A Review by Nick Thiwerspoon
Every man knows the dilemma posed by the difference between lust and love. On the one hand, there’s desire. You want him and it doesn’t matter that he’s heartless, selfish and arrogant. You call it chemistry, or electricity, but really it’s just lust. Yet you also want someone to love, someone to look after you, someone who will tenderly care for you when you’re sick or down or worn, someone you can in turn look after and care for. Tenderness versus excitement. If you’re very lucky, you’ll have both.
Rick R Reed’s latest novel Legally Wed explores these perspectives.
Inspired by the legalisation of gay marriage in Washington State, Duncan proposes to his three-year boyfriend Tucker at a dinner date. And Tucker there and then dumps him. He was only interested in a “no-strings” relationship, which was news to Duncan. He thought Tucker was his soulmate. But it turns out that this relationship was the latest fiasco in a long line of failed romances.
Duncan decides to give up all hope of finding a man who’ll love him and marry him, and decides to marry a woman. He’s always got on with women; his best friends have been women; he confides in them; he’s more relaxed with them than he is with men. As a grade-A homo, he’s just never been attracted to them. So he puts an ad on Craigslist: Gay Man Seeks Straight Woman for Marriage, explaining that he wasn’t interested in sex with his potential wife but did want a marriage of soulmates. And so Marilyn enters his life. Marilyn has also had enough of men. She’s also just broken up with her guy, who is a heartless narcissist. Marilyn and Duncan quickly become best friends, and soon they’re planning their marriage. But when Duncan meets the marriage planner, Peter, he falls in lust with him at the first meeting. Meanwhile Marilyn meets Tucker’s straight brother Ben, who has remained friends with Duncan, and falls in lust with him. Both Duncan and Marilyn start to have secret doubts about their marriage, but it is the finely written heart-rending tragedy in the middle of the novel which crystallises Duncan’s ideas and leads him to call the wedding off.
The dénouement is obvious but the route there isn’t. Rick R Reed is too accomplished a writer to buy into the clichés. What he does instead is subvert them. His characters aren’t cardboard, especially, oddly enough, Marilyn—his depiction of her is very real and convincing. She comes across as likable and vulnerable and a good friend to Duncan. Reed’s take on different kinds of love has all the insight you’d expect from someone who was himself married to a woman and is now married to a man, and his cheery conviction that all of the characters in this story will live happily ever after makes for an unexpectedly moving ending. He has no doubt that both lust and love can be combined in one relationship, and his skill persuades us, too, that that is not just possible but worth waiting for.
A charming story, especially if you are (like me) a sucker for romance and love and happiness.
Published by Dreamspinner Press. You can get your copy here.