In some ways, Milt Grabaur has moved to Palm Springs to start fresh and change his life; in other ways, he has gone there to remain in his self-imposed shroud of mourning, alone and resigned. Despite the beautiful sun-filled sky he has chosen to live beneath, Milt can’t get beyond the death of his husband and how empty it has made him feel. He has left everyone behind and made the decision that he no longer wants or deserves to be happy with another man, for to do so would be to betray the memory of the one that captured his heart so long ago. But then a sudden and fierce storm brings not only flood waters into Milt’s humble trailer home, but also a ray of sunshine, Billy Blue.
Billy has chased his demons via a bottle of Jack Daniels and mindless empty sex for years. When a stranger rescues him and takes him to his first AA meeting, Billy sets out on the road to recovery. Now he finds himself wanting to take a chance on the handsome older man who rarely speaks to anyone in their court. Billy sets out to rescue Milt, first from the flood waters and then from a life of loneliness. The only problem is Milt may not want to be rescued. Despite the longing he feels deep inside to connect with Billy, Milt has found safety in staying faithful to the memory of a dead man.
If you are lucky, sometimes a book really resonates with you and reflects either something you hold dear inside you or echoes a journey you have been on before, making you feel that the story you are reading really understands just how you felt in that moment. Rick R. Reed has given me such a book. Blue Umbrella Sky deals first and foremost with how to survive the trauma that is caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s and I can tell you first hand that this author hits it spot on. The disease affected not one, but both, of my in-laws and I watched the agony my husband went through when his parents no longer knew who he was and they turned from caring, gentle people to sometimes violent and remote strangers. It was heartbreaking and I will tell you that every emotion Milt Grabaur feels and every trial he goes through is not only realistic, but carefully and gently crafted. This is a love story about three men—two living and one deceased. It is sad, hopeful, lovingly written, and heartfelt.
The fact that both Milt and Billy were damaged goods made this story even more lovely. Milt is so needy and unsure he should ever even consider loving another after losing the one man that meant the world to him and Billy had never really loved before, but buried his past pain and sadness so far inside a bottle of whiskey he couldn’t find his way out. These two men slowly come together first in friendship, although Billy knows he wants more and fears he can’t settle for just being buddies with Milt. But Milt has so much guilt. Survivor guilt, guilt about finally acknowledging he could no longer care for his husband and had to place him in a home, and guilt about wanting the sweet, blond-haired man who makes his heart feel something other than grief. Nothing is going to be easy about the two men getting together and it all hinges on them making it farther than just being friends. Can Milt let go of the sadness that had become a safety blanket of sorts? How long can Billy wait for that to happen while his heart feels as though it is breaking with the idea that Milt may never be able to let go of the past and see Billy as his future?
Blue Umbrella Sky is a testimony to the idea that love is never gone, but waiting for the right moment to find a home again in hearts that will welcome it. This story is so redemptive—so delicately written and so incredibly beautiful. You can sense the underlying tone of compassion in every word of this story and the understanding of how brutal it can be to lose the love of your life when he is stolen away bit by bit by a disease that has no cure. It acknowledges grief and gives it due consideration, while also opening the door to hope and a second chance at love. I was overwhelmed by this story in such a profound way. I think it is perhaps one of the best novels I have read by Rick R. Reed and I have read many. I highly recommend this gorgeous novel to you.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.