Blue Umbrella Sky

Title: Blue Umbrella Sky
Author: Rick R. Reed
Publisher: NineStar Press (Reissue)
Release Date: March 23, 2020
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Hurt/Comfort/Healing
Page Count: 191
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Read book blurb here

Congratulations to Rick R. Reed!  Blue Umbrella Sky is a Finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in the Gay Romance category.

First off, "Blue Umbrella Sky" is a beautifully written story of loss, grief, addiction, failure, redemption and recovery. What it isn't is a garden variety M/M romance full of steamy, sweaty sex against any number of surfaces. So, perhaps adjust your expectations ... and get ready for an absolutely wonderful book.

If you've read Reed's "Big Love" (and you definitely should - it is exceptional), Milt is Dane Bernard's friend and fellow teacher in Summitville, Ohio, and after the death of his beloved husband Corky, Milt decides to move away and settle in a Palm Springs, CA trailer park. Caring for Corky and watching his gentle bear of a husband disappear bit by bit to the ravages of Alzheimer's disease has left Milt depressed and convinced he will never love again.

Enter Billy Blue, a recovering alcoholic living in the same trailer park who has watched Milt from afar and is harboring a crush on the lonely attractive widower. A flash flood brings the two men together and they begin a friendship based on long hikes and shared meals. The pace of the story is slow, but necessary as we get a series of flashbacks and learn of Billy's dreams of being a singer, his fierce battle with alcoholism and his recovery via the community he finds at AA. We also see Milt caring for Corky while hoping that deep down inside the man he loves is still there and realizes the extent of his care and devotion.

I love how Reed uses Ruby, the frightened rescue dog Milt saves at the start of the book, as a metaphor for both men. "But, God, she was a scared thing. I'd lift my hand to pet her and she'd cower, tail between her legs, terrified eyes looking at me, just begging. It broke my heart." Just as Ruby changes due to Milt's love, Milt's loneliness and self-isolation changes in the kindness Billy exudes. And as for Billy:
Billy himself had been an abused animal, and the abuser had been the worst kind of enemy - himself.
Reed's writing is eloquent as he slowly unfolds this tale of two men who emerge from their respective losses to find one another, to truly see one another. 5 stars and a Recommended Read for "Blue Umbrella Sky."
Yeah. I know this is something, what we have here. I know it is not in my head so much, but in my heart. My head tells me all the things Dane would say. But my heart knows. The heart always knows what it wants, what it needs. [...] Who it needs. What matters.

I received an ARC from NineStar Press, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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