Beneath the Stars, by Lynn Charles
Publisher: Interlude Press
Release Date: February 16, 2017
At a turning point for his growing fashion line for transmen and butch women, Sid Marneaux receives a life-altering phone call. His father, who raised his family alone after his wife passed, is in failing health. When he goes home, he fears he could lose the business he has spent most of his adult life building.
What he could not have anticipated was meeting Eddie Garner, the city’s new fire chief. After a heroic rescue, their romance sparks hot, launching into a swift affair. But Eddie is harboring his own burdens: the painful death of his best friend and the responsibility of raising her young son—their son—Adrian.
Through the wisdom of a child and the connection of mothers-now-gone, Sid, Eddie, and Adrian venture and fumble to define family, career, and, most importantly, love.
Content Warnings for:
Loss of Parent
Given the subject matter, this could have been an entirely different novel. In fact, it could have been downright depressing. Instead, Beneath the Stars is a touching love letter to the families we are born into, and the families we create.
To be honest, there’s a lot of angst packed into this book, but for some reason it doesn’t feel overly heavy, which is amazing given the subject matter. I think it has a lot to do with Sid and Eddie themselves. While they do stumble in their attempts to figure out how to move from a fling to a relationship, there is honesty, hope and humor in their communications with each other. While both of them have their own baggage to unpack, the comfort they find in each other gives them the strength to deal with the difficulties and complexities of their lives.
Scattered throughout the book, their cute and funny text messages to each other serve as a bit of comic relief to offset the more serious moments.
Eddie: So, I came up with a name for the auxiliary team.
Sid: We were looking for a name?
Eddie: Everything needs a name. You guys are C-DRT, which I’ve been meaning to tell you, sounds like a first-grade reader. “See dirt. See Flower. See rain water flower.
Sid: For fuck’s sake – are you bored
Eddie: Not bored. Genius. So, if you’re C-DRT – county disaster, the aux team should be C – AUX county auxiliary.
Sid: You do realize…
Eddie: YES! Tell me I’m brilliant.
Sid: We are not naming the auxiliary team “cocks”
Eddie: I thought you were a fan of cocks. C-AUX
Sid: Only of yours, my dear. Only yours.
At the heart of this book are Eddie and Sid’s attempts to deal with their families, all while negotiating a new and unexpected relationship. Eddie is struggling to raise a son he never intended to be more than biologically involved with. Both he and his son are still grieving the loss of the most important person in their lives, but neither Eddie or Adrian seem to know where to channel their emotions. I think Eddie’s attempts to put on a brave face for Adrian would seem familiar to any parent. We all want to ‘fake it till we make it’ for our kids’ sakes, but often it’s to our own detriment.
On an emotional level, though, I think it was Sid and his family that touched me the most. The struggles that him and his sister, Anna face in caring for their father as he declines into his dementia, felt real and raw. As Lou’s full time caretaker, Sid’s life in Chicago is a thorn in Anna’s side.
‘“You don’t know what the constant care of him is like: the doctor appointments, the ups and downs of his moods. He grabs my breasts!”
“He thinks you’re Ma.”
“Sid, he never did that to Ma…in front of people?”
“It’s the disease,” Sid said. “The doctor’s – “
She charged on as if Sid hadn’t said a word. “He’s clumsy, and at least once a day I’m on all fours cleaning up a mess. It’s day in, day out, and at the end of a day I think has gone well, he’s yelling because the dishes aren’t done.”
I felt heartbroken for Anna and for Sid. But despite the dementia, there are moments when their Dad is lucid and we can see the strong, gentle man that raised Sid alone.
“She lives in him, Eddie.” Lou sat up, a clarity in his eyes Eddie hadn’t seen before. “After she passed, Sid and I stumbled around a lot. I couldn’t cook. I couldn’t care for him like she did. I could kick a soccer ball and get him dressed, but I had no idea how to love him.”
“It’s scary as hell some days.”
“Yes, but Sid found a kind of peace….And he’s who you love because of it.”
I guess what I’m trying to get at is, despite the burdens that each man bears, despite the losses in their lives, this book still feels hopeful. The subject matter may be heavy at times, but the author treads lightly and never loses sight of the fact that this is a love story. This is Eddie and Sid against the world, and as far as I’m concerned, their relationship made this book a delight to read.
About the only thing I didn’t completely buy into was Eddie’s son, Adrian. Full confession: I don’t normally like kids in my romance novels, mostly because none of them sound like actual kids. This book was no exception. If you can suspend reality and accept that a 5 year old could describe someone from a dream as having hair that “fell on her shoulders like pretty puddles” then you’ll be fine. Adrian is a large part of this book so his precocious (and sometimes unbelievable) dialogue is prevalent. Just a heads up.
Lynn Charles’ love of writing dates back to her childhood, a road to collect her thoughts and sort out her heart. Creative writing seemed like a natural progression into finding new ways to explore the world around her, and she has been enjoying spinning original stories for over ten years.
She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and adult children where a blind dog and his guardian cat rule the roost. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music education, worked at her county library, and absolutely never judged you for what books you checked out. She enjoys trips to farmer’s markets where she is always on the hunt for artisanal breads and cheeses, fresh cut flowers and meat from farms that believe a happy animal is a tasty one. And if you can’t find her in Ohio, it’s likely she’s roaming the streets of New York, trying to make money out of wishes to fulfill a retirement dream of a brownstone in Manhattan.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.