Reviewed by: Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Guild Review Team
When in Rome…
Now that I’ve read the second of this four-part “Seasons of Love” series by B.G. Thomas, I think I understand something that might not register with some readers of gay romance. It struck me that while all the characters in this 21st-century romance series are in their late 20s, the “voice” of these books is rather older. All the characters—the “Fabulous Four:” Wade, Scott, Asher and Sloan—are around thirty; but somehow they end up seeming wiser than I ever was at that age. This is not a complaint. Even though this series is presented on the surface as a group of interconnected contemporary romance novels, it seems to me that B.G. Thomas is giving his readers a surprisingly in-depth survey course in what it is and has been to be a gay man over the past fifty years. To my surprise, I find that these young men speak directly to me—a man who could be their father. I don’t know how the bulk of romance readers will feel about it, but for me, it gives these books special emotional impact that was unexpected.
“Summer Lover” is Scott’s story. Scott Aberdeen is the bitchy member of the Fabulous Four. Beneath his veneer of designer accessories and perfect apartment is a young man who is profoundly unhappy. However, as with the first book in the series, the story is really about two men. Scott’s parallel protagonist is Cedar Carrington, whose irritating name comes from being the son of two rock stars (who in my mind immediately suggested Fleetwood Mac). Cedar has reinvented himself as a carefree drifter to avoid dealing with several levels of emotional trauma.
Scott has a wretched self-image. He compares himself with the red-haired Logan and the movie-star-handsome Asher, and finds himself sorely wanting. He works out at the gym and sees no results. He grooms himself relentlessly and still feels plain by comparison to his friends. Only Wyatt, hairy, chubby, fey Wyatt, is even less perfect by Scott’s gay standards than Scott himself. Of course, Scott is condescending to him.
The plot of “Summer Lover” starts out with complications for both Scott and Cedar, taking them each on an adventure that is intended to firmly establish their characters in the readers’ minds. At first, I was troubled by the fact that I disliked both main characters. Cedar is smug and irritating in his self-centered coolness. He is the kind of arrogant gay guy who knows he can have anyone he wants. He appears to be all ego. Scott, on the other hand, is so very critical and unpleasant that I couldn’t generate any sympathy for him, even at a moment when he is faced with yet another romantic disaster. Scott, it seems, is always running headlong into miserable situations on his quest for romance, while Cedar is always running away from any suggestion of attachment.
Obviously this is a ploy. Thomas uses the longish introductory chapters to set the stage for the main event: the annual Queer Men’s Festival that takes place in a vast, unspoiled woodland setting. Cedar goes to this every year, because his erotic drifter persona can reign free without entanglements. Scott ends up at the festival rather against his will because of the persistence of his friend Wyatt.
And this is where the magic starts.
The real Scott, piece by piece, begins to appear as the bottled-up young man sees uncritical friendship and unconditional love among a diverse community of gay men. Cedar, known to Scott only by his faerie name, Jockster, takes Scott under his wing. Through his eyes Scott begins to embrace the essence of the Festival; and the reader begins to see Scott through Jockster’s eyes.
But it’s not just about Cedar and Scott. It is, one way or another, about what it means to be a gay man, from family to relationships to body image to age and health. Mixed into the story’s arc is a good dose of gay history that a lot of gay men—even those of my generation—don’t really know very well.
Yes, it’s a romance. But it’s a great deal more. In the course of Thomas’ narrative I was moved to tears more than once; and in spite of my initial resistance, I fell under the book’s spell. Messier and more complex than “Spring Affair,” it is also richer and deeper.
I can only imagine what Autumn will bring.