Cost of Loving
In outline, Cost of Loving looks like it should be an emotionally gripping angst fest surrounding two young men’s reactions to their friend’s suicide. Unfortunately, author Kelly doesn’t quite have the writing ability to pull it off; instead he lets the story get trapped in a morass of crying jags and endless conversations which didn’t convince me that either of the guys knew much about love or life in general.
A brief plot outline looks like this: In Maryland’s DC area, firefighter Matt Dixon meets artist Darian Weston at the funeral of Jamie Miller, a lifelong friend of Matt’s. Darian is Jamie’s fiancé and lives with him in Jamie’s home where Jamie’s father Dan treats him like another son. Jamie and Matt are closeted gays while Darian is out and proud. The pressure to come out is too much for Jamie, so he kills himself.
After the funeral Matt, who’d never met Darian, ends up having heavy-duty sex with him. At church when some of the congregation start talking about Jamie, Matt gets up, without having talked to his family about this, and announces he and Jamie are gay, essentially making Matt and his family targets for the “gays are the devil’s minions” pastor and members.
As Darian feels guiltier and guiltier about having sex with Matt, and Dan tries to reel Darian into coming back to his house, Darian starts to hallucinate that Jamie is alive and disgusted with him for hooking up with Matt. Meanwhile, Matt frets over coming out to his fellow firefighters.
Darian, who cut himself and took drugs when he was younger, starts these destructive habits again, finally ending up in a mental institution and undergoes treatment. By this time Matt is declaring his love and coming out, losing his firefighting job and another job because he’s gay. Also he loses his truck in an accident and battles his family and friends about his sexuality, finally ending up in jail for breaking into the institution to see Darian, where they’re caught on surveillance tape having sex.
That’s the basic setup. Okay, there are some plot holes and the story is a little overly dramatic, but in careful hands the plot could have been one that those of us who like angst tales would relish.
I found out after reading the book that this is the sequel to When Love Is Not Enough, in which Darian and Jamie’s relationship is explored. Perhaps I would have understood the more recent book if I’d read it. But I’m a firm believer that series books should be able to stand alone and make sense in and of themselves, so I shouldn’t have to read the first book in order to decipher the second.
If the plot were the only problem, the book would merely be a roughly-written exploration of the rocky road traveled by survivors of a suicide. But the plot is only one of the problems.
Even harder to take is Kelly’s dive into pathos. If Matt isn’t crying, Darian is – in a majority of the book. Obviously both men need a break. But who can help them? Jamie’s father Don is a mess and trying to hang onto Darian, wanting him to be a substitute for his dead son. Matt’s family is understandably angry with him for blindsiding them in a church that means so much to them. Darian’s psychiatrist doesn’t seem to be helping. It’s a dive into the worst case scenario when both Darian and Matt have other support channels Kelly doesn’t let them acknowledge.
For me, the worst part is that this is another “sex will cure anything” and “sex equals love story.” Although Kelly tries to assure readers that Darian and Matt actually have something in common and become friends, mostly what we see is them having sex while mouthing “I love you” as if that will make them a couple for the long haul.
And finally I had problems with Jamie, who is debunked as Matt’s best friend since Matt can’t recall anything they did together that was really fun, and who was a horrible fiancé and even worse haunt to Darian. Darian has turned Jamie into a vindictive tormenter in his mind. But why? If they had such an idyllic relationship, why isn’t Darian reliving fond memories instead of being tormented?
Fans of the first book may enjoy this sequel, but what I know of these characters hasn’t made me in any way eager to pick of the first book and read it. Instead I’d rather stay away from the entire sordid series.