Boys of Summer by Cooper Davis
I thought I knew what love was…
My name is Hunter Willis and I’ve found love. The problem? I’m not sure I’m ready for the rest of the world to know I’ve fallen for my best friend. Everyone knows Max is gay. Me? They think I’m straight as an arrow. So did I, until Max and I shared a kiss three months ago that blew that theory right out of the water.
Now, by the ocean in Florida, thousands of miles away from prying eyes, I’m finally ready to admit to myself that Max and I have something special. Max has been ready for a long time—and he’s been waiting for me.Really waiting. As in…he’s still a virgin.
There’s nothing I want more than to be Max’s first lover. But I know when Max gives away that part of himself, it won’t be just a summer fling. It’ll be for keeps. Max deserves the best. I’m just not sure, when it comes right down to it, that I won’t break his heart.
Did I mention I’m scared as hell?
[The cover is fitting – just the same stock used so many times.]
A truly lovely short novella about the fear of coming out overweighed with an incredible love found, regardless of gender. Sometimes in romance the simplicity of finding and holding onto love is overlooked for the drama, tension, and flash of problems, issues, and miscommunications. Conversely when the romance itself is the center point, the story is often too sweet and easy. Here the author has delivered a beautiful story showing the complexity of emotion and the ease of romance. However the path to acceptance is not always accomplished with a mild mannered announcement and here two great men struggle but focus on what is ultimately the most important element – their love.
Told in first person from Hunter’s point of view, the story follows a brief time period at the end of summer as Hunter struggles with coming out of the closet to friends. A confirmed heterosexual, Hunter has never really questioned his lackluster sexual response to women until he meets Max through mutual friends. The seeds of a crush are laid but both men seem to dance around the idea, ignoring it in favor of a slow building friendship. Finally one summer after they’ve been friends for years Max slowly opens Hunter’s eyes to the emotion between them. Although Hunter dives into the relationship with both feet, he can’t help a one step forward, two steps back attitude. He wants Max desperately yet is afraid of the stigma and label attached to admitting he may be gay.
The characters are really rich in detail and complexity. Hunter’s struggle with accepting his sexuality is layered and he stumbles several times along the way. Without Max’s patient understanding, the relationship would never have worked and Hunter recognizes this important fact. However that doesn’t stop Hunter from lashing out, running away, and inadvertently hurting Max in his fear. Hunter slowly accepts that Max wants an open relationship and won’t accept hiding for too much longer, that Max’s endless patience does indeed have a limit. What’s really touching about the emotional journey is that Hunter’s feelings for Max are never in doubt. Hunter is incredibly proud to be with Max and loves the man completely and totally. Even that deep well of emotion struggles to overcome Hunter’s resistance to accepting he is gay and facing possible repercussions from friends and family.
This short story is surprisingly well written and deeply emotional, given the smaller length. Thus the characterization and journey of the men are never wasted on small details or banal conversation. The tentative exploration into sex includes missteps and unfolding desire which combine to create an intimate look at a relationship as it turns from casual into serious and potentially life long. The romance and sensuality of the relationship comes through, showing the care and love Max has shown Hunter over the course of the summer. Hunter’s slow emergence from fearful “friend” into proud lover is a lovely transformation and epitomizes the classic genre of romance.
If I had any qualms it would only be I didn’t appreciate the scene in the kitchen with Max and Hunter’s ex-girlfriends. While I understand the dynamic and the importance of the women in the men’s lives and close, supportive relationships – I felt the entire conversation is awkward and uncomfortable. I connected with Hunter on such a level, I felt his embarrassment and unease about the situation just as acutely. I didn’t feel the women’s reactions were explained or justified and thus they were somewhat odd and ill fitting to the story. However, this is a small scene in the story and the ending is beautiful and moving.
If you’re looking for a lovely summer romance story – this certainly satisfies.
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