Friday, December 30, 2011

Love in All Forms: Calvin's Cowboy by Drew Hunt

Calvin Hamilton reluctantly returns to his home town of Parrish Creek, Texas, to sell his parents' house. Finding the place in need of repair he hires John "Brock" Brockwell to renovate the house before putting it on the market. Brock bares a passing resemblance to Gary Cooper, especially as he often wears western clothing. Calvin has always had a weakness for cowboys. 

Time has reversed the two men's fortunes. In high school Brock was the big man on campus, his popularity allowing him to hide his true nature. Calvin was a nerd, bullied by most of the jocks for being perceived as gay. Now Calvin is a successful New York advertising executive, and Brock is a divorced father with a teenage son who faces financial ruin, unable to pay his late father's hospital bills. 

Can Calvin put past bitterness behind him and help the cowboy with whom he is rapidly falling in love? Will the deeply closeted Brock be able to admit he has feelings for Calvin? Or will pride, fear, distance, and the past prevent them from building a future together?

I don't often read M/M fiction but from time to time I find a book that I enjoy and which I feel has merit, both in its writing as well as the nature of the story.  I really can't remember why I was drawn to this book, but I know that I found it to be one of the most enjoyable I have read in some time.  

This story has a natural feel, a gentle flow, and characters that feel and sound incredibly authentic and real. These two main characters have a past, one that goes all the way back to their high school days when Calvin was small for his age, was a book worm or geek, and John Brockwell was the Big Man jock with the well-heeled dad and the popularity that went with his athletic prowess.  Now "Brock" is broke, his pockets so empty he barely has money for food, has a truck that may or may not start, is two months behind on his rent.  He married because the girl in question got pregnant and it was his family's policy that marriage in that case was absolutely demanded.  Now Brock's son lives with him and he is trying to find a way to keep body and soul together.

Calvin is now the wealthy advertising executive in New York City, co-owner of his own firm, with plenty of money to spare.  He has returned to his hometown to sell his parents' home where he grew up, and Brock's company is given the sizeable contract to renovate and refurbish the house in preparation to sell it.    In the course of their negotiations and getting re-acquainted as mature men, it becomes evident that Brock is gay but has not come to peace with his orientation.  Calvin has been "out" for years.    While some reviewers have seen this story as being without the "conflict" that is an important part of any novel, I maintain that the conflict is two-fold:  first, there is immediate conflict between the two men over their past history and over Brock's issues with Calvin who tries to relieve his financial pain;  second, there is very obvious conflict over Brock's sexual orientation.  In spite of their strong attraction to one another, Brock is continually worried about anyone finding out about his new involvement with Calvin.  This inner struggle also translates into the questions Brock has to face about his financial woes as well as how this will impact his future relationship with his son.  I have a hard time seeing this story as being conflict-free.

This is a warm and intimate look-see into the new relationship between these two men who have grown into fine human beings and who have moved past the silliness and petty behavior of high school immaturity.  It is evident that Brock is very different now than he was in his high school days as he owns up to his destructive behavior as well as his willingness to overlook the bullying and meanness of others.  Calvin's attraction to Brock is a bit of a difficulty initially  since he has been misused and emotionally abused by past lovers who saw him as a well-heeled ticket to future success rather than as a person with whom they wanted to share their lives. Yet it is a credit to Brock that he refuses to take undue advantage of Calvin even though he could have easily done so.   I was deeply touched by Calvin's efforts to re-connect with Brock even before he became aware of his sexual attraction to the man.  Calvin was just a really good man whose sensitivity to others was an indication of his sterling character.

This story is a reminder to everyone that human love comes in all sizes, shapes, and genders.  It is a reminder that how people love is far less important than their willingness to allow love to be an important part of their human experience.    The flow of the story is gentle as is the ending.  It is far more true to life than many novels I have read and I applaud Mr. Hunt's effort to give us characters that are so real.  I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

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