Simply the most beautiful book cover …
Author: Michael Murphy
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
From the Publisher:
Aaron and Josh come from extraordinarily different backgrounds in small town America. Aaron is the only child of a fundamentalist preacher who fears and condemns the ways of the world outside their community. Josh is a jock who can only seem to express the feelings Aaron stirs in him by tormenting Aaron about how he looks and dresses. But one day, Josh’s world is turned upside down by a simple sentence spoken by Aaron, and he decides to get closer to Aaron.
Aaron assumes it is a new form of torture, but Josh persists: first a ride home, then talking with Aaron while he does his afternoon farm chores. Then Josh persuades Aaron’s father to let him participate in a scholastic event out of town one weekend. Josh pays a huge price for Aaron to attend, but that one weekend persuades Aaron to get free of his parents and attend college.
College doesn’t solve all their problems, though. Josh is horrified when a senior on campus seduces Aaron. He can’t believe Aaron has always been gay and he missed it—and missed getting to be Aaron’s first. But when Aaron finds out his boyfriend isn’t faithful, things go from tense to worse.
Swan Song for an Ugly Duckling (a really, really cool title!) is at times not a comfortable read. Aaron is the son of an abusive father who heads a cult-like, ultra conservative and restrictive group that broke from the Amish. His father preaches that he alone can provide his followers with a path to God. It’s hard to read about the harshness of Aaron’s life – He is physically abused by his father, and bullied and tortured at high school for acting and dressing differently. Josh is a jock who initially participates in the torment of Aaron, but is also intrigued by the stoic young man. They slowly become friends, and Aaron ultimately makes the difficult choice to break with his family and go to college with Josh. At college, innocent Aaron is easy pickings for a man who introduces Aaron to sex, but also breaks his heart.
The characterization of Josh and Aaron is lovely. Josh is a sincere young man who grows to truly love Aaron both as a friend and as a man, and to appreciate Aaron’s very real decency. Aaron is certainly innocent – much of his life has been devoid of modern and outside influence – but he is also incredibly naive. He easily falls for player Sebastian’s smooth seduction, and doesn’t see the inevitable betrayal coming.
The story related to Aaron’s abuse and break from his father’s control is very emotional, heartbreaking, and gripping. The development of Aaron and Josh’s friendship is unexpected and sincere. Through Josh, Aaron has the opportunity to glimpse what his life may be like free from his father’s tyranny. And Josh is there to support Aaron when he makes the difficult decision to leave his family and community for college, knowing that he will never again be accepted by them.
The portion of the story when Aaron and Josh become a couple is also good, and I pulled hard for them to have their happy ending, but I feel that there is something missing from the chemistry between the two as a couple. They clearly love each other as friends and even as lovers, but they lack real warmth. They are not a couple that I can picture snuggling and being silly together in a warm bed on a cold, rainy Sunday morning. Without this warmth, the coupling of Aaron and Josh doesn’t feel quite as rewarding.
Overall, I recommend Swan Song for an Ugly Ducking. This emotionally charged read will surely leave you with the same hope as me – That Aaron and Josh truly do live happily ever after, because Aaron deserves to live his adult life filled with love, instead of the pain and hate with which his father filled his childhood.
I would like to thank Dreamspinner Press for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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