Author: Ally Blue
Cover Artist: Kendra Egert
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Buy Link: Buy Link Graceland
Genre: M/M contemporary interracial romance
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A Guest review by Jenre
Summary review: A steady interracial romance which managed to examine a number of themes successfully but was hampered by a slightly annoying forced separation towards the end.
To get to “Love Me Tender”, they’ll have to shake things up.
Kevin Fraser has a good life—a good job, good friends and a nursing degree within his grasp. There’s not a lot of excitement to be found in Asheville, but so what? He doesn’t need excitement. Or love, for that matter. Until a big man with an Elvis fixation and the voice to match shows up in his ER and changes his point of view.
A diabetes diagnosis isn’t the end of the world, just one more problem Owen Hicks doesn’t need. It hasn’t been easy finding his place in the Cherokee tribe, his family and the world at large since he came out. On top of that, learning to manage the disease that killed his mother is a daunting challenge. He counts himself lucky that the nursing student he befriended in the hospital is willing and able to help.
As their fast friendship deepens into something both of them want—yet fear—pressures from without and within stretch their bond to the breaking point. The only way to find the strength to love each other is to find the courage to let go…and hope love is strong enough to bring them together again.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a book by this author and this one looked interesting with its blend of themes containing not only an interracial romance but also a character who suffers from acute diabetes which has to be carefully monitored and controlled.
The story begins with Owen collapsing at work. He’s rushed into hospital where it’s discovered that he is suffering from diabetes – the disease that killed his mother. Kevin is a trainee nurse in the trauma unit who helps to calm Owen and afterwards they become friends. Both men are attracted to each other but factors such as Owen’s disapproving uncle and Kevin’s mother who thinks that Owen is lazy, get in the way of their relationship. Added to this is Owen’s lackadaisical approach to monitoring his health and things are not plain sailing for the couple.
The part of the story I most liked was in the transition from friends to lovers for Owen and Kevin. By mutual consent they stay as friends for a while before committing to a relationship and this allowed for many scenes where they hang out and get to know each other. The build up in tension between them was nicely done and made it all the more satisfying when they get together. It also meant that there’s a foundation of friendship to the relationship which stands them in good stead when things get a bit rocky.
Another aspect which worked well for me was the way that the interracial romance caused friction, not between themselves but amongst others. So, for example, Owen’s uncle isn’t keen on Owen seeing a black man (or any man for that matter), and Kevin’s intelligent parents rely on the stereotype of Native Americans being feckless and lazy to disapprove of Owen and his Cherokee heritage. Both Kevin and Owen handle this situation with good grace and I loved how they didn’t allow it to affect their relationship, even strengthening it through their mutual support of each other. The importance of family on both sides was another theme in the book that linked to race, especially with Owen. In particular I liked Owen’s relationship with his aunt and uncle and the respect he shows both of them, even when Owen’s uncle openly disapproves of Kevin.
What didn’t work so well for me was Owen’s reaction to his diabetes. The effect of diabetes as a disease was sensitively shown but I lost a lot of sympathy for Owen in the way he tried to fudge his diet. This is probably because of my own annoyance that he would deliberately try to hurt himself in that way, or at least think he was impervious enough to try to ignore the advice of doctors, and maybe some readers wouldn’t find this as distressing as I did. On the plus side it showed how hard it can be to adapt to a new lifestyle and therefore was perhaps a realistic way of letting the reader see Owen’s struggles.
* This next bit could be slightly spoilerish *
One final niggle was the use of a forced separation towards the end of the book. It was one of those where one character leaves another ‘for their own good’, a theme I find rather annoying. This led to the inevitable moping by both characters, which I had no sympathy for whatsoever. Having said that, I understood that there needed to be some reason for Owen to snap out of his spiral and I suppose this did the job. I just wish there had been a less annoying way of doing it and I would have rated the book higher if not for this part.
* End of spoilerish bit *
Overall, this is a nicely written romance with two good characters and a story which kept my interest. The Elvis angle was thankfully not too overplayed with the focus being on relationship and trust, rather than on too many overt Elvis references. Those looking for a story which is strong on character with a romantic core, should pick up this book.