Travis Brinkerhoff finally managed to come out in college, his second year anyway. It was the one bright side to losing his baseball scholarship and jock status. But without money for tuition, second year came to an abrupt end. He's back in his small Minnesota hometown, and back in the closet. Travis feels like he's trying to fit into a life he's outgrown. If he's going to survive, he has to figure out a way to be his own man, maybe even have his own man, without losing the family he loves.
When he left the Marines, Sam Albright wanted nothing more than to find his missing younger brother. Mission accomplished. Now he's got an independent, possibly traumatized, openly gay young man on his hands, a girlfriend in a war zone overseas, and parents he has to lie to in order to keep the peace. Keeping it all together won't be easy, but Sam has never backed away from a challenge.
A copy of this book was given in exchange for an honest review.
When a request to review Kaje Harper's new book, The Family We Make, came into the clubhouse I barged all the other Unicorns out of the way to get to it first. I may have felt a little guilty, but Kaje Harper is one of my all time favourite authors, so the chance to read and review this for the blog was a privilege. This book is a self-published sequel to her free story, The Family We're Born With, and does indeed also feature the characters from that book.
I never thought I'd find another character I liked as much as Mac from Kaje's Life Lessons series (I seriously LOVE Mac), but in this book I have to admit I totally fell for Rick. He is petty much the complete opposite to Mac, yet I loved every single thing about him. He's seventeen (turns eighteen in the book), a runaway, out and proud, mouthy... and so, so, so amazing. This is a boy who is not afraid of life. He is honourable - he has his beliefs and he will stick by them, no matter what. He is incredibly loyal (okay maybe that is a Mac trait) and, despite his attitude, he has a heart of gold. Except that phrase never makes logical sense to me - he has a heart of love. Fierce, loyal love. This is a boy who has taken the crap that life has chucked his way...and acted like a seventeen year old. But then he starts to grow up. Yep, he grows up, but he doesn't forgo who he is, in order to fit into someone elses (ostensibly his parents') ideal of who he should be. I don't think I can praise Rick enough. He is hard working, but so real. Kind - if you can find it under the layered sarcasm, and witty retorts. And unapologetic about being himself. Good for you Rick, good for you.
Travis is the quiet twenty year old who is the uber-responsible oldest son, in a family full of children and money worries. The family has a younger son who is often ill and they can't afford for Travis to stay in college for the next semester. But Travis doesn't complain, he deals quietly with the pain of having to move back home - even if he does get caught underage drinking by the local law enforcement and made to do some voluntary public service work (where he meets Rick). Travis is gay, but closeted in his home town. Rick is definitely not in the closet and Travis sticks up for him when he is dealing with some bullying. Slowly, the two become friends, then more. Travis's family though will be a different matter altogether, if he ever finds the guts to tell him.
Sam, Rick's older brother and one of the MC's in the first book, features a lot, we also re-meet Jesse and Devin among others. As ever, Kaje has a super mix of characters. They are all very human, none of that black and white, good and bad stuff. The 'goodies' aren't perfect and the 'baddies' aren't pure evil. They are all real. I feel she invites you to try and understand the homophobia from the parents' point of view. Not to agree with it, or condone it, but to understand it. We also meet Dora, the love of Sam's life, and she is a wonderful character - even though her appearances are brief.
Kaje's books always manage to be dramatic without containing an overload of drama for drama's sake. Every action has a reaction, a consequence and the characters deal with them as they come up. They do not overreact in an annoying way, everything is there to back up the story, not to create it. if that makes any sense. I'm not sure I can explain properly just how much I appreciate this quality of her stories. While they are NEVER boring, they are also never melodramatic. I feel almost as if these are real people and I have so much empathy and good will for them. This book is far from easy in places, it deals with some very sad and horrible situations. But these situations are dealt with so well. As much as my heart was breaking at times, it was also holding together because I knew things would be okay. Not ideal, but okay.
I loved this story. I loved Rick and I loved Rick and Travis's love story. Oh lord, I really loved the love story. My Kaje Harper bug has bitten again, I'm going to have to try and find something I've not yet read from her yet to subdue it. Thanks Uni's for letting me have this one!
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