March 21st, 2012

andrew potter

Family Unit by Z.A. Maxfield

There is a subgenre of romance that not often is chosen by authors, the Silver Romance. Usually the characters are forty years old and plus and usually at the second chance at love. Both these characteristic are respected in Family Unit.

45 years old Richard is an not ordinary grandfather. When he was still a confused teenager he fathered a child who he has never had the chance to raise. At the time he thought it was better for the boy, above all when he decided to be true to himself and living as an out artist in an open gay relationship. But when his son died in a motorbike accident and Richard was the only relative able to raise his then 3 years old grandson, Nick, that time Richard had no doubt that it was the time to step in and do his due, even if it meant loosing his not-fatherly-type partner.

Six years later, Richard is the perfect June Cleaver type of parent, working at home to be always near Nick and practically not having any personal relationship other than with him. Richard is gay and no one question it, but there is nothing to question since no man has ever entered their life. This is the situation in which enters Logan, retired Marine colonel recently moved in the neighbourhood. Logan inherited his died lover’s home in the West Coast and to respect his lover’s love for it he decided to move from the East Coast.

Where Richard is all West Coast artistry type, rainbow flag and peace wave, Logan is all East Coast’s integrity, with a planned life that resembles very much a military mission. They are at the opposite, the only thing that links them being both gays and over 40.

What I like most of the book is the mix of stereotype characters with original development. Richard is the stereotype artist, peace and love and all, but he is not the perfect parent: he is totally unable to cook an entire meal, he continually makes mistakes like leaving his naked pictures sketches around the house when there is an underage kid living with him, but basically he is trying to do the right thing, and so he wins for the commitment rather than for the perfect result.

Maybe Logan is more inside the boundaries of the military man stereotype, but there is the nice oddity of him being an out gay man. Logan is not the tortured gay military man who has only bad memories of his period as a closeted Marine; he willingly and consciously chose to be a Marine, and to follow the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. He didn’t question it, he wanted to be a Marine, and he had to do it. His previous partner was a Marine, one that retired before him, and when they were apart, they lived their life like any other ordinary “military” couple, made of long-distance relationship and letters and phone calls.

This is a very well planned balanced novel: it’s romantic enough without being too sugary, it’s funny enough without being too light, it’s angst enough without being too dramatic. And above all, it’s sexy enough without being unrealistic: these characters are more than 40 years old, and it means that they can be handsome, but the hair are going white, the flesh is not more so tight, and the skin is showing the first signs of age. This doesn’t mean that they can’t be sexy and enjoy it, each chance they have.

Amazon Kindle: Family Unit
Publisher: Maxfield Books (March 21, 2012)

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