Title: Making Home (Bay Valley U: Book One)
Author: Dev Bentham
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 128 Pages
At a Glance: Making Home is a sweet story that needed just a bit more development to make it more memorable and a little less predictable.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: In his real life, Manu Contrares makes a decent living as a videographer in New York. But when his mother goes into hospice, he heads home to Bay Valley to help take care of her and ends up back at his first job on the janitorial staff of the local college. It feels like a long step down for a proud Hispanic man.
Chris Hall loves teaching but hates research. That’s becoming a big problem because his third-year faculty review is coming up and if he doesn’t make something happen soon, he’ll be out. He’s spending his nights working in the lab on a Hail Mary attempt to save his job.
When the two men meet, it’s explosive. And complicated. Chris is lily-white and culturally tone-deaf and Manu’s only in town for a short stay. It’s a recipe for heartbreak. Still, the pull between them is too strong for either to ignore. Can they overcome their different backgrounds and somehow surmount the geographical problems, or is this a fling that will leave them both more exhausted and lonely than before?
Review: Emmanuel Contrares is back in a town he didn’t like, in a job he thought he’d escaped, at a University that previously had never seen beyond the color of his skin and the lilt of his accent. But his mother is dying, and as her only child, he has to be there. Plus, he loves her with all his heart; his mother had fled Chile to America while she had been pregnant with Manu, and worked hard all her life to make a better way for him. Now, Manu is working a night janitor position at the same university he’d graduated from before starting a new life in New York. There, he had become a moderately successful videographer, and even though his was a lonely life, it was still his and his alone. He will stay in town until his mother passes, and then go back to his home and his solitary life.
Chris Hall is a third year professor at Bay Valley U, and coming up on his first go-round of being accepted for tenure. He is struggling to achieve just one successful experiment in order to document and publish it, something that would solidify his success when meeting with the board to determine if he was staying on at the university. Despite loving teaching, he isn’t so thrilled with the idea of constantly having to publish, and all the work it would entail. He has lost his passion for it all, and being so very lonely doesn’t help. When he spots the new janitor, he sticks his foot in his mouth over and over again, insulting the guy. But Chris is a humble man, and apologizing comes readily to him. As Manu and Chris get to know one another, the sexual attraction they feel begins to slowly morph into deeper feelings. But both men knew from the start that once Manu’s mother dies, he would return to New York—miles from the little town in Wisconsin, and Chris.
There was much to like about Dev Bentham’s novel Making Home. Despite his propensity for making awkward and racist statements, Chris was genuinely harmless and unaware of how socially inept he appeared. Plus, he was actually a really nice guy who was trying his best just to make his life work despite unsupportive parents. He was in a job that no longer fulfilled him; he loved teaching but the rest of the job held no interest for him. Manu came back to town with a fairly big chip on his shoulder, and rightfully so. Despite his mother supporting her gay son, Manu was an outcast most of his life, and even his time at university didn’t really change that. At least in New York he was beginning to find some success. The deal here is that neither Chris nor Manu are one-night-stand kind of guys. Both are lonely, a bit socially awkward, and carry baggage from their pasts. This story should have gone forward smoothly, developed their relationship and moved to the happy-ever-after both men deserved.
Instead, it has a few strange tangents that never really meshed with the rest of the story, and were left dangling. One was the obvious contempt a fellow professor had for Chris, a colleague who would be on the panel to determine whether Chris would get tenure. There was a confrontation between them, of a sort, and following that, Chris worried about the guy occasionally, but their conflict was never resolved. It just kind of faded away, much like the initial and strange conversation between Chris and his immediate superior. That little talk revealed that the department chair wanted Chris to succeed, not only because he felt he was a good teacher but also because then he wouldn’t be the only gay professor on campus. Apparently, despite it being 2017, gay professionals had not come to Bay Valley University. That was a bit jarring and unrealistic, in my opinion.
However, the biggest problem I had with the story was the uneven and sketchy interaction between Chris and his family. Out of the blue, during a home visit, we discover that Chris’s father is a right bastard and still attempting to control his son’s life while being in denial about his being gay. We know that Chris has both a brother and other siblings, but none of them appear close enough, relationally, to help him. The scene was so sudden, rather intense, and then over. That was perhaps the most jarring thing in the novel; it was so random, and other than trying to force the moment to provide further justification for Chris deciding to leave the university, it really just didn’t fit or impact the story at all. It begged the question, why was it included in the first place? It was little things like this that I felt diminished the cohesiveness of the plot, overall. It was as if the author needed to beef up the conflict quotient in the story and added in these side elements to do so, but never truly developed or resolved them.
Making Home is a sweet story that needed just a bit more development to make it more memorable and a little less predictable. All in all, it was a fairly standard romance which will satisfy those looking for a simple bit of fantasy to enjoy.
You can buy Making Home here: