Title: Rainbow Blues
Author: KC Burn
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 4.5/5 Smooches
Having come out late in life, forty-three-year-old Luke Jordan is at a loss about how to conduct himself as a gay man. As a construction manager, he’s not interested in being out at work, but he’d like to find a boyfriend or at least some gay friends. Two years after his wife got all their friends in the divorce, he’s no closer to the life he wants.
Zach, Luke’s adult son, takes charge and signs him up for the Rainbow Blues, a social group for gay blue-collar workers. At an event, he not only finds friends but meets Jimmy Alexander, part-time stage actor and full-time high school biology teacher. Jimmy loves the stage but wishes potential boyfriends weren’t so jealous of the time he devotes to it. When he meets Luke and finds him accepting of his many facets, he thinks it’s a dream come true.
Their relationship quickly moves into serious territory, but their connection is tested to its breaking point by the offer of a juicy movie role that takes Jimmy to the opposite coast and into the path of a very sexy costar.
“Are you working in a blue collar profession? Do you find it hard to meet people? Do you feel uncomfortable being honest with your coworkers about your orientation? If so, Rainbow Blues might be for you. Rainbow Blues offers a safe environment where you can be yourself and meet other men like you.”
KC Burn is an engaging storyteller. In Rainbow Blues, Burn expertly develops her characters and plots and takes the reader on a fairy-tale like adventure. Although love-at-first is rare in the real world and is not always successful in fiction, Burn makes it work in this charming book.
It is difficult not to fall in love with Luke Jordan. Luke is portrayed as a hardworking man who is at a crossroads in his life. He is tired and lonely. The middle aged construction manager has been divorced for two years. He is living in a small, uninspired apartment, living a mundane life. Although he has always known he is gay, he has spent most of his life living in the closet. When his high school girlfriend became pregnant, he knew he had to marry her and take care of his future child. He loves his ex-wife and his son, but he is lonely, has no friends and has no idea how to meet single gay men.
Readers meet Luke on a typical day. He comes home from work, puts his dirty clothes in the washing machine, showers (with no energy to masturbate) and pops a frozen dinner in the microwave. This is his daily routine.
After selecting Salisbury steak—again—he slung it in the microwave and grabbed a beer from the fridge. One a day was all he allowed himself. At least while he was alone. Bleak was one thing. Drinking himself into a weeknight stupor was a whole different story.
A few minutes later, his “gourmet” dinner was ready, and he placed it on the coffee table in front of the couch. With a practiced hand, he flipped on the television. NCIS reruns first, then at eight there were other things on. Nothing new, unfortunately. This close to Christmas, everything was on hiatus.
He didn’t even have to check the guide to know when to change to which channel. Was this what he had to look forward to for the next forty years, or however long he had left? Appetite gone, he shoved his half-eaten meal away and laid his head back on the couch. Was this all there was for him? Could he put up with this… monotony for the tiny weekly bright spot of Zach’s visits?
The divorce had seemed like such a good idea. He and Kelly had been growing apart for years. Hell, they probably should never have gotten married in the first place, but with Zach on the way, and both he and Kelly still teenagers, it seemed the thing to do. He and Kelly were still friendly, but she’d been the social one of the pair of them. Once they’d split, Luke discovered most of their friends were her friends, but since their separation had been completely amicable, he hadn’t noticed the loss. Not until Kelly married and got pregnant in short order. Her new husband had been a widower with two kids under ten, and Kelly’s whole life changed. Suddenly, Luke’s entire social network, however peripheral he’d been in it, was gone. And he didn’t know how to build a new one.
Luke’s entire social interaction was watching various crime solving teams on TV do their stuff. Kelly and Zach knew why Luke had divorced Kelly, but he hadn’t told anyone at work the real reason. He didn’t dare. None of those guys were his friends. They respected him as their boss, but if they knew the truth, he wouldn’t even have their respect. So Luke never accepted any invitations to bars or parties or dinners, not even when he’d been married. After all, he’d been grappling with the truth for so long, and he was afraid if he got too close to anyone, they’d figure it out. The truth would likely be career suicide.
And what did he have to show for his carefully kept secret? A miserable lonely apartment and a miserable lonely life. He was too young for this, but he was too set in his ways to change now.
But as Luke discovers, quite spectacularly, change is inevitable. When Luke’s son, Zach, buys his father a membership to Rainbow Blues, a social club, for Christmas, Luke’s life changes rather drastically. Meeting men like him is a first step to improving his life. He attends a play with a new friend and when his eyes see the lead actor, Jimmy Alexander, on stage, sparks fly.
A door opened not too far away, followed by a flurry of activity. Luke stared, then the actor came into view. The one who played Gary, the closeted married guy, who had seemed destined to die alone until he got up the courage to come out. Luke had been entranced, and not just because the story had many parallels to his life, to the point he could relate to the play’s title of Walking Wounded.
The actor had been stunning. Jimmy Alexander. Tall, blond, slender. Expressive hands with thin fingers that punctuated his words. His face wasn’t perfect and plastic, like generic models on magazine covers. His smile was wide, his eyes a little narrow, and his nose a trifle too big for his face. But Luke couldn’t keep his eyes off him. Near the end, he’d almost lost track of the story line, so intent was he on memorizing every movement of Jimmy’s mouth.
When they’d first entered the theater, he hadn’t understood why anyone had bothered wasting money on the program. Sure, maybe a page or two for “credits” but the booklet seemed excessive. During intermission, however, he’d been thankful for that little booklet as he flipped through it to Jimmy Alexander’s page. The actor was apparently thirty-eight years old—had to be a typo—and had starred in a number of plays, most of which Luke had never heard of. Luke would have much preferred to know what his turn-ons were and whether he was gay. Maybe the program wasn’t all that useful after all.
Within minutes Jimmy was surrounded by people. He shook hands, accepted kisses on the cheek, and drank fizzy champagne. When he threw his head back and laughed, Luke strained to separate the sound of it from the din of the rest of the crowd. It had been a long time since Luke had wanted anything as much as he wanted to lick the long, smooth column of Jimmy’s neck.
When Jimmy, actor by night, biology teacher by day, spots Luke across the crowded lobby, he is instantly attracted and extremely nervous. Luke is scowling, and Jimmy fears the beautiful, burly, straight man is angry about the content of the play and Jimmy’s performance.
Jimmy darted another glance at the broad, auburn-haired man. The guy had been sending dark looks his way ever since Jimmy stepped out into the room, and he made Jimmy nervous as hell. Maybe the guy’s wife was talking to the actors? If the guy hated the play so much, why was he sticking around? It wasn’t fucking fair that straight guys could be so gorgeous even when they hated you.
With effort, he dragged his attention back to another well-wisher. When he let himself glance back, he hated himself for the little niggle of disappointment that the guy had finally taken his leave.
Jimmy’d taken leave of his fucking senses if he thought a big, muscled straight guy was going to want Jimmy drooling over him anyway. Then, an older couple shuffled a few steps, and Jimmy sucked in a quick, surprised breath. Hot guy at two o’clock and closing in fast, with a fierce, determined look on his face.
The chemistry between Luke and Jimmy is palpable, and Burn makes it easy for readers to become enchanted both men. Luke is charming and sincere. Jimmy is adorable and caring. Despite their differences, these two men have a lot in common. They seem to have an instant connection that thrives and strengthens regardless of the roadblocks Burn flings in their way. Both men are looking for a love – long term. Despite the fact that Jimmy loves to talk and Luke loves to listen, communication is a stumbling block for them.
The initial conflict and drama in the story comes in the form of Luke’s son, Zach, and Zach’s best friend Ryan. Accepting your father dating men is a far cry from accepting him moving in with his new lover. The tension with Ryan is unexpected. And, when Jimmy is offered a dream acting job in Hollywood, the stress becomes too much for Luke, especially when the movie director is intent on publicizing a budding romance between Jimmy and his co-star.
Burn has a knack for creating three-dimension, realistic characters who tug at a reader’s heartstrings. She does a good job developing these characters and twisting the plot just enough to keep the reader wanting to know more. This is the kind of book that should be read in one sitting. Although Luke and Jimmy do have explosive chemistry, the fact that they jump into this relationship fully within days of meeting each other, it is outside forces that keep tugging them apart.
Burn does a great job presenting a realistic fairy-tale like plot that almost ends in tragedy instead of happiness. The angst-factor is high during parts of the story, and, just like Jimmy does in his performances, Burn knows exactly how to reel in her audience and play to their emotions.
Thank you KC Burn and Dreamspinner Press for providing a review copy of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.