Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Harry Hamlin: Shameless; Review: River of Tears by Michele L. Montgomery
Before I get into my review of "River of Tears," by Michele L. Montgomery, I wanted to mention something about actor Harry Hamlin who is now playing an interesting role on the TV show, "Shameless."
Hamlin has been around for a while, and he's starred in several projects that have gay themes. In "Shameless," he plays the wealthy father of Steve/Jimmy, who is also having a down-low sexual relationship with Steve/Jimmy's girlfriend's younger brother, Ian. You can read more about "Shameless," here. I find the way they handle the gay characters is superior to any of the network shows. They are just gay and they are there. You don't see a lot of political nonsense, stereotypes, or trendy bullshit. In other words, they make gay normal without trying too hard to make it the NEW normal...pardon the shameless puns.
In any event, I find it interesting that Hamlin (who is straight, and very fine, indeed) is playing a part like this in "Shameless," because of a former role he played in the older gay film, "Making Love." I was only a kid at the time, but I remember the controversy this film created.
According to gay film historian Vito Russo's book The Celluloid Closet, straight critics found the film boring while gay critics, glad for any attention paid to the subject, praised it. Making Love opened strong at the box office its first week, but poor word of mouth led to a large drop-off in box office receipts the following week.
Of course the straight critics didn't like it. Straight people can't relate to gay films like this, and these reviews are living proof in black and white. It was one of the first gay films I'd ever seen, and one of the first gay love stories I'd ever seen as well. I loved it. I would even go so far as to say it gave me role models at a time when young gay men didn't have any. As a side note, Hamlin was younger then and extremely attractive. Trust me, he's aged very well. I think he's just as hot today on "Shameless" as he was back then.
Review: River of Tears by Michele L. Montgomery
I've read and reviewed this author's fiction a few times before on this blog, but in all cases, up until now, those books and stories have been M/M Romance. As a M/M Romance author Michele is clearly one of the straight women writing in the genre who really knows how to nail it and get it right. So when she sent me a pre-release copy of "River of Tears," I was a little apprehensive about reading it because it wasn't M/M Romance this time. If I had to classify RoT in a bookstore, I would probably put it on the Romantic Suspense section. It is mainstream, with straight main characters, and I honestly wasn't sure what to expect. Authors hop genres all the time, but not all do it well.
In this case, I was nicely suprised. The one thing that is most difficult about writing a review for any of Michele's books is that they are filled with suspense and surprises and I don't want to give out any spoilers. In fact, while I'm reading, I sometimes think about how...or if...I'm going to review the book because every other page seems to bring a new surprise. So I will be careful here and I won't give spoilers.
The central theme of the storyline revolves around Abby, a sweet young women, but just as strong and determined as she is sweet. Abby winds up falling in love with a guy, Caiden, who comes from one of the most insane families I think I have ever read about in my life. The mother-in-law, Joyce, pulls some of the worst things anyone in the history of time has ever pulled on a daughter-in-law. I sat there, with my e-reader, in the middle of the night just re-reading certain things to make sure I got them right.
The rest of the family isn't much better either. There are siblings that make the worst families look tame. And the things they do to poor Caiden left me stunned. Also, throughout the book, Michele adds bits and pieces of back story that make them all even worse. The things that happened to Caiden alone in his childhood would make most detectives who deal with child abuse sick to their stomachs. But it's done in a way that leaves you hoping for the best, not focusing on the doom and gloom.
And that's because of Abby's inner strength, a strength she often doesn't even know she has herself. One thing leads to another, and Abby winds up on a quest...or mission...that consumes her entire life. She becomes determiend to save her life, her own family (she has three small kids), and will not stop until she gets answers. It's been a long time since I've read about a character as strong or as tenacious as Abby. She does have support from her own family, which I found to be a nice relief in the book. I think she would have been strong enough to get her life back without all this support, but it was a nice touch to see the family dynamic there as well. I think most of us who are family oriented like these things in novels.
As a side note, the writing was excellent, the editing was articulate, and I didn't see any of the mistakes I sometimes find in digital books. But even if there had been a few mistakes in formatting...which there weren't...I would have liked the book just as much because of all the other elements that made it such a good read. The settings are places we would all love to visit someday. I like novels to take me away to different places and I think in this case, with so many serious topics happening, these wonderful settings provided a brief sense of relief at times. It showed me that Abby's life isn't all bad, and that she does have so much to fight for.
That's about all I can do without giving out spoilers. Part of the fun with a book like this is to be suprised all the time. You won't find a great deal of sex in this book, and yet at the same time I found Caiden both adorable and sexy even though there aren't any sex scenes. He's so vulerable and such a nice guy, you just want to protect him from all these vicious people in his life.
I would recommend this book to anyone without thinking twice. I read it in three sittings, very late at night, but I would have loved to have had a chance to read it on one sitting if I'd had the time.
Purchase link from publisher's web site, here.
Photo of Harry Hamlin, found here.