Blue Umbrella Sky Book Cover Blue Umbrella Sky
Rick R. Reed
M/M Romance
Dreamspinner Press
March 19, 2019
190

Milt Grabaur has left his life, home, and teaching career in Ohio to start anew. The Summer Winds trailer park in Palm Springs, butted up against the San Jacinto mountain range, seems the perfect place to forget the pain of nursing his beloved husband through Alzheimer’s and seeing him off on his final passage.

Billy Blue is a sexy California surfer type who once dreamed of being a singer but now works at Trader Joe’s and lives in his own trailer at Summer Winds. He’s focused on recovery from the alcoholism that put his dreams on hold.

When his new neighbor moves in, Billy falls for the gray-eyed man. His sadness and loneliness awaken something Billy’s never felt before—real love.

When a summer storm and flash flood jeopardize Milt’s home, Billy comes to the rescue, hoping the two men might get better acquainted… and maybe begin a new romance.

But Milt’s devotion to his late husband is strong, and he worries that acting on his attraction will be a betrayal.

Can they lay down their baggage and find out how redemptive love can be?

Reviewed by: Ulysses Dietz

Member of The Paranormal Guild Review Team

When is a romance more than a romance? Answer: when it looks at love as part of the process of healing, and not simply the result of physical attraction.

Rick Reed really pushed two of my major buttons with this one. On the one hand, we have the widower, Milt, still reeling from the loss of his long-time husband to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. He’s only forty-two, but feels older, drained by both his grief and the residual exhaustion of having been his beloved Corky’s prime caregiver.

On the other hand is Billy, a thirty-something would-be singer, whose long journey through alcoholism has brought him at last to a place of health and serenity. Many years sober, he happens to live in a rented Airstream just next to Milt’s mobile home at the Summer Winds Mobile Home Community.

Yes, this romance is set in a trailer park in Palm Springs. Not something I’d ever have imagined – although it’s no real surprise. Billy works at Trader Joe’s, and Milt is a public-school teacher from Ohio, living on the proceeds of his house and his husband’s life insurance. The glittering Palm Springs, full of affluent gay men of a certain age, is just on the horizon, but it is not where Milt and Billy have retreated from their troubles. I sort of love Rick Reed for doing this.

It is a simple, time-honored plot, but the author surprises us by taking us into Milt and Billy’s stories, into their hearts and memories. He sheds a sometimes painful light on what they’ve been through, the winding path that has brought them by chance as neighbors at Summer Winds.

Letting go of suffering is not as easy as one might think. Nor is feeling that, at last, one might be worthy of love, when there has never been love before. For both men, being alone is the only guarantee that there will be no more pain; but being alone is, well, lonely.

Reed manages to avoid didacticism in his narratives of Alzheimer’s and alcoholism, but he nevertheless manages to teach us a lot. The important lesson is that, as long as one is alive, there are always possibilities.

I confess this brought tears to my eyes numerous times. Reed gives his readers stories of gay men and the realities of their lives. I’m grateful for his skill as a writer and as a storyteller.