Title: A More Perfect Union
Author Name & Publisher: B.G. Thomas, J. Scott Coatsworth, Jamie Fessenden, Michael Murphy (Dreamspinner Press)
Publication Date & Length: June 26, 2016 – 350 pgs
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States made a monumental decision, and at long last, marriage equality became the law of the land. That ruling made history, and now gay and lesbian Americans will grow up in a country where they will never be denied the right to marry the person they love.
But what about the gay men who waited and wondered all of their lives if the day would ever come when they could stand beside the person they love and say, “I do?”
Here, four accomplished authors—married gay men—offer their take on that question as they explore same-sex relationships, love, and matrimony. Men who thought legal marriage was a right they would never have. Men who, unbelievably, now stand legally joined with the men they love. With this book, they share the magic and excitement of dreams that came true—in tales of fantasy and romance with a dose of their personal experiences in the mix.
To commemorate the anniversary of full marriage equality in the US, this anthology celebrates the idea of marriage itself, and the universal truth of it that applies to us all, gay or straight.
Someday, by B.G. Thomas
Lucas Arrowood is walking to school on his first day of kindergarten when he meets Dalton Churchill—a boy who stops and helps him tie his shoe. He knows from that moment he is going to marry that boy one day. “Boys can’t marry other boys,” his mother explains, but that doesn’t stop Lucas. He knows what he wants.
He and Dalton become best friends—and then, no matter how much he resists, Dalton falls in love with Lucas. Dalton’s very conservative family can’t accept that their boy loves another boy, but finally Dalton stands up for love and for Lucas. Still, he declares he won’t marry Lucas until it is legal everywhere. He hates the “Commitment Ceremonies” gay men have. They aren’t the real thing. Why bother?
So Lucas waits for his day. The day same-sex marriage finally becomes legal and he can be joined forever with the love of his life.
Flames, by J. Scott Coatsworth
Alex and Gio had a big fight, and Alex ran away. Then a fire at home destroyed the life they had built together, and threatened to take Gio away from him.
Alex had always thought love was enough to keep them together. Why did they need wedding rings or legal certificates? But now, with Gio lost in a coma, his mother has banished Alex from his side.
What if Alex’s voice is the only thing that can bring Gio back from the brink? Their memories are all Gio has left, and the urge to just let go is getting stronger.
Still, nothing can keep Alex from Gio’s side. If it’s against the rules, he’ll break them. In stolen moments alone together, Alex fights to bring him back, one memory at a time.
Destined, by Jamie Fessenden
When Jay and Wallace first meet at an LGBTQ group, they have no idea they’ll be dating six years later. In fact, they quickly forget each other’s names. But although fate continues to throw them together, the timing is never quite right. Finally they’re both single and realize they want to be together… but now they can’t find each other! With determination and the help of mutual friends, Jay and Wallace can finally pursue the relationship they’ve both wanted for so long.
It’s only the beginning of the battles they’ll face to build a life together.
From disapproving family members all the way to the state legislature, Jay and Wallace’s road to happily ever after is littered with obstacles. But they’ve come too far to give up the fight.
Jeordi and Tom, by Michael Murphy
Living as an open, loving gay couple in the rural South isn’t easy—even today.
When Jeordi and Tom move in together and come out to their families, Jeordi’s family does not take the news especially well. When yelling doesn’t work, they send in one sibling after another to try to separate the couple. When that fails, they call out their pastor to help Jeordi see the error of his ways. But Jeordi’s love for Tom is greater than anything they throw at them.
When an accident sends Jeordi to the hospital, his family goes too far when they try to keep Tom from visiting his partner. Jeordi and Tom are determined to do everything in their power to gain legal protection so this can never happen again. But when a bigoted county clerk refuses to issue them a marriage license, Jeordi decides a big, bold effort is called for, which is precisely what he sets in moVon so no one can ever separate him from Tom again.
This was an excellent story celebrating the Supreme Courts decision for marriage equality. This was written by 4 different married gay men and I absolutely loved the stories they wrote.
Flames, by J. Scott Coatsworth – 4.5 Stars
This story was almost heartbreaking if it didn’t have a HEA. At first I absolutely hated Alex. I mean how could anyone just walk out on their partner that way and Gio’s mother as she forbid Alex from seeing Gio. I love the character development and loved Gio and eventually loved Alex as he redeemed himself in the end.
Jeordi and Tom, by Michael Murphy – 4 Stars
In this story we deal with two men, one who is dealing with the family from hell. I know that this happens quite regularly in the world of LGBT but when reading it, it really seems to hit home of the struggles that gay men and women deal with. Not just from families but from society. I loved the character development and was happy to see that how the author was able to get give them their HEA.
Destined, by Jamie Fessenden – 4 Stars
This was another really great story. In this story we deal with two mean that met and came back together after several years apart. The character development was great and I immediately feel in love with both Jay and Wallace. I loved how the author brought them back together and loved the marriage ceremony.
Someday, by B.G. Thomas – 4 Stars
This was a sweet story about Lucas who meets his soul mate at the age of 5, Dalton. It was also heartbreaking because Dalton refuses to believe he could be gay. Lucas was steadfast in his love for Dalton even when Dalton was dating girls in high school. I loved when they got married and Lucas mother has the privilege of preforming the ceremony.
This is definitely a must read for everyone who enjoys a HEA.
This is an excellent anthology celebrating the anniversary of marriage equality in the US. These are four very different stories, and there’s a little something in here for everyone. While I didn’t love every single one, it’s definitely a matter of taste and not a flaw with the writing style. All four are well-written. Three out of the four authors were people whose work I’d previously read, and one was new to me. I really enjoyed this collection overall.
Flames, by J. Scott Coatsworth – 5 stars
This was my favorite of the entries. It’s beautifully written and heartbreaking with a storyline that kept me on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what would happen. I loved the themes of reconciliation and restoration throughout. While we do get a glimpse of Alex and Gio’s history, there’s no drawn-out meeting and falling in love. They’re already there; this is about how they make their way back from the night which almost destroyed them. Really, really well done.
Jeordi and Tom, by Michael Murphy – 3 stars
This one was okay, but it really felt a bit over the top to me. I suspect that was the point, so it’s more personal preference than anything I think is wrong with the story. Jeordi and Tom are both likable, and despite the exaggeration, it still has a sweetness to it that left me with a warm, happy, hopeful feeling at the end.
Destined, by Jamie Fessenden – 3.5 stars
I loved, loved, loved the first half of this. The way Jay and Wallace meet, over and over until they finally figure out how not to make it accidental, is sweet and charming and funny. I enjoyed the way they bond over geeky pursuits. They are so much fun to read about. Unfortunately, the second half isn’t nearly as interesting. It’s definitely realistic–a bit too realistic, to the point of being uninteresting. I kept thinking something was going to happen, but it’s basically extended details on how they do fairly mundane life things. Sure, they have some obstacles, but those are wrapped up tidily and quickly. It stops feeling like it has a whole lot of plot and more like it just needs to get to the marriage part. That said, I do think many readers could probably relate to the ordinariness of it, so it’s mostly personal preference and not bad writing.
Someday, by B.G. Thomas – 4.5 stars
I liked this one nearly as much as the first story. It contains all the humor, sweetness, and big heart I’ve come to expect from the author. Simply charming all throughout. Lucas is such a delightful narrator, and I loved every single one of the side characters. Well, maybe not the homophobes, but I did love hating them. I adored Lucas’ mom, and his friend Sam is a trip. This has a little bit of everything–some action, some drama, some steamy sex–all of which point toward the overarching theme of love is everywhere if you know where to look. The only reason this didn’t get 5 stars is that like the second story, it’s a bit over the top, and like the third story, the plot fizzles after the big tension is resolved. However, I think it manages to pull off both of those things slightly better than the other two. Just a gooey, sweet, delightful read.
Overall rating for the anthology is 4 stars.
Someday, by B.G. Thomas
“The first time Lucas Arrowood saw Dalton was on his way to his first day of kindergarten. His mother was walking him to school, he was very excited, and his right shoelace was flopping, untied.
“Baby,” said his mom. “Let’s sit down and try to tie your shoe.”
He looked up at her, excitement temporarily quashed. He couldn’t do it. Couldn’t tie his shoe. And he was supposed to be able to. His mother had tried to show him how—over and over again—but he couldn’t get the laces to go where they were supposed to go, and it just fell apart. He couldn’t do it. If his teacher found out, would they make him go home? Would he have to wait until next year? That would be horrible!
“Hey, you can do it. It’s easy!”
Lucas gave a little jump, turned around, and sighed as he looked into the narrow dark eyes of the most beautiful human being he had ever seen.
“Want me to help?” the boy asked, flipping his mop of dark brown hair out of his eyes with a toss of his head. “I taught a bunch of kids last year when I was in kindergarten.”
A bunch of kids hadn’t known how to tie their shoes? That perked up his ears. Lucas looked up at his mother.
She smiled. “Do you want him to help?”
Then he realized something. He did want the boy to help him. He thought he would do anything the boy wanted him to do, even ask his mom to take the training wheels off his bike (which was a big scary because he was afraid of falling and getting hurt!).
“Sit down,” said the boy, pointing to the landscaping wall along the sidewalk.”
“What’s your name?” asked Lucas’s mother.
“Dalton Churchill. Like Winston Churchill. Only it’s Dalton.”
He smiled, and Lucas knew Dalton was the most beautiful boy on the planet.
“Who’s Winston Churchill?” Lucas asked.
Dalton shrugged and got down on one knee before Lucas. “I don’t know. I think he’s a minister. Okay, now, first you pull your laces up and then cross them over, like this.”
“I can tie a knot,” Lucas said, wanting very much not to look like a complete dope in front of Dalton. Then he frowned. “It’s the other part I get mixed up on.”
“That’s cool,” Dalton said, tying the knot. “Okay…. So here’s the tricky part. First you make a loop and stick it up so it looks like a tree—see?”
Lucas nodded. He wasn’t sure the upward turned loop looked much like a tree, but he wasn’t going to tell Dalton that.
“Then you take the other lace and wrap it around the bottom like this—like a dog running around the tree.”
Lucas smiled. “My neighbor has a dog. His name is Super Mario.”
“That’s a great name,” Dalton said, laughing.
Then he finished showing Lucas how to tie his shoe.
“Wow,” Lucas said.
But then Dalton untied the shoe.
“Hey!” cried Lucas.
“Now you do it,” Dalton said. He nodded. “You can. I know you can. Easy.”
Lucas wanted to yell, “No, I can’t!” but he quite suddenly knew he could not disappoint the pretty boy with the beautiful eyes. He sighed. What had Dalton said about a tree? He made a loop with one of the laces.
“Just like that, but the other one. Unless you’re a southpaw.”
Lucas looked up through his own dark bangs. “Huh?”
“Southpaw means left-handed.”
“Oh!” Lucas giggled. “I’m not.”
“Tree!” Dalton ordered, brows knitted together.
So Lucas made a loop with his shoelace.
“Yes!” Dalton said with such enthusiasm Lucas would have thought he’d ridden down to the corner and back on his bike without training wheels. He laughed and then thought about dogs running around the base of trees. A moment later, Lucas had tied his shoe. His mother clapped.
“Yes,” shouted Dalton. “I knew you could do it, Lucas.”
Dalton walked the rest of the way to school with them. But even better, he also promised to walk Lucas to school the next day.
Flames, by J. Scott Coatsworth
Monday, September 27
There was only this moment. This place. Alex holding Gio’s hand, gently because of the burns on the back of Gio’s arm and hand. The sounds of the breathing machine came in regular soft sighs.
The little green box held in Alex’s other hand– and all it symbolized between them.
All their life together had shrunk down to this moment, this place, this plea. “Please wake up, Gio. Amore mio, svegliati.”
Sunday, September 12. Two weeks earlier
Alex was late getting home, and he was in a foul mood from the long, difficult day at work. One of the properties he’d made a bid on had fallen through, and another client had all but called him a bald-faced liar.
He was looking forward to getting home, taking a long hot shower, then crawling into bed.
Alex was startled to find a whole meal, complete with wine and candles, laid out on their dining room table. Gio must have spent the whole day cooking.
Alex was late. He’d been delayed with his angry client, and to make matters worse, his phone had up and died halfway through the afternoon and he’d been without his car charger.”
He was already annoyed when he walked in the door.
“Welcome home, amore,” Gio called from the kitchen.
“I had a hell of a day….” He caught a whiff of whatever Gio was cooking.
“Come sit down. I’ve got everything ready.”
The dining room looked like a Martha Stewart production of a telenovella Thanksgiving.
“I’m sorry. I’m not really hungry. Things were the shits at work today.”
“Sorry to hear that. Have a seat.” Gio grabbed his elbow and urged him toward his chair.
“Food makes everything better.”
Alex was starting to get annoyed. “Look, I’m sorry, but I’m not hungry. I just want to wash up– ”
“That’s just the job talking.” Gio took his arm again.
“Knock it off! I’m not in the mood tonight.”
Gio looked hurt, but Alex plowed on, too incensed to stop.
“This isn’t some kind of June and Ward Cleaver relationship.”
“I just– ”
“You have to let go of your stupid, unrealistic expectations of me and this relationship.”
Gio frowned. “That’s bullshit, and you know it. Just because you had a bad day at work, there’s no reason to take it out on me.”
He was right. But Alex couldn’t admit it. “Just leave me the fuck alone,” he said, grabbing his phone charger and storming out. He’d find somewhere else to sleep tonight.”
Destined, by Jamie Fessenden
Doug had seemed terrific when Jay first met him. He was funny, attentive, good in bed, and Jay’s family thought he was great. At family gatherings, that is—not in bed. They were living together in short order.
But after two years, things weren’t going so well. They’d moved to Dover, which allowed Jay to get back in touch with some of his college friends, but their relationship seemed to grow rockier by the day. They fought constantly, though Jay was never really sure what they were fighting about. They just didn’t… fit anymore.
But still he tried. Jay was nothing if not stubborn.
His ties to the pagan/Wiccan world had long ago faded away, since Doug thought that stuff was weird and creepy. In fact, his ties to anything outside the tech industry had pretty much withered to nothing. He worked long hours, during which he thought about nothing but computers and switches and routers. It paid well, and raises were frequent, so he was caught up in the game his coworkers played—pushing for promotions or transfers every six months to a year in order to get salary increases. Like his coworkers, he had an E*TRADE account and spent time between support calls attempting to build a stock portfolio. He had the sense not to gamble the small amount of savings he had, but it was a fun game to play.
But he was unsatisfied. He couldn’t quite put a finger on why until one Saturday, when he was sitting at Café on the Corner and his friend, Steve, happened by. Steve had been part of the medieval reenactment group Jay hung out with in college, and apparently he was still involved with them.
“Michaelmas is coming up,” Steve pointed out, referring to one of the large feasts the group “put on every year. “It’s going to be at the Unitarian Church. You should come.”
Jay couldn’t see that happening. He no longer had any of his medieval “garb,” and Doug was likely to turn his nose up at the idea of hanging out with a bunch of reenactors all day.
Jay said diplomatically, “I’ll think about it.”
“Well, at least stop by the monthly Wiccan group. Julie’s usually there, and Mark. A whole bunch of the old crowd. That’s tomorrow. Same place.”
It would be nice to see some of them. And Doug was working on Sunday. “That might be fun.”
“Are you still writing?”
He wasn’t. Jay had written a lot of science fiction stories in college, and he’d talked about getting published one day. But that, like everything else he’d enjoyed in those days, seemed like nothing more than a dream he’d once had, barely remembered.
This conversation was getting depressing.
“So,” he asked, trying to change the subject, “do you still sing?”
Steve grinned with excitement. “Yeah, man! My band is putting together our second CD.
It’s gonna be awesome!”
The more he talked about his life, the more it became clear Steve was barely scraping by financially. But he was doing what he loved, and he seemed just as happy with his life as he’d been in college. Jay, on the other hand, had plenty of money. He had a career now, a boyfriend, a new car, and a nice apartment. He’d thought he was doing okay, but now he realized exactly why he’d been feeling so uneasy. His life had veered off course. In just five years, he’d lost touch with everything that had been fun and creative in himself. He was no longer Jay.
And he missed himself.
Jeordi and Tom, by Michael Murphy
“When the front door of the trailer slammed shut with a loud bang, followed immediately by an animalistic howl of rage and frustration, Tom knew Jeordi was home. He snickered and shook his head.
“Hey, babe,” Tom called out. “I forgot this was the day you were going to visit your parents. It went that well, huh?”
One glance at his boyfriend told Tom all he needed to know. Despite the scowl and look of anger and frustration on Jeordi’s face, it only took one glance at the man to ignite the most sensitive parts of his nervous system (and everything connected to it).
He couldn’t help but smile at the sight of Jeordi. He wasn’t handsome in the New York runway model sense, but was handsome in the real man sense. Jeordi turned heads every time he walked down the street, although he consistently missed the many glances people cast his way.
All Jeordi saw when he looked at himself was that he wasn’t tall, and he felt his ears were too big. Tom daily told Jeordi that he was the most studly man he’d ever known—and he quietly gave thanks that the man was all his.
Tom felt two strong hands wrap around his waist as he stood at the sink in their kitchen.
Carefully setting down the dish he’d been washing, he leaned his head back against his boyfriend’s solid shoulder, brushing his smooth cheek against Jeordi’s fuzzy cheek—fuzzy not from a beard but from a strong five o’clock shadow the man dependably had every day by late afternoon. Jeordi hated it, but Tom loved it and loved rubbing one part or another of his body over the stubble.
“Love you, babe,” Tom whispered. “I’m glad you’re home.”
“Why?” Jeordi whispered into Tom’s ear.”
“Why? Why? Why do I keep subjecting myself to the same crap?”
“So, they didn’t throw their arms open and tell you they’ve joined PFLAG and ask for your advice on what to wear in the next Pride Day parade?”
Jeordi snorted. “Um, that would be a great big no.”
“What did they do this time?” Tom asked.
“Prayed—and then some. They tried to have some kind of healing service to rid me of the evil that had ‘grabbed hold’ of me, to quote my mother. They said they needed to cast the devil out of my body.”
“Oh, isn’t that special,” Tom joked.
“Not so much,” Jeordi disagreed.
“Was it just your parents?”
“Oh, no. That’s what made this one more frustrating. They had their minister there. He brought a backup minister—poor kid looked freaked out just being in the same room with a known homosexual. Don’t know what he thought was going to happen.”
“They upped the ante, I see,” Tom said.
“Oh, there’s more,” Jeordi said.
“Hell, yes. They had some of my more uptight brothers there with them this time.”
“They succeeded in getting any of your brothers to be in the same room at the same time?
How the hell did they swing that one?”
“Don’t know. Must have been one hell of a bribe. They, of course, brought their wives, I guess to show me how a good strong Christian heterosexual marriage works. They pissed me off so much I slipped and asked Beau how he could take part in something like that when he’d been off screwing half the women in the county. He didn’t appreciate it. I guess his wife didn’t know he was a hound dog she needed to keep on a tighter leash.”
Tom stopped what he was doing and dropped his head back, deep in thought. “Hmm, your brother Beau would look damned good in a collar—and naked,” he said. “Now, if you maybe added a blindfold, put him on his knees with his hands cuffed behind his back—now that’s just freaking hot. Maybe I should call his wife and give her a few suggestions. How do you think she’d take that? I’d be doing it strictly to help her out since I doubt she’d ever come up with an idea like that on her own. And of course I’d need to be there to help her, you know, to consult.”
“Don’t go there,” Jeordi warned with a chuckle. Beau was beautiful, but unfortunately he knew it and wasn’t at all opposed to spreading his beauty around to any and all women who’d have him. “At least that got the two of them out of the whole ritualistic crap my mother had planned for the weekly visit.”
“Two down, ten to go,” Tom said.
Tom turned around and wrapped his arms around Jeordi, kissing his neck. “I love you, babe,” he whispered into Jeordi’s ear as he held tightly to his man.
“I’m so glad you do. My family certainly doesn’t.”
“Oh, they love you. They just don’t understand it because the playing field has changed since you came out,” Tom said.
B.G. Thomas lives in Kansas City with his husband of more than a decade and their fabulous little dog. He is lucky enough to have a lovely daughter as well as many extraordinary friends. He has a great passion for life.
B.G. loves romance, comedies, fantasy, science fiction, and even horror—as far as he is concerned, as long as the stories are character driven and entertaining, it doesn’t matter the genre. He has gone to literature conventions his entire adult life where he’s been lucky enough to meet many of his favorite writers. He has made up stories since he was a child; it is where he finds his joy.
In the nineties, he wrote for gay magazines but stopped because the editors wanted all sex without plot. “The sex is never as important as the characters,” he says. “Who cares what they are doing if we don’t care about them?” Excited about the growing male/male romance market, he began writing again. Gay men are what he knows best, after all—since he grew out of being a “practicing” homosexual long ago. He submitted a story and was thrilled when it was accepted in four days. Since then the stories have poured out of him. “It’s like I’m somehow making up for a lifetime’s worth of stories!”
“Leap, and the net will appear” is his personal philosophy and his message to all. “It is never too late,” he states. “Pursue your dreams. They will come true!”
J. Scott Coatsworth:
Scott has been writing since elementary school. After leaving writing for twenty years, Mark, his husband, told him “the only one stopping you from writing is you.”
Since then, Scott has gone back to writing in a big way, finishing more than a dozen short stories – some new, some that he had started years before – and seeing his first sale. He’s embarking on a new trilogy, and also runs the Queer Sci Fi site, a support group for writers of gay sci fi, fantasy, and supernatural fiction.
Mark and Scott have been together for twenty four years. They met at the Pacific Center, an LGBT center in Berkeley, California, in 1992. They dated for two weeks, and then Scott moved in with Mark, and the rest is history. They run their own business together, study Italian, and are almost never found apart.
Jamie Fessenden set out to be a writer in junior high school. He published a couple of short pieces in his high school’s literary magazine, but it wasn’t until he met his partner, Erich, almost twenty years later, that he began writing again in earnest. With Erich alternately inspiring and goading him, Jamie published his first novella in 2010, and has since published over twenty other novels and novellas.
After legally marrying in 2010, buying a house together, and getting a dog, Jamie and Erich have settled down to life in the country, surrounded by wild turkeys, deer, and the occasional coyote. A few years ago, Jamie was able to quit the tech support job that gave him insanely high blood pressure. He now writes full-time… and feels much better.
Michael Murphy met his husband Dan thirty-four years ago during a Sunday service at MCC in Washington, DC when a hot, smart man sat down beside him. Due to a shortage of hymnals they had to share. The touch of one hand on the other in that moment was electric. Sparks flew that day. Though neither had planned it, they spent the day together followed by the night. From that day, for more than three decades they’ve rarely been separated, each finding in the other their soul mate.
In the District of Columbia, where they lived, marriage became possible in early March 2010. The minute it happened they were in line to get a marriage license, only to be stumped because the license required the name of the person who was going to marry them. There was such a sudden rush of same sex couples wanting to get married that the office already had a two-month backlog before an appointment could be secured. Since they weren’t at all convinced that the Congress wasn’t going to step in and do something stupid to take away this right, they started calling everywhere to find someone who would marry them. It might be legal, but finding someone to marry them was proving to be a challenge.
When an article appeared in the newspaper telling of a small, local United Methodist Church that had decided to go against general church policy because marriage equality mattered deeply to them, a conversation started. After a series of emails and phone calls, suddenly they were seated with two retired UMC ministers who were willing to risk it all to do the right thing. A few days later, license in hand, surrounded by a handful of friends and their best dog, Shadow, they were finally legally married.