River of Tears

Harry Hamlin: Shameless; Review: River of Tears by Michele L. Montgomery

Before I get into my review of “River of Tears,” by Michele L. Montgomery, I wanted to mention something about actor Harry Hamlin who is now playing an interesting role on the TV show, “Shameless.”

Hamlin has been around for a while, and he’s starred in several projects that have gay themes. In “Shameless,” he plays the wealthy father of Steve/Jimmy, who is also having a down-low sexual relationship with Steve/Jimmy’s girlfriend’s younger brother, Ian. You can read more about “Shameless,” here. I find the way they handle the gay characters is superior to any of the network shows. They are just gay and they are there. You don’t see a lot of political nonsense, stereotypes, or trendy bullshit. In other words, they make gay normal without trying too hard to make it the NEW normal…pardon the shameless puns.

In any event, I find it interesting that Hamlin (who is straight, and very fine, indeed) is playing a part like this in “Shameless,” because of a former role he played in the older gay film, “Making Love.” I was only a kid at the time, but I remember the controversy this film created.

According to gay film historian Vito Russo‘s book The Celluloid Closet, straight critics found the film boring while gay critics, glad for any attention paid to the subject, praised it. Making Love opened strong at the box office its first week, but poor word of mouth led to a large drop-off in box office receipts the following week.

Of course the straight critics didn’t like it. Straight people can’t relate to gay films like this, and these reviews are living proof in black and white. It was one of the first gay films I’d ever seen, and one of the first gay love stories I’d ever seen as well. I loved it. I would even go so far as to say it gave me role models at a time when young gay men didn’t have any. As a side note, Hamlin was younger then and extremely attractive. Trust me, he’s aged very well. I think he’s just as hot today on “Shameless” as he was back then.

Review: River of Tears by Michele L. Montgomery


I’ve read and reviewed this author’s fiction a few times before on this blog, but in all cases, up until now, those books and stories have been M/M Romance. As a M/M Romance author Michele is clearly one of the straight women writing in the genre who really knows how to nail it and get it right. So when she sent me a pre-release copy of “River of Tears,” I was a little apprehensive about reading it because it wasn’t M/M Romance this time. If I had to classify RoT in a bookstore, I would probably put it on the Romantic Suspense section. It is mainstream, with straight main characters, and I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. Authors hop genres all the time, but not all do it well.

In this case, I was nicely suprised. The one thing that is most difficult about writing a review for any of Michele’s books is that they are filled with suspense and surprises and I don’t want to give out any spoilers. In fact, while I’m reading, I sometimes think about how…or if…I’m going to review the book because every other page seems to bring a new surprise. So I will be careful here and I won’t give spoilers.

The central theme of the storyline revolves around Abby, a sweet young women, but just as strong and determined as she is sweet. Abby winds up falling in love with a guy, Caiden, who comes from one of the most insane families I think I have ever read about in my life. The mother-in-law, Joyce, pulls some of the worst things anyone in the history of time has ever pulled on a daughter-in-law. I sat there, with my e-reader, in the middle of the night just re-reading certain things to make sure I got them right.

The rest of the family isn’t much better either. There are siblings that make the worst families look tame. And the things they do to poor Caiden left me stunned. Also, throughout the book, Michele adds bits and pieces of back story that make them all even worse. The things that happened to Caiden alone in his childhood would make most detectives who deal with child abuse sick to their stomachs. But it’s done in a way that leaves you hoping for the best, not focusing on the doom and gloom.

And that’s because of Abby’s inner strength, a strength she often doesn’t even know she has herself. One thing leads to another, and Abby winds up on a quest…or mission…that consumes her entire life. She becomes determiend to save her life, her own family (she has three small kids), and will not stop until she gets answers. It’s been a long time since I’ve read about a character as strong or as tenacious as Abby. She does have support from her own family, which I found to be a nice relief in the book. I think she would have been strong enough to get her life back without all this support, but it was a nice touch to see the family dynamic there as well. I think most of us who are family oriented like these things in novels.

As a side note, the writing was excellent, the editing was articulate, and I didn’t see any of the mistakes I sometimes find in digital books. But even if there had been a few mistakes in formatting…which there weren’t…I would have liked the book just as much because of all the other elements that made it such a good read. The settings are places we would all love to visit someday. I like novels to take me away to different places and I think in this case, with so many serious topics happening, these wonderful settings provided a brief sense of relief at times. It showed me that Abby’s life isn’t all bad, and that she does have so much to fight for.

That’s about all I can do without giving out spoilers. Part of the fun with a book like this is to be suprised all the time. You won’t find a great deal of sex in this book, and yet at the same time I found Caiden both adorable and sexy even though there aren’t any sex scenes. He’s so vulerable and such a nice guy, you just want to protect him from all these vicious people in his life.

I would recommend this book to anyone without thinking twice. I read it in three sittings, very late at night, but I would have loved to have had a chance to read it on one sitting if I’d had the time.

Purchase link from publisher’s web site, here.

Photo of Harry Hamlin, found here.

Harvey Fierstein; "Smash;" Michele L. Montgomery "River of Tears"

I was once lucky enough to be in a book where Harvey Fierstein wrote a foreword. I posted about that here in 2009, and the title of the book was “Best Gay Love Stories 2010,” released through Alyson Publications. It was an ongoing anthology series about gay love and romance Alyson did for several years in a row. I think I was part of several but don’t recall the details right now.

In any event, It was a nice surprise to turn on the TV last night and see Harvey Fierstein in the new NBC TV show, “Smash.” I’m a huge fan and he’s going to be guest-starring all season. I started watching “Smash” by accident last year and wound up loving it. But like a lot of TV shows, I forgot all about it until I saw the title while I was flipping through channels last night. For those who don’t know, this is what “Smash” is all about, from Broadway World:

Smash” is a musical drama that celebrates the beauty and heartbreak of the Broadway theater as it follows a cross-section of dreamers and schemers who all have one common desire – to be a Broadway star.

I’ve posted before about how I’m not the biggest fan of Broadway, or show songs. However, I think this show is different because it doesn’t focus on tired old Broadway shows like West Side Story that have been redone so many times in the past fifty or sixty years. “Smash” is also different because it’s more contemporary and there’s a mixture of characters from gay to straight. The songs won’t make you gag.

And unlike “Glee,” a show I honestly can’t even watch anymore with the fast forward button, the only trendy politics you’ll find in “Smash” has more to do with insider theater industry politics than all those politically correct storylines you’ll find in “Glee.” In other words, it’s not self-indulgent and the characters are likable.

For those who don’t know anything about Harvey Fierstein, shame on you, and here’s a wiki link. I’ve always thought of him more as a gay icon because of all the positive things he’s achieved so far in his life…during a time when it wasn’t easy to achieve these things if you were gay. I’ve also always thought he was one of the artists who revolutionized gay films and plays with “Torch Song Trilogy,” and not that person who wrote the flawed quasi gay romance story about broken backs and mountains in some awful place up in the middle of nowhereland. If you’ve never seen Torch Song, you might want to rent it and check it out. It was the very first play I ever saw where I realized that gay men can have lasting monogamous marriages, and it left a huge impact on me as a young gay man. I also had a good friend in New York who had a chance to invest in it and he didn’t.

Harvey Forbes Fierstein (born June 6, 1954) is an American actor and playwright, noted for the distinction of winning Tony Awards for both writing and originating the lead role in his long-running play Torch Song Trilogy, about a gay drag-performer and his quest for true love and family, as well as writing the award-winning book to the musical La Cage aux Folles. He has since become a champion for gay civil rights.
 
Michele L. Montgomery’s New Release with Silver Stream Press:
 
 
 
I’ve read and reviewed Michele’s gay romantic fiction before on this blog, and the one thing I’ve always found in her books is the element of surprise. Seriously. I can never predict what’s going to happen from one page to the next, and it’s almost impossible to write a review because I don’t want to give spoilers.
 
And now she has a book out with SP Silver Publishing titled, “River of Tears.”  I will be reading it and writing more about it in the future. As a side note, though I’ve never worked with Silver Publishing, I have read many of their books and I’ve always enjoyed them. It’s the overall feel of a publisher I like sometimes, and I’ve always thought Silver did things a little differently than others. And, once again, I never found them to be too political or self-indulgent. It’s all about the fiction.
 
From Silver’s Blog:
 

Michele L. Montgomery is an American writer of GLBT fiction. Her available works include Lethal Obsession: Tony & Ryan, Lethal Obsession: Caged, Lies of Omission, DAMMIT!, and X Bar. She wrote River of Tears, a work of Contemporary fiction.

Michele runs a review site called Top 2 Bottom Reviews. She lives in Colorado surrounded by the beautiful wonders of the mountains, her family, and her pets. Abby is a Golden Retriever, and Skyler is a Chesapeake Bay retriever who should have been named Linus because he drags a blanket around with him wherever he goes.

Michele has a very serious on-going relationship with her coffee pot, which keeps her company from the time she gets up until the time she goes to bed, and to fill in the gaps, she is obsessed with KitKats, Twix, and Haribo Gummy Bears.

Here’s a description of “River of Tears:”

 
River of Tears is about a woman’s struggle as she searches for her missing husband, which leads to shocking revelations about him, his family, and the crime of adult kidnapping.

Abby meets Caiden when she is sixteen years old at nineteen they marry and after seven years of marriage it ends. She is left alone with her children and the bloody clothes Caiden was last seen in.

Knowing her husband isn’t dead, Abby begins a search that takes her from Arizona to Arkansas and lasts for a span of eight years.

More determined than ever to locate her husband, before he’s killed, Abby hires a private investigator who opens the doors to Caiden’s private world of hell.

 
The release date will be February 16, 2013, and you can order it here. From what I’m gathering Silver Publishing is launching a new imprint, “Silver Stream Press,” where they will focus on fiction in various genres. You can also read more about Silver Publishing and Sliver Stream Press here.