I read ‘Equals’ just under three months ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. As I wrote at the time, I was delighted to discover Stephen and Russ’s story wasn’t finished yet and looked forward to finding out how their relationship would develop.
‘Partners’ starts more or less where ‘Equals’ ended. Stephen has been informed his estranged father has died and travels to the hometown he hasn’t visited in about 20 years to organize the funeral. This is a difficult time for Stephen. His parents rejected him when he came out and never reconsidered that decision. The anger he feels towards his father is mixed with the knowledge that now the man has died the situation can truly never be resolved. Combine that with the attitude towards homosexuality in his small and very religious hometown, and Stephen is facing a very stressful time. But he’s not facing it alone.
Russ knows his place is next to Stephen. He may be twenty years younger than the man he loves, he has no doubt he can and will support Stephen during this time of emotional upheaval. While he struggled with feelings of inferiority in the first book, there’s little to no trace of that issue left in this book. With Stephen struggling with all his conflicting emotions, Russ comes into his own as the steady presence at Stephen’s side, always there with a supporting word, look or touch.
I once again enjoyed my time with Stephen and Russ and shared their frustration with the small-mindedness of Stephen’s hometown. It was wonderful to get a better insight into what makes Stephen tick and to discover the feelings hiding under his usually rather polished veneer.
Russ visibly grew in this book. Moment by uncomfortable moment he discovers how important he is to Stephen. While the difference in age and status between him and Stephen caused him pain and insecurity in the first book, he now knows he is indeed an equal partner in this relationship and important to Stephen’s happiness and sanity.
I loved Miss Esther. As secondary characters go she was one of the best and a joy to read.
“Love don’t always make sense. It don’t always follow laws. It just is.”
I always like it when I encounter my own thoughts or feelings in a fictitious character and there were two things Stephen and I are in complete agreement about. His thoughts about religion mirror my own exactly.
“I don’t have a problem with God, I have a problem with religion.” – Stephen
As does his idea about the way an ideal relationship works.
“But somehow, being with Russ was like all the good things about being alone with none of the bad.”
Brigham Vaughn once again pulled me into her story and amazed me with her wonderful way with words. Reading her books is pure pleasure and I’m looking forward to indulging in quite a few more of them. The knowledge that Stephen and Russ will return in a third book is a very tasty cherry on top of an already delicious cake.