“True best friends never fail on understanding, forgiving, and being there for one another no matter what the situation that they might be in or be having with one another because of the fact of that no matter if it’s two males or females love should always be there as if brothers or sisters if they’re what we call best friends.” ― Jonathan Anthony Burkett
I had read the first book in K.C. Burns’ Toronto Tales series, but hadn’t gotten to the second one before I read Cast Off. That worked out just fine. The series is probably best read in order since the characters from the first two books appear frequently in this one. However, K.C. Burn explains their roles in the story enough so that I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.
In Cast Off, Ms. Burn continues the stories of a group of gay men, some friends, some family who live in Toronto. We meet Kurt’s (from book one) brother Ian O’Donnell. Ian stayed in the closet to everyone including the family with whom he is very close. He has known he’s gay since his teen years, but was afraid of losing the closeness with his family. When Kurt blurted out at a family dinner that he was gay and the family reacted positively, it hurt Ian deeply.
Ian had kept his secret, scared of losing his family and his brother comes along and it looks to Ian like it was so easy for Kurt. As Cast Off begins, Ian and Kurt are estranged because Ian was so deeply hurt by what he perceived as Kurt’s easy coming out while Ian kept his secret for fifteen years. He avoided relationships and had to satisfy his needs with anonymous hook-ups because his large Catholic family scared him.
Rick Haviland is a successful speech pathologist. He has a beautiful home and a thriving business. He also has rules. No repeats, no keepers (men who seem as though they may develop feelings for him and want to “keep” him), no sleepovers and absolutely no relationships! All of his friends seem to be settling down into loving relationships, but it is not something he wants for himself.
Rick is helping his friends Davy and Kurt paint their new home with a group of friends. Ian chooses this time to show up unannounced at Kurt’s house to clear the air between them. During a heated argument, Ian comes out to Kurt, Davy and all their friends. Then he runs. Rick seeks him out to offer comfort and they wind up in bed. They both are surprised by the strange feeling of wanting more from each other.
The extended O’Donnell family has a family dinner every Sunday. Ian has been absent from it since Kurt came out. The next day, Ian goes to the dinner intending to come out to his family. He asks Kurt and Davy to be there for moral support. After insulting his very pregnant sister, Ian realizes he can’t stand the secrets any more and comes out to his family. They take it just as well as they did Kurt’s coming out. Mrs. O’Donnell is a very insightful, loving mom. I loved this character and wish everyone had a mom like her!
We have two seemingly anti-relationship individuals finally coming face to face with the realization that they are getting into one. It not only surprises both men but it totally terrifies them. Ian suggests a deal about their “relationship”. That they continue as friends with benefits. They begin to hang out and spend time together as friends, but no benefits. Ian tells Rick he wants to get to know him as a friend and they will both know when they are ready for the benefits part of the relationship.
Eventually things get to the point where they can no longer deny their feelings, and the deal they made with each other was becoming impossible to abide by. Both Ian and Rick are confused by this. Rick more so than Ian, because Ian had a deeper plan all along. He hoped that by getting to know each other and spending time together as “just friends”, Rick’s romantic feelings for Ian would grow. They did, surprising Rick, but not the readers.
There is a sub-plot about a stalker who threatens to out Rick, which could potentially ruin his career since he works with children and people can be irrational when it comes to gay men working with children. There is also a huge secret in Rick’s past that he doesn’t want to come out. The fact that he hasn’t told Ian about this secret causes a rift between them since Ian found out about it from someone else.
We see two men who sometimes act stupidly and clueless because they just don’t know how to be in a relationship. They are learning as they go and some lessons are learned the hard way. It is rewarding to see Ian and Rick grow beyond their boundaries and realized the depth of their feelings for one another. The cast of supporting characters made the book even better. It would have been good without them, but I’m glad I got to know them through Ian and Rick’s eyes. I highly recommend this book, as well as the first two Toronto Tales; Cop Out and Cover up.