Title: Partners (Equals: Book Two)
Author: Brigham Vaughn
Pages/Word Count: 121 Pages
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Blurb: After a rocky first few months, Stephen Parker and Russ Bishop’s relationship is at a crossroads when the death of Stephen’s father forces them to visit Stephen’s hometown in southern Georgia.
Estranged from his family, Stephen must find a way to come to terms with his past and say goodbye to the father whose expectations he could never live up to. The small, conservative town provides its own challenges as Russ realizes providing emotional support is one part of being a true partner for Stephen.
Review: Partners is the sequel to Equals, and it is important to read them in order to get the best enjoyment from Partners. This part of Stephen Parker and Russ Bishop’s story begins a few months after Equals ends. They are headed to Stephen’s hometown in Georgia for the first time since his father kicked him out when he came out to him. The only reason they are traveling there now is for Stephen’s dad’s funeral. There is no other family, so Stephen has to plan it and be the one at the front of the room accepting condolences for the death of a man who hated Stephen as much as Stephen hated him.
Everyone in town has heard rumors over the years about Stephen being gay. When he and Russ arrive, their first stop is the home of the one family friend his father had, Miss Esther. She insists they stay with her instead of at the motel they have reserved. This turns out to be a good decision, as she is a wealth of memories and mementoes that help Stephen remember that there were good times with his dad. It becomes the one thing that makes him feel something other than anger at his father.
They go next to the funeral home where they receive their first of many encounters with homophobia from the wife of the funeral director. They have decided not to hide their relationship, but instead to be open about it but not overtly affectionate. Stephen inexplicably allows himself to be talked into having a viewing for his father. The only reason for this plot development that I can fathom is to show just how homophobic the town is. Stephen is a strong, smart, and decisive man. This forced choice seems to be out of character for him. While reading it, I saw nothing in it to move the plot forward. It only reinforced Stephen’s already deep-rooted hatred for the town, its inhabitants, and his father. I don’t claim to be a writer, but if I were, I’m not sure I would have included this in the book.
Stephen is usually the stronger, more “in control” partner in his relationship with Russ, but his despondency allows him to open up a little bit and let Russ take care of him and comfort him. They tour the town, and Stephen shows Russ the old, now deserted, farm where he grew up. They have a beautiful, sweet time there and it made me feel so good that Stephen was able to make some good memories in a place that before represented only pain for him.
Miss Esther feeds them good southern cooking, and informs them that she has the photo albums from Stephen’s family home. When his father was going into assisted living and they were going to be trashed, she grabbed them thinking that someday Stephen might want them. Through them and Miss Esther’s stories, Stephen remembers some good times as a child, and Russ comes to understand the man he loves on a deeper level.
I believe that by the end of Partners, Russ and Stephen are actually more Equals than at the beginning. Seeing where Stephen came from opens up insight into him that Russ didn’t have before. The pain it caused Stephen allowed him to acknowledge his need to be comforted and taken care of by Russ. The reversal of their usual relationship roles truly put them on equal footing.
You can buy Partners (Equals: Book Two) here: