A More Perfect Union by J. Scott Coatsworth , Jamie Fessenden, Michael Murphy, B.G. Thomas ~ Book Review by Ulysses

amoreperfectunionTitle: A More Perfect Union

Author: J. Scott Coatsworth , Jamie Fessenden, Michael Murphy, B.G. Thomas

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Cover Artist: Reese Dante

Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars

Publication Date: 06/26/2016

Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)

Genre: Contemporary, Gay, Gay Romance


On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States made a monumental decision, and at long last, marriage equality became the law of the land. That ruling made history, and now gay and lesbian Americans will grow up in a country where they will never be denied the right to marry the person they love.

But what about the gay men who waited and wondered all of their lives if the day would ever come when they could stand beside the person they love and say “I do?”

Here, four accomplished authors—married gay men—offer their take on that question as they explore same-sex relationships, love, and matrimony. Men who thought legal marriage was a right they would never have. Men who, unbelievably, now stand legally joined with the men they love. With this book, they share the magic and excitement of dreams that came true—in tales of fantasy and romance with a dose of their personal experiences in the mix.

To commemorate the anniversary of full marriage equality in the US, this anthology celebrates the idea of marriage itself—and the universal truth of it that applies to us all, gay or straight.

My View:

Four excellent novellas by four gifted writers. I am such a patsy.  I knew I was done for as soon as I realized this anthology was assembled by B.G. Thomas to commemorate and celebrate the June 26, 2015 decision by the United States Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriages all across the nation. It was a decision that changed the lives of all lesbian and gay people, whether or not they were married or even wanted to get married.

Each of these four novellas about committed gay couples for whom marriage means something resonates with me—although none of these stories is MY story. Each of these authors is a gay man married to his husband. This we have in common. I married my partner of 38 years on October 21, 2013, the first day same-gender marriage was legal in New Jersey. Our two teenaged children, whom we adopted after our twentieth anniversary, were with us. We had previously had a domestic partnership, and then a civil union in this same town where we’ve lived for 35 years. We were married by the mayor in a simple ceremony at town hall. I had mentioned it on Facebook, and was touched at who happened to show up, just to see me and my husband Gary get that piece of paper that made us “legal.”

Everybody’s story is different, but each of these novellas made me cry, because joy and pain and fear and triumph are feelings that every one of us shares.

J. Scott Coatsworth’s “Flames” made a mess of me. In it, everyone’s deepest fear almost comes true for Alex Gutierrez. He stalks off on an all-night bender after a stupid fight with his longtime partner Giovanni Montanari. When he wakes up the next day, he finds out that his world has gone up in flames—literally.  Only when Alex realizes what he might lose does he understand what marriage could mean for him and Gio. Coatsworth has provided a villain who’s not really a villain at all, and a cast of supportive characters, particularly a friend named Oscar and Rosalind, a lesbian nurse who risks her job to help Alex. The book is written from a dual point of view—both Alex and Gio. It is a tricky maneuver that the author handles very well, thus adding a touch of magical realism that turns the story into a modern fairytale.

“Jeordi and Tom” is more of a fable. Michael Murphy gives us two young protagonists who have only known each other less than a year. Jeordi Boone and Tom Goodwin are just small-town Kentucky boys. They’re not only young, they live in a trailer park. They both work part time jobs and don’t own a car. They don’t really know much about the world outside their small corner of the rural South. When a bicycle accident puts Jeordi in the hospital for a few hours, they quickly come to see not only how much they love each other, but how much they stand to lose if they don’t do something to protect themselves from society’s prejudices. A resistant local county clerk (“torn from the headlines!”) sends them on a desperate adventure. I won’t spoil the fun, but it becomes a cross-country quest during which they come to understand the idea of “gay community” in a way their small-town lives had never before allowed. My favorite moment is when a new-found friend offers a biblical citation from the book of Hebrews: “Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Indeed.

Right up front Jamie Fessenden confesses that his novella, “Destined,” is a romanticized version of his true-life experience with his husband Erich. A chance meeting between Wallace Leopold and Jayson Corey in 1994 commences the unfolding of a love story that covers nearly two decades in all. The central narrative in this journey to marriage is simply life itself—the kind of life all of us older gay men led before the idea of legal marriage was even a glimmer in our eyes. You build a life together, you have your dreams. The particular charm of this heart-warming book is not the happy ending, but the path to that ending, set in a rural New Hampshire populated with an endearing cast of gentle pagans under a bright a country sky.

I have to admit that I cried the most while reading “Someday,” B.G. Thomas’s little epic of a coming-of-age story. Lucas Arrowood and Dalton Churchill meet when Dalton teaches Lucas to tie his shoe on the way to kindergarten in 1991. Lucas tells his mother that very night: “I’m going to marry him someday.” There is no way to describe this book without spoiling the plot, with all its emotional punch and, for the most part, beautifully drawn characters. Suffice it to say that Lucas figures out he’s gay pretty quickly, and Dalton—not so much. With its strong young-adult underpinnings, there is much that is familiar here—including all the trauma of adolescence. But Thomas writes this tale with complexity and nuance. Lucas and Dalton are interesting and fully dimensional characters. As with all the best YA books, Thomas makes parents and friends matter. In a way, this story is like Fessenden’s novella—although the starting point of the relationship is far earlier in the protagonists’ lives.

What all of these wonderful novellas agree upon is the idea that marriage is not just some archaic heterosexual custom to be dismissed out of hand. For these men—and this reviewer—marriage is more than a piece of paper. If you don’t care about same-sex marriage, then this book isn’t for you. If you do, on the other hand, make sure you have a hanky near by.


A More Perfect Union on Goodreads
Dreamspinner Press
Amazon US
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I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

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2 thoughts on “A More Perfect Union by J. Scott Coatsworth , Jamie Fessenden, Michael Murphy, B.G. Thomas ~ Book Review by Ulysses

  1. Definitely buying this. It was already on my buy list but it just moved to the top. I do wish some authors would get together and compile a non-fiction book about their lives and relationships. It would be fascinating to see the changes through their eyes. Maybe one day.

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