Desert Isle Keeper
Covet Thy Neighbor
The Tucker Springs, Colorado, series, of which this is the latest title, has been surprise after surprise as far as plots are concerned. This one is no exception, connecting an atheist tattoo artist and a Christian youth minister.
Seth Wheeler is immediately smitten with the man who moves into the apartment across from him above the tattoo parlor where he works — until he finds out Darren Romero is a Christian youth minister. Seth’s ultra-religious family threw him out of the house and has refused to speak to him since he came out to them.
When Seth realizes his regard for Darren is returned and they get together a few times, they share lusty sex even though Seth keeps telling Darren that just because they enjoy each other sexually doesn’t mean Seth will revert back to the staunch Christian he was before.
Darren is fine with that, seeing his own spirituality as separate from his physical attraction. Darren also sees how good Seth is with some of the troubled and rejected teens who come to the youth center Darren has set up in Tucker Springs.
Seth has helped a silent, depressed transgender teenager join the group despite the teen’s fear that the group will reject her just as vocally as others have. Also, in a beautifully written episode, Seth turns away an underage boy who desperately wants to get a tattoo, not by saying that the kid isn’t old enough to get one, but by letting the boy make up his own mind after receiving all the facts.
What makes this book stand out as a romance, however, are the discussions Seth and Darren have about religion and God. Both men are convinced in their beliefs, Seth that there is no God and Darren equally adamant there is one. But unlike most discussions of this type, theirs isn’t acrimonious. These are two grown men trying to articulate their beliefs without name-calling and aspersions. Rather than trying to convert the other, each wants the other to see his side and understand it.
Understandably, considering how he was treated by his family, Seth is cynical and bitter. His God was a god of understanding who didn’t step up when Seth most needed him to do so. Seth believes he didn’t do anything wrong, that his homosexuality was as much a gift of God as any of his other personal traits. He didn’t seek it out. So when God didn’t step up to help him in his hour of need, Seth decided God doesn’t exist.
Darren, on the other hand, while having gone through tough times because of his homosexuality, still sees God as a viable part of his life and life in general. He wonders how someone who professed to be a dedicated Christian could abandon God when the going got rough.
How Seth and Darren come together in the end is the epitome of what Christ teaches. That the message is couched in terms of a gay romance is remarkable.
Thinking adults usually grapple at some point with the question of what they believe in terms of God and religion. Witt articulates both sides of the debate better and more entertainingly than many non-fiction religion books I’ve read.