Two boys from the deep south, two musicians / singers, two different upbringings with different outcomes. Mark just loved this story as it shows how strong we sometimes have to be to go our own way, breaking the shackles of our background and upbringing in order to find the ultimate happiness. A story that shows us some of the more bigoted aspects of growing up gay. What are you waiting for? Check out Mark’s review, read the excerpt and enter the giveaway!
Have a Little Faith In Me by Brad Vance
Title: Have a Little Faith In Me
Author: Brad Vance
Release: 28th January 2015
Genre: M/M (contemporary)
When Rocky met Dex, it was hate at first sight. Country superstar Dex Dexter represented everything that budding rock star Rocky McCoy had left behind him in the Deep South – the religion, the homophobia, the hypocrisy, the lies. And Rocky represented everything that Dex had denied, had turned away from, had refused…
When Rocky met Dex, it was love at first touch. Double booked in the same slot on the main stage at CrossFest, they fought for the microphone like two dogs fighting over a bone. And when their hands met…
Rocky has had enough. “No more falling for straight guys. No way. No matter how hot. Especially if the ‘straight guy’ looks to me like a major closet case.”
Dex has had enough. “No way. I can’t be gay. I can’t lose my family, my friends, my career. I can’t.”
What they’ve had enough of doesn’t matter. It’s what they’ve never had enough of that will bring them together…
I love stories about characters that have really had to fight to escape their backgrounds in order to find real freedom and happiness. This is the case with Rocky and Dex, both musicians who as kids, then teenagers, grow up in the deep south and although coming from very different backgrounds are still similar in many ways.
They both first meet at a music festival and there cause a scene that soon becomes a media highlight for all the wrong reasons. Rocky is out, but Dex isn’t although Rocky immediately picks up on the fact that Dex is an extreme closet case.
After this we are taken back and read about their upbringing. Rocky is the son of an extremely bigoted minister and Dex the eldest son from a family that really can’t be called anything else but white trash. The one thing they both have in common though is their love for music and this initially takes them on very different paths.
For me Rocky was the more rebellious one and at the beginning and had the stronger personality. He seemed to question more the reason for things compared to Dex. His father is a minister but of the religious nutcase kind in my books, all fire, brimstone, hell, damnation and gays are sinners; therefore he doesn’t have it easy at home. However, he is an only child and his grandmother thank goodness was at least a little more understanding and acted as a buffer many a time between Rocky and his father. As I was reading this the one message that was clear for me was how the attitudes and intolerance of some people are just so bigoted and all in the name of religion. Although in the public eye Rocky’s father represents and talks about what perfect family life is supposed to be, there was definitely no love for Rocky at home behind closed doors. Hypocrisy at its worst. Rocky’s father obviously portrays an extreme, but to think of having a father like this just made me so mad. Rocky manages to escape by going to College and there he finds his freedom at last but has to make up for lost time quickly.
Dex is the eldest son in his family, both parents having no time for their children and therefore by default tries to make sure his younger brothers and sisters are cared for. Again his family being just as bigoted in their attitudes towards homosexuality as anyone else but maybe without the extreme religious angle from Rocky’s father.
Everyone, everything, said NO to what he wanted to say, to do. Nobody’s immune to the culture around them. It soaks into you in ways you can’t even see, even as you declare yourself free of it.
Well, both guys manage to escape their backgrounds but at different times and different ways. At College Rocky finds his freedom and forms a band. Dex gets discovered by a record label magnet for country music. I liked the balance a lot here Rocky was able to find his freedom in his music and became famous through his own creative power. Dex’s musical career took a different path where he became a “product” more or less for the record label doing their bidding. Dex plays the game as he sees it as a way of lifting his family out of the slums, not for the sake of his parents but for his siblings to make sure they get a better future. I found this very admirable in one respect as Dex had to put is own happiness second to ensure the future of his siblings, but this keeps him firmly banged up in the closet.
He was dying inside and he knew it. He wondered what kind of soul you could still have if you denied yourself love your whole life.
I also loved the way that you get to feel Dex’s anguish, constantly denying himself that one thing that could make him happy. The internal struggle between letting the dam break and being true to yourself, or keeping it all pent up and hoping that a good portion of “pray the gay away” will help. This for me was actually heart-breaking to read, to think that anyone could put themselves through this just for the sake of keeping up appearances. In the end that dam breaks and even I got such relief at Dex’s coming out. I could just feel a whole weight lifted off my shoulders too. It sill takes a lot of courage even today depending on family attitudes and that is probably the most difficult thing; the fear of being excommunicated from your family.
This book for me was a story about two boys who have had to battle the most awful bigotry imaginable in order to find their final happiness. They do and it is a perfect HEA. Leaves me wondering though how many never really manage to break that mould and quite possibly remain miserable and closet cases for the rest of their lives. It shows the reader the struggles that a lot of gay men and women have to go through. Not only the external ones of having to fight against the attitudes of others but also the internal emotional struggles as well. When you know you can’t conform to what every one is telling you what you should be. Casting off the chains that bind you, accepting who you really are and not listening to those who don’t have your best interests at heart.
Dex grinned from ear to ear, and tipped his black cowboy hat to the crowd. “Thank you, Jackson! Now…I know what y’all are waitin’ for.”
The crowd screamed. Dex and the Delta Devils had run through about 2/3rds of their playlist, mostly B-sides. They’d just performed “39.5,” the song that Sam Griggs had discouraged him from recording…until Dex had decided, to hell with Sam Griggs, and to hell with the big machine, and started playing it live.
The song had become a blue collar anthem, the sort of songwriting that makes critics stop sneering, at least for a moment. It was hard to get it played on the radio on a lot of country stations, because as one station programmer said, “it sounds like Socialism to me.” Others said, “You tryin’ to be the Dixie Chicks or something, stir up trouble?”
But all he had to do was grin and break into his hits. “I’m a Gonna” was one of those songs that, under the surface, was deep and profound, but on the surface was so rockin’ and funny and danceable that nobody noticed if they didn’t want to. Like the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” or Gang of Four’s “I Love a Man in a Uniform,” the audience was free to ignore the message and just rock out.
Fame was power, Dex had discovered. And fame meant that he could say “fuck you” to Sam Griggs…from time to time. It meant he could test out songs onstage that Sam had said “no” to, and see how they went over.
Fame also meant a “get out of jail free” card when he needed it. He couldn’t say why he did it – why he went out to shitty bars where his famous face and his big build would get him challenged by some dumbass. Why he relished it, why he was so exhilarated in those moments when the two of them headed out to the alley, a crowd in tow, to punch and crunch and smash…
He had an anger in him he didn’t have a name for. A sense that something had been stolen, something had been lost, and it was someone’s fault, and someone had to pay. Anyone.
He closed the set with a roaring finish, making sure they were pumped up by “Six Pack, Four Wheels, Two Dogs.” That song was all the more popular because it had been denounced by the humorless for “encouraging drunk driving.”
“Maybe we should ban brooms,” Dex had responded, “so that kids don’t try and imitate Harry Potter and try and fly off the roof.”
“Thank you! Goodnight!” he said, thrusting his guitar in the air. Of course it wasn’t really goodnight – just part of the ritual, in which the audience would stomp and cheer for an encore.
Sam was waiting for him in the wings. “Dex, I just saw your set list. That encore song…that’s not…”
“Sam,” Dex said firmly. “Here’s the deal. I did the Charlotte thing. Now you leave me alone.”
“I’m just trying to help you out here, son…”
Dex turned away, fuming. He was learning to do that. To just…walk away from these situations.
He was a millionaire now. His family was taken care of. He could do anything he wanted. Well, almost…
He and the band went back onstage for the encore, the screams getting louder.
“This is a change of pace for us, I hope you like it.” He had wanted to cover this song on an album, but Sam had rejected it as “too gay.”
“This is not your brand, Dex,” Janet said. “Your brand is…”
“I’m not a brand, dammit. I’m not a…box of cereal. That you open up and every time you pour it out, you get the same damn cereal. I’m not gonna spend my life makin’ the same damn cereal, every day for the rest of my life. That’s not me.”
She shook her head. “Dex, Dex, Dex. That is what people want. The same damn cereal, every time they open that box, every day, forever. They don’t want it to change.”
That day, Dex went out and got his first tattoos. If he was just a bowl of cereal, he was going to redesign the fucking box himself.
He started to play the song, its light and happy melody in contradiction to the melancholy words.
Ooh! Get me away from here I'm dying
Play me a song to set me free
Nobody writes them like they used to
So it may as well be me
He loved the Belle and Sebastian song. Its lyrics spoke to him as a musician, as a man, as…someone who’d once, just once, almost been a lover.
He closed his eyes when he sung it. It was a cry from the heart, the song’s refrain the truth, the real truth, of his life. He was dying, inside, and he knew it.
This was the moment, the only moment, in which he could unlock the door. Go in to the room. Where someone was waiting for him, with a smiling face, a kind word, a warm embrace…
Alex. The only person he’d ever really loved. Who he’d turned away from, for…this. To save his family, to make his way in the world, to…to save his soul, too, he supposed. Though more and more often these days, he wondered what kind of soul you could still have if you denied yourself love your whole life.
Slowly, methodically, deliberately, he’d cut Alex out of his life. After he got to Nashville, he made their phone calls shorter, took longer to return Alex’s messages, then failed to return them at all.
I can’t. I can’t be gay. I can’t do it. To acknowledge Alex’s existence was to acknowledge his own desires. To blot out Alex was to blot out the gayness in himself.
It was funny. He and Alex had smoked pot and listened to that album over and over. “If You’re Feeling Sinister” was one of Alex’s favorites. He hadn’t thought of it in years, until the day that Sam and Janet had laid down the law, just a few days before this concert.
“Dex, there’s someone we want you to meet. You know who Charlotte Deakins is?”
“Yeah, I know her,” Dex said. Charlotte was one of the promising young singers in the Griggs stable.
“Good. We’ve set the two of you up on a date tonight.”
Sam raised a warning hand, steel in his eyes. “Now listen to me,” he said, his voice as sharp as a razor. “It’s time you paired off. Country fans want to see a family man up onstage. Either that…”
“My dad’s a family man,” Dex retorted. “And he’s a fucked up piece of shit. Gettin’ married and poppin’ out kids doesn’t make you a family man.”
“Either that, or a cocksman. And. You’re not dating. You’re not fucking strippers. And, you’re not Jesus Boy, either, savin’ yourself for the Right One. So…the question arises, Dex...”
Sam let the question hang in the air.
Dex read his meaning. He opened his mouth to say something. He looked at Sam and Janet. In that moment, he knew that they knew. How, he didn’t know. Or was it just his stubborn celibacy, his refusal to be what he wasn’t?
Janet stepped in, playing good cop. “You don’t have to knock her up, Dex. Just go out with her. See how it goes. I think you’ll have a good time. We’re not setting you up to be miserable here, you know.”
Dex nodded glumly. It was true. He’d reached that level of success in country music where attaining the next level meant getting on the cover of “Who’s Pregnant” magazine, which could only be accomplished through a “date and mate” synergy with some other star.
“Okay. I’ll go to dinner with her. But that’s it.”
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GOOD LUCK X