Last Summer - Michael Thomas Ford

Ladymol's Review:

This is a very enjoyable novel, which follows the lives of a mixed bag of inhabitants of a small New England seaboard town, Provincetown, as they mingle and interact with the vast, annual flood of visitors (most of them gay) who come to enjoy the summer break.

Josh is running away from his long-term boyfriend, Doug, whom he has just discovered has cheated on him. Reilly is the straight, intelligent, gorgeous carpenter working on the cottage he rents for the summer. Josh is instantly attracted to him, but Reilly is about to marry his childhood sweetheart, Donna.† Toby is running away from his family, who canít accept that he is gay. Emmeline is caring for her estranged, dying mother, a difficult relationship as Emmeline was born Mason, a man. Jackie is a lesbian, about to turn forty, with her biological clock chiming like Big Ben in her head. Reid is a top Hollywood movie producer not openly gay, but comfortable with his choices, who fell for his leading man, Ty, the most eligible bachelor in Hollywood. To his intense delight, Ty feels the same, but their love has to remain secret, which puts a huge strain on their relationship. Devin is a scheming bitch, living back with her parents in Provincetown, waiting for her opportunity to lie, cheat or blackmail her way to a glittering career in Hollywood.

Each thread is equally well written with a nice balance between them. Thereís just enough tension in the Reid, Ty, Devlin story to make you really care for the characters and want them to work out. The Josh, Reilly story is particularly good: the straight man finding something with Josh he never thought to look for in a man.

Itís an upbeat novel and leaves you with a good feeling that however divergent and different people are, they can find bonds that bring them together.

This is Michael Thomas Fordís first novel, and in some ways that showsónot in poor writing, itís well written throughout. Just occasionally thereís too much indulgence of personal interests and little quirks that inexperienced writers fall intoóyou know the sort of thing, you see it in fanfic all the time: Spike suddenly becoming a student at some school or other because thatís just what the ďauthorĒ has done. Itís forgivable in fanfic, but in a published novel Iíd like to have seen a firmer editorial hand. Itís a minor point, and certainly not one that ruins the story.

This book is pretty mainstream, so you wonít find graphic sex (or graphic anything really). It could have done with a little more punch at times, particularly in the Josh, Reilly story at the end.

Good, pleasant read. Highly recommended.

Cerisaye's Review:

I want to go to Provincetown for my next summer holiday.† This fairy tale book makes it seem like a place of magic where good things happen to good people and they all live happy ever after. A page-turning portmanteau plot with likeable characters and set during one long summer season in the clubs, bars and guest houses of P-town.† Itís engaging, sexy and compulsive.† The main characters are like friends.† I couldnít put the book down until I knew they were going to be okay.†

The story is undemanding but not frothy or frivolous.† It has a lot to say.† About relationships, the difference between sex and love, commitment, coming to terms with sexual identity and the gap of understanding between who we are and how those around us want us to be.

People head to Provincetown for all kinds of reasons.† Boys and girls looking for love or running from the past or simply trying to find themselves.† Sand and water, sun and sky, lazy days and starry nights.† Above all a place where gay people can feel like they belong, whether visiting for the first time, or coming back year after year.† Permanent residents, ĎRoundersí, arenít unaffected by an environment where gay is normal and societyís barriers not in place.

As usual with this sort of story some characters stick out more than others, down to personal preference.† Gay romance is my big thing so I was drawn to the love angle.† Josh Felling is a 30 something freelance copy writer from Boston, reeling from the discovery that his boyfriend of 8 years, Doug, has been unfaithful with a guy from the gym.† Josh thought they had true love forever, so heís bitter, hurt and angry.† He just takes off, leaving his life behind, to lick his wounds in a cottage owned by sweet long-term couple Ted and Jerry who run the Two Queens guest house.† Josh arrives for a weekend seeking solace, space to think things over, whether heís willing to accept Dougís infidelity, compromising on his search for Mr. Perfect.† But fate has some surprises in store for Josh.† Heís a sweetheart who canít tear himself away from the family of friends he finds in the close-knit P-town community.† To fill his time Josh picks up writing a novel heíd abandoned, pouring his romantic soul into a story of a regular Joe looking for a mate, love not sex his goal.† Heís been burned but his faith in romance keeps him holding on. Can he find the man of his dreams?

In the first days of his stay Josh visits the Laundromat where he folds a pile of clothes left in a drier.† Their owner, Reilly, is a stud who does building work.† Heís engaged to be married but seems drawn to Josh, and the feeling is mutual.† Increasingly tense encounters, usually when Reilly is drunk, make it clear heís in denial about his true self.† Can he find the courage to come out and allow himself to love another man?

Toby is an 18 year-old runaway from Hannibal, Missouri, who arrives in Provincetown on a bus.† His religious parents canít accept heís gay and told him heís going to hell.† Luckily Toby meets Emmeline, a beautiful drag queen saving up for the op, who takes the boy in and looks after him like a mother should.† Toby has a lot to learn about gay life, and Provincetown is a good school.† Most gay youths find out on their own and thatís scary.† His first sexual experience is with an older guy just looking for a trick.† Toby, like Josh, wants something more.

This book is a cheery antedote to traditional gay fic where characters are doomed by their sexuality, destined to end up alone, chasing younger men until theyíre too old and ugly. †Okay I had to suspend my natural cynicism, but at least while I was reading I was convinced by the perfect life scenario.† Yeah a lot of gay guys are messed up, Ďcuz thatís the human condition, but there are happy gay couples like Ted and Jerry, and itís refreshing to read about gay men enjoying life.† Itís melodramatic and hopelessly optimistic, but it sucks you in.† Maybe itís not great literature but itís entertaining and fun, and never takes itself too seriously.† Actually itíd make a really great movie.† Highly recommended.

Kensington Publishing Corporation. ISBN: 075820406X

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