Maverick: “I feel the need…” Maverick & Goose: “…the need for speed !” – Tom Cruise & Anthony Edwards in Top Gun.
Wow. Heart of the Race is part of Dreamspinner Press’s Daily Dose Anthology for June. As usual with Ms. Calmes’s work, it towers above the rest. I must issue a disclaimer that I am a huge fan of her work. But, wow.
Heart of the Race is the story of Brian and Varro. Brian was nine years old and in his sixth foster home when he looked out his window and saw Varro on the roof of the house next door. Varro was about to jump a go-cart off the roof. Brian asked if he could be next and they were inseparable for the next decade.
The go-cart jump was a massive fail but Varro’s parents fell in love with Brian and immediately took him in as a foster son. Brian had the forever home he had dreamed of. One problem. He realizes that he is gay and in love with Varro, whom he considers off limits due to their best friend/foster brother relationship.
When it is time for college, Brian can’t take the close proximity any longer. He leaves to go to college. Varro leaves and starts racing motorcycles all over the world. Brian proceeds to turn avoidance into an art form. He only goes home when he knows Varro won’t be there. They don’t talk or keep in contact like they used to.
Brian’s pain is palpable. He suffers constantly both for loving and missing Varro and because he worries about Varro’s safety. The first time Varro has a life threatening injury, Brian is called to the hospital. Varro’s parents, brother, friends and co-workers are all there. They talk to Varro to try to get him to wake up.
Varro remains comatose until he hears Brian yelling at him to wake up. Brian proceeds to do what he needs to do to bring Varro back to them. The intimacy with which he shares secrets with Varro is deeply moving. Brian whispers threats to tell Varro’s mother about embarrassing teenage memories. The memories are mostly about girls that Varro slept with and where he did it. For Brian to re-live this must have torn him up inside. When Varro wakes, Brian needs to leave the room immediately.
Varro uses emotional blackmail to convince Brian to go on the racing circuit with him. Brian agrees to one season only. Varro still seems oblivious to Brian’s true feelings. He doesn’t realize that he is causing his best friend such pain. Only the reader knows. We feel it because Ms. Calmes is such a master at making us feel it.
While on the circuit, Brian watches Varro put his life at risk on a daily basis. He watches Varro sleep around with sometimes multiple women in a day. In the midst of this, Brian has an epiphany. He realizes that his dream of Varro figuring out that he isn’t straight after all and professing his love for Brian is not going to happen. The writing at this point in the book, the revelation itself, just sucked all the air out of my lungs and made me tear up.
As agreed, Brian finished the season. He returns home to the states. Brian starts a life. He opens a center for troubled youth which gives them a place to go and just be or to get vocational training if they need it. Brian buys a house. He starts to date. Varro and Brian don’t speak for a year.
Suddenly, Varro is back in Brian’s life. After having Brian there full-time for a season, then gone for a year, it seems that he, too has had an epiphany. He is in love with Brian and wants a life with him. He is willing to, as he puts it “be gay” if he gets to have Brian. The kissing scene alone that follows pretty near burned up my Kindle. It was passionate, loving, coming-home, so hot for you, going to die if I don’t get you naked soon kissing. Wow.
Varro has had a job offer to be a test driver for a new motorcycle manufacturer. While the job involves travel, it allows him to be home most of the time. He wants to know that Brian will be his home and vice versa. They both settle into their new life together and have page burning sex.
This story is so well-written, I could read another 300 pages about Varro and Brian. But I don’t need to. Because it is so well-written that I don’t have to read 300 more pages to be satisfied. I loved this little book and order you to read it immediately!
Reviewed by: Tina