Beaten Track Publishing, $0.99
Contemporary Romance, 2014
Amelia Mann’s Always Have, Always Will presents a different kind of premise, for once, as the protagonist, Jayden, is already in a relationship with Gabriel for fourteen years and counting. They have even adopted two kids. Things get shook up in this one when Jay experienced a blood clot that sent him into a coma for a few days, and having a brush with possible death makes him reevaluate his life choices. He has always refused to marry Gabriel, because his mother is a serial divorcée and this soured his perspective on marriage. However, his MIA father turns out to be gay, and hence, all the glorious gayness in the universe finally convinces Jay to take the plunge, the end.
You know, for all the claims of diversity in such stories, I always wonder why authors like Amelia Mann make their gay characters behave like straight people, with the implication that something is seriously lacking in a gay relationship unless everyone involved in it conforms to how straight people handle their relationships. To be fair to the author, the legal protections afforded by a marriage are also brought up – this story takes place in New Jersey, where gay marriage is legal by the time this story was published – but that issue is merely a side note. The bigger implication is that without a ring on the finger, the relationship will always have a chink that keeps it from being perfect.
I’d have the same issue if this had been a straight couple. Jay and Gabriel have a sickeningly perfect relationship that comes complete with creepily loving kids and supportive family members, so their love story is already perfect. So what if they aren’t married? They hadn’t been for fourteen years, so what’s the big deal about needing to get married now? The whole angst about marriage, or the lack of one, feels super contrived, as if the author couldn’t think of any other plot for this story.
Leaving aside that, this story is written in such a way that I feel like I’ve accidentally crashed into the middle of a conversation by people I don’t know. For a long time, I wonder whether this is some kind of epilogue to a longer, previously published story, but it doesn’t seem to be the case. As I turn the page, I wonder whether I am supposed to care for these cardboard characters who seem to be merely going through the motions of pretending to be human beings. These people don’t talk like normal people, they spout off mawkish paragraphs like greeting cards flapping in the wind, and the overwhelming saccharine feel of the story feels cloying after a while. The epilogue is especially sickening – these people, supposedly average types, end up floating on some boat in exotic lands, with everyone having perfect, perfect happy endings. Even that brat of these men manages to nab an exotic English girlfriend.
I don’t know what Always Have, Always Will is supposed to be. The whole thing feels more like a self-indulgent scribbling of a fanfiction writer, with the serial numbers filed off for publication. In fact, if it had been outright fanfiction, I could use my knowledge of the characters Jay and Gabriel were supposed to be to fill in the huge blanks in these characters’ personalities, and this story would feel more whole, complete. In its current form, it’s one of those things that have more sentimental value for the author rather than the reader.