomas is a bit flighty, very self-involved, and more than a little prone to dramatics about being in love, being out of love, and simply being Thomas. When complaining about how many lovers he’s had, it comes off more as a humblebrag. (Look how many, look how young, look how they bore me.)
It’s only Brodie he lets call him “Tommy.” There’s something about Brodie that makes him feel safe and loved, and Thomas is eager to please his new boyfriend. When Brodie opens up about being HIV positive, Tommy has no problems with it. He’s already on PrEP and aware of the risks of their possible sexual relationship. HIV isn’t a villain in this story. It’s simply a fact of life that the two of them have to deal with, and I appreciate that. HIV is no longer the demon that it was, but it’s still very much a part of the gay world and it’s nice to see it presented in a book as something a couple can accept and overcome.
Brodie is a good guy with no flaws. He’s a bit boring; the workhorse versus the arabian, but Thomas needs someone steady and stable to help ground him, and Brodie delights in Tommy’s energy and enthusiasms. Unlike Thomas, Brodie has only ever had one relationship, and that was with the partner who gave him HIV and then abandoned him. While he’s not a badly written character, I found him to be a little underdeveloped and I had a hard time connecting to him until the last quarter of the book.
The driving force behind both their reationship and the plot is a young man named Kyle who, in the first chapter of the book, is being dismissed by Thomas. Their relationship was purely physical, but Kyle wants more than just sex. He wants to own Thomas, who isn’t interested. When Kyle discovers that Thomas and Brodie are having a relationship, he turns from angry to violent. Kyle isn’t so much a character as a plot device, but the realities of domestic violence, stalking, or this idea that men should be able to defend themselves and not ask for help is a valid and alarmingly common one.
There are some scenes where the author drifts into a bit of overwrought writing, with Tommy and Brody telling the stories of their past in lurid, poetic detail that sounded like it belonged in a book, not an actual conversation between two people. There are a few sections where the book suddenly shifts into a side character’s point of view for a paragraph before returning to one of the main characters, but they’re quick enough and few enough that they’re not entirely distracting.
It is nice to see a story about middle aged characters, ranging from almost thirty to mid-50s, living their lives. These men neither needed nor wanted drama and chaos. They just wanted to have dinner with friends, set up Thomas with a handsome barrista, and be happy. The calmer scenes of the guys just being friends gave the story a mellow pleasantness that made it a light, easy read. This was a nice book, overall.