That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, but that which can kill us makes us reclusive, as crippled by our own fears and doubts and insecurities and guilt as by the physical limitations of a body that, after years of hedonism and neglect, is taking out its revenge on Benjamin Lethbridge.
It doesn’t seem fair, really, that after standing in as a surrogate father to his little sister, Zoe, Ben would finally start living for himself, living the sort of life his peers had always taken for granted; a life that, at the age of eighteen, Ben had set aside in order to assume the responsibility of keeping what was left of his family together, then to have it all come tumbling down around him in a haze of drugs and random sex and pretending to be someone he wasn’t that left his diabetes ravaged body in a state of steep decline. Now it’s the caretaker who’s in need of being taken care of. But no one has ever said that life is fair.
Renal failure is the price Ben paid; daily dialysis is the concession he’s making for the chance to live long enough for a kidney and pancreatic transplant. It’s a heavy debt to carry, knowing that in order for you to live, someone else has to die. But no one has ever said that life is fair.
Ben’s porn stash is the foundation for the little bit of promise he’s been able to mine from his situation. Or, rather, it’s the guy that delivers his porn who’s added that little bit of color to an otherwise dull and dreary picture. With his purple hair, piercings, tats, and knee melting smile, Ollie is the Manga-kitty-skaterboy who came swooping in, in his big yellow truck, sent by the parcel delivery gods to keep Ben in long supply of major fantasy material.
Ben’s the older man to Ollie’s twenty-year-old self, but it’s only Ben who’s hung up on the numbers. It’s lucky for Ben that Ollie’s into older men. It’s also lucky for Ben that he’s an X-Men fan and Ollie’s a comic book aficionado. It’s also lucky for Ben that Ollie’s the kind of guy that sees beyond the bloated stomach and the catheter tube and the awkwardness that has kept Ben from living out loud for so long. Whoever said life isn’t fair?
Handle with Care is the comical and clever and utterly charming story of two men who’re falling in love for the first time—not just being one half of a couple but being in a partnership—though the journey is all about the making of and making up for mistakes, until they finally get it right. Unfortunately all they have to go by is how not to do a relationship, and it’s hard to build something when what you have to work with is the raw materials of past sexual encounters and a relationship that clipped your wings before you learned that what you really wanted to do was to fly.
Ben learns to let go and to hang on, all at the same time, because it’s the sweet and lovable Ollie who shows him that it’s okay to be cautious, but it’s even better to take a chance on the something that promises to be kind of wonderful if Ben can only allow himself to fall and trust that Ollie is the one he wants to fall into.
Handle with Care is a “so nice, I read it twice” book, and it was every bit as sweet the second time around.
*Handle with Care will be available at Samhain Publishing on 4/24/12. Pre-order it HERE.