Len Parker is laid off during the recession in the early eighties and decides to go back to college at home in rural Michigan, where he reconnects with his best friend from high school, Ruby. He’s overjoyed when she marries Cliff Laughton and overcome with sorrow when she dies an untimely death, leaving behind her husband and two-year-old son.
Out of work again, Len finds a job at Cliff Laughton’s sorely neglected farm. Cliff is still mourning his wife, struggling to raise his son, and has little enthusiasm or energy left for work. Len immediately begins to whip the farm – including the two Laughtons – into shape. Working side by side, Len and Cliff grow ever closer, but loving another man takes a lot of courage. They’ll have to stand together as they face a faltering business, threatening drought, misguided family, and Midwestern prejudices to protect what might be a lifelong love.
Love Means … Courage by Andrew Grey is the prequel to Love Means … No Shame and the second book in the story of Len, Cliff and their son Geoff. The prequel takes us back some twenty years in time to the beginnings of Len and Cliff’s relationship. It is in high school that Len first develops a crush on Cliff but they don’t actually get to know one another until after the tragic death of Cliff’s wife and Len’s best friend Ruby when Len starts working for Cliff on his farm.
Len arrives at the Laughton farm to find it in a sorry state of neglect. Cliff is still very much mourning Ruby’s death and barely has the energy to take care of his two-year-old son Geoff, let alone run the farm. Len doesn’t waste much time in getting the farm back into shape, taking every opportunity to increase the farm’s revenues. He also applies the same tenacity to helping Cliff get back on his feet. While at first Cliff is put aback by this, he quickly comes to depend on Len, not only in helping out with the business of running a farm, but also in helping with Geoff. In the process, Cliff comes to terms with himself and accepts his feelings for Len and they come together as a couple, and with Geoff, as a family.
Love Means … Courage is a well written and rich story with equally well developed primary and secondary characters. It embodies the necessary ingredients of good story writing and telling and takes the reader on a wonderful journey that explores the facets of Len and Cliff’s relationship with sensitivity and a sense of realism as their relationship develops and matures and as they forge not only a life partnership but also a family with their young boy.
What I very much enjoyed and appreciated in this story is that the author takes his time in developing the relationship between Len and Cliff, laying first the emotional foundation of trust, respect, friendship and love, before exploring its sexual side. Grey pays equal attention to the development of Len’s relationship with Geoff, which he writes with tenderness and a keen sense of the dynamics involved in Len establishing a parental-type role with Geoff. After reading the prequel it is easy to understand the depth of the father-son bond between Len and Geoff that is so evident in Love Means … No Shame.
Related to this, I’d be remiss in not mentioning that the character of Geoff is also well written and quite believable. The author pays attention to, among others, the likely physical movements and level of speech of a two-year-old boy to achieve authenticity in respect of Geoff’s character. There is one particular scene in the book when Len first arrives at the Laughton farm that stood out for me because it is exactly how I visualized Geoff’s reaction to Len’s arrival.
“He moved to open the door farther but stopped, and Len saw a pair of eyes and a head of light hair peek out from behind his legs.
‘I’m Len, and you must be Geoff.’ The little boy stuck his thumb in his mouth and nodded before hiding again.”
Len and Cliff face obstacles in their quest to establish a partnership and family that come in the form of a disapproving and resentful family member, whose misguided jealousy threatens to destroy their family, as well as homophobia from certain townspeople. In this sense, while the story takes place in the 1980s, it is very timely. Unfortunately, the issues that Len and Cliff face as a same-sex couple attempting to create a family together one generation ago all too often prevail today.
In Love Means … Courage Andrew Grey has once again written a touching story that is full of heart and centered on what truly matters in partnerships and families regardless of the manner in which they come together – unconditional love, respect, understanding, support and above all courage. It was an altogether wonderful reading experience for me. I not only wholeheartedly recommend this book it is not to be missed especially for those who enjoyed reading Love Means … No Shame. The story also left me pondering the years ahead for Cliff, Len and Geoff. In this respect, I can’t help but hope that these characters have more to say and that Mr. Grey has more stories to write on their behalf.
For those readers that have yet to read either book, Love Means … Courage can be read first and then followed-up with Love Means … No Shame or the books can be read in order of their publication and release dates. Andrew Grey has written both books so very well with great attention to their interconnectedness and to continuity that readers won’t miss a beat regardless of the sequence in which they are read.
Love Means … Courage by Andrew Grey is available at Dreamspinner Press.
NOTE: This review was originally published online by Rainbow Reviews.