Review: Loving Hector by John Inman

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Loving HectorDillard “Dill” Brown is not sure what to say about his life.  Dill is tall, gay and writes m/m romance novels.  He has published 3 books, none very successful. At the age of 30, he has a closet full of fast food uniforms due to the fact that his writing barely pays his rent, and a mother in denial that her son is gay.  Then everything changes.  He gets drunk, meets a man he swears he won’t forget but does in his stupor, finds a dog he will call Chester, and puts his feet firmly on the path to true love and happily ever after.

Hector Pena is also on that road with Dill, but he just didn’t realize it at first.  There are a couple of misunderstandings to  get over before they really start to connect but the biggest obstacle?  That would be Hector’s exboyfriend, Valdemaro.  Valdemaro is not ready to let Hector go, to the point of beating and physically restraining him.  Only one thing is keeping Hector from calling the cops.  And that would be the fact that Valdemaro is a cop.  Dill  will  do whatever it takes to keep Hector safe, put Valdemaro in his place and make sure Dill, Hector, and Chester the dog reach their HEA, including gathering together some of the craziest, zaniest group of people to do it.

Loving Hector is the first book I have read by John Inman and it has me reaching for the rest of his titles immediately.  Dill, Hector, and the crazy group of characters that enrich, support and drive them batty had me laughing for hours.  John Inman rests the story in the somewhat capable hands of Dill Brown, 30 year old gay m/m romance novelist and collector of fast food jobs.  It is told from Dill’s off kilter and very funny rambling POV.  Now I am aware that this type of stream of consciousness, scattered narrative is not everyone’s cup of tea and that it can depend on exactly who and what type of character’s thoughts are constantly flowing over the page.  But I happened to find Dill hysterical, his view of the world compassionate and openhearted, so I enjoyed spending time  inside his very creative and observant mind (thank you, John Inman).

For an example, here is Dill eyeing his Gramps, a crazy old coot who just happens to love his gay grandson:

When Dill was finally able to step out onto the sidewalk, the two men eyed each other up and down like a couple of Sumo wrestlers getting ready to rumble.

The top of Gramps’s work pants were tucked up under his armpits so that his belt buckle was directly under his chin. Dill could see several inches of pale, shiny shinbone gleaming between the man’s pant legs and the top of his socks. One of the socks was white with little red and blue stripes around the top, and the other was white with little yellow and green stripes around the top. The second sock drooped down around the ankle because the elastic was shot. The first sock looked like it was three sizes too small and by the way it was strangling his grandpa’s leg, Dill figured it would probably create an embolism sometime in the next seven or eight minutes that would kill the old man dead. The shoes were brown-and-white saddle shoes, the sort you usually see in old pictures poking out from under a poodle skirt. The laces were missing. The trousers were brown and shiny, and the lumberjack shirt the man wore was a horrendous green and orange plaid and big enough to hold three grandfathers. It was without a doubt the ugliest plaid Dill had ever seen in his life. If it was a tartan emblem for a particular clan of Scottish Highlanders, then they must have been a clan of color-blind, troglodytic morons.

There was a fat pocket watch in one of the shirt pockets which dragged the left side of the shirt down lopsided from the way it was supposed to hang, making his grandfather look as if half of him was doubly affected by gravity, and the other half wasn’t affected by gravity at all. He wore a woman’s wristwatch on one arm and a man’s wristwatch on the other. Even with three clocks, Dill would have bet his life if you asked Grandpa what time it was, he wouldn’t know. To top it all off, the man’s fly was wide open. Dill kept expecting a moth to fly out. Better that than a hundred-and-fifty-year-old dick.

Wrap a feather boa around Gramps’s neck and slap a derby on his head and he would look like the poster boy for cognitive dysfunction. Dementia’s Hunk of the Month.

Ignoring the persistent throbbing of his poor hung-over head, Dill scooped his grandfather, or what was left of him, into his arms. “Hey, Gramps. It’s great to see you.”

That gives you a very good taste of the sort of thing you can expect from Loving Hector.  Over the top descriptions that leave you with a very clear picture of who and what is going on with Dill at any given moment.  I love the characters John Inman has created for this story.  Yes, some come very close to stock characters or caricatures we have seen before, the horny grandpa, the loony mom, the overly patient dad, etc. But the author puts his own spin on them, endows them with plenty of heart and soul, bringing them to life on each page they inhabit.  This goes for two of my personal favorites, Miss Lily  the Vietnamese owner of Yum Yum Donuts and her German baker husband, Thorolf.  I loved these two immensely, and not just because of their interaction with Gramps.  Here is Dill’s description of Miss Lily’s hair:

She had hair enough for six Vietnamese immigrants, and she wore it piled high on top of her head in a celestial arrangement of blue-black curls and swirls and flips and dips and interwoven ribbons and fluttering metal butterflies and a chop stick or two, and what looked like a windshield wiper from a ’53 Buick sticking out the back. Dill figured the blueprint for that hairdo was so intricately complex that Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan, working in tandem with fourteen Cray computers at their disposal, couldn’t have figured it out. Hell, I. M. Pei must have been her hairdresser. Maybe he just designed weirdass buildings on the side. This was his true masterpiece.

No, Miss Lily is a masterpiece, and so is Thorolf, and the rest of the gang.  Inman manages to make this gang zany while still keeping them human, a lovely feat.  But at the heart of this story is Dill and his love for Hector. Hector has his own story to tell and his recent past is not pretty.

And this is where we arrive at my one real qualm with these story.  Hector is a victim of domestic violence, a very real and underreported crime in the gay community.  His ex boyfriend is not only physically abusive but a police officer which is every victim’s worst nightmare, no matter their sexuality or gender.  To see how real and combustive a threat this combination is, just pick up any current headline.  I can think of two offhand in The Washington Post over the last several weeks and neither of them involved comedy or ended well for the victim.  I really wish that Inman had chosen another avenue to demonstrate Valdemaro’s unsuitability as an ex boyfriend.  He could have chewed tobacco, smacked mimes or hated dogs, anything but be someone who doled out beatings in the same manner he gave out parking tickets.  It makes me uneasy to see such a real problem a part of a story with a comedic romantic bent.  Had that element been missing, this rating would have been substantially higher, as it was it almost pushed this rating into 3 stars.

Still I loved Dill and his gang.  How can you not love someone who looks at all the fast food uniforms in his closet and calls them The Closet of Humble Beginnings, not looking at them as a line up of failure but as a means to make money and still have the energy left over to write.  I like that man, and his family (related and otherwise).  I liked his lover too.  So off I go to see what else I can find that Inman has written.  Pick this one up, there is a scene where flying donuts come to the rescue….you won’t want to miss that or any of the other hijinks that ensue.

Cover art by Paul Richmond is perfect for the story and the couple within.

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