Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
Brian Christie has loved Varro Dacien since he was 9 and saw him for the first time out the window of his foster home. Varro and his brother Nico were getting ready to jump a go cart off his family’s rooftop. That day saw Varro in the hospital yet again and Brian moved into the Dacien home as a newly minted member of the family. The two boys proved inseparable, right up until Brian realized he was both gay and in love with his foster brother. Varro, a lover of all things fast, decides to be a professional motorcycle racer even as Brian heads off to college, unable to stand the pain of being near the man he can never have.
But without Brian at his side, Varro becomes reckless and heedless of others words of caution. Racing around on tough courses at hell bent speeds, Varro is crashing more than he is winning and he is sure it is because Brian is missing from his life. Brian is still trying to move on but his love for Varro is keeping him firmly moored unable to go forward with someone else. When Varro finally wakes up to the fact that he loves Brian not as a brother but a lover, will it be too late for Brian to accept his change of heart?
Heart of the Race is another sweet and sexy story of two men deeply in love , exactly we have come to expect from Mary Calmes. At 86 pages, it is shorter than most of the stories I have read of hers but the characters, their issues and slow build to a loving relationship all have the Mary Calmes hallmarks that make her stories a comfort read for all her fans, of which I am one.
I loved the manner in which the boys meet. That delightful and charming window into their childhoods really set the tone of the story for me. It was funny, it felt real, and had its moments of heartbreaking clarity with regard to Brian’s neglected life as a foster child. In fact I enjoyed this section of the story so much that I wanted to see more of Brian and Varro’s childhood and their close friendship growing up. It was one of my quibbles with this story that I wanted a firmer foundation for their background history because the few glimpses given just wetted my appetite for more. The author does such a wonderful job of setting the framework of the story that it just cries out for a larger book to do it justice.
Brian and Varro fall beautifully into the Mary Calmes pantheon of main characters. A foster child shifting from home to home, Brian’s need for stability and his love for Varro come through perfectly as his driving motivations for his actions. Varro’s character is in need of more substantive layering. My issues with Varro come from the fact that he is portrayed as a man slut, three and four women a night, so his jump to homosexuality is abrupt and not quite believable. Gay for you stories need a realistic platform in order for the switch to seem authentic and I had problems believing that of Varro. I think that the shorter length hurt the story in several ways, including making Varro’s walk to the gay side believable. I wish that we had been given more of Varro’s viewpoint during the year he was racing without Brian so we could see what Brian’s absence had on him and what, if any, changes he made to his sexually voracious lifestyle.
I thought Mary Calmes did a good job with the aspects of life as a motorcycle racer, something I was not familiar with, it was a perfect profession for Varro but I did miss descriptions of what it must feel like to race a bike on such a course, and how it felt for Brian to be a part of that life for a year. We get a bit of insight here and there but again, a longer book could have included that aspect of their time together and it would have highlighted the pain each felt while they were apart.
I did enjoy Heart of the Race. It was fast and sexy, just like the motorcycle races Varro rode in. If I came away feeling a little less satiated, I think that a longer book and a little more back history would have taken care of that. If you want a short tale of love and sex in the fast lane, pick this one up and have a great time.
I love that cover by Catt Ford. Just outstanding in every way.