Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Isaac really drew the short straw in the family lottery. He has a wonderful sister, Sue, and bigoted, selfish and homophobic parents. They constantly barrage Isaac and Sue with demands to get a partner, marry and produce grandchildren. Since they don’t appreciate or really seem to love their own children, the odds of them being any better with grandchildren is low. Isaac always tries to see the best of them. “They lived in a closed-off little world, but they weren’t bad people. Or rather, I liked to think they weren’t.” Isaac is very firmly in the closet with his parents, not wanting to lose his family. Luckily Isaac has an amazing group of friends who support and love him.
To combat this parental nightmare one Christmas, Sue brings a fake boyfriend, Logan. Logan is tattooed, pierced and definitely puts on a bad-boy wastrel attitude. Of course, Isaac is seriously attracted but doesn’t realize the boyfriend is fake. So when Logan hits on him in the hallway, he is aroused and appalled. Being a good brother, he hides in the bathroom to text Sue a warning, which Sue pushes off. In a phone call, Sue tells Isaac about the fake, and gives her go-ahead for Issac to date Logan. Since Isaac didn’t realize Sue even knew he was gay, he is shocked. “So, Isaac, I love you and it doesn’t matter if you’re gay. If you are, I want you to know that I’m a safe space.” Sue is a great sister.
So Isaac does call Logan and off on a date they go. Isaac is less the buttoned down prep he presents for his parents and more his hoodie and jeans wearing, tattooed and pierced real self. Logan is also his real self, a graphic designer who owns his own company. Since Logan was at Christmas he knows Isaac isn’t out and asks, “So no plans to tell them?” Isaac replies that he won’t tell them until there is a significant other important enough to come out for.
As Logan and Isaac begin dating, they get to know each other, they take things pretty slow and talk. I liked that about them. Isaac meets Logan’s chosen family of friends (and this concept is a big one through the story). Isaac doesn’t warm up to Logan’s friends, he always feels like an outsider and as if they don’t like him. He takes this as proof that friends aren’t your family, because they could leave at any time. He believes you only get one shot at family, even if they are horrible, and they are connected to you in a way no one else can be, “They’ve been with you from the beginning, for better or worse.” Get a clue, Isaac! When his amazing friends try to remind him they love him and they are his family, he upsets them. “You have us.” “Yeah, but you’re not family.” He hurts his friends so much with that, and he continues to do so, not understanding their point at all. He won’t even accept the term “chosen family”, instead repeatedly saying they are friends. “I wanted my family, blemishes and all.” I wanted to smack him for being so obtuse. I couldn’t for the life of me understand his view on this. It irked me because the things he was throwing out there weren’t true even for him. “Family wouldn’t break apart over something as small as this. Because family loves you no matter what, because you’re bound by blood.” Except that wasn’t true. “Well, no matter what, unless you’re gay and your parents are homophobes.”
Logan really is patient with Isaac but he also knows his own self worth. He is badly hurt when Isaac repeatedly won’t even mention Logan to his parents, pretending he is seeing no one and going to see them alone. When Isaac suggests they move in together, Logan is so happy. Except Isaac still doesn’t want to tell his parents. So Logan would be the “roommate” or the “good friend”, or some other lie to explain away why they were living together. But it’s been six months. What happened to ‘I’ll tell them when it’s serious’?” I couldn’t blame him for thinking Isaac wasn’t as invested as he was. Even Isaac knows. “It’s not like that.” But it was like that. Exactly like that.” And yet he still puts his nasty parents ahead of the man he claims to love, as well as his friends.
His parents, particularly his father, are so loathsome. Racist, bigots, homophobes all, but also just rude and nasty. I hated them even more knowing that way too many real life parents are just like this. Made me angry and so sad. Isaac has a lot of growing to do and I didn’t understand his willingness to put up with everything they spewed at him but I also could see the steps he was slowly trying to take. And there is a point where he and Logan are fighting, and it is Logan who uses the, “Isaac, it’s not like that”, and this time I could see Isaac’s point. He is made to feel he over-reacted but I could see how it would hurt.
I liked this story even as Isaac made me want to scream at times. There are solid positive secondary characters in Sue and Isaac’s friends, Jackson, Emmett, Roe, Jenna, Marc and Laura. I’d love to say Isaac’s parents were over the top but unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, there are too many families that are just like this. I would love to know what happens to Logan and Isaac in in the future and I was so happy when Isaac finally, finally got the true meaning of family.
Cover Art: L.C. Chase.
ebook, 248 pages
Expected publication: October 1st 2018 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleHard Truths