OMG!! Lisa & Mark just LOVED this book from Melissa Collins. It left them with a book hangover for days and put them through a whole gamut of emotions. Read their review to find out why they are still talking about this book days later.
Also Melissa is with us at Sinfully HQ talking about why Gay is The New Black so check out what she means by this and don’t forget to enter the giveaway for your chance to win an ebook copy of Let Love Live
Gay Romances: More Important Than Sex
Following the ideas I posted in a prior article “Gay is the New Black”, I wanted to add to it and share with you why I feel the LGBT sub-genre is more important than sex and entertainment.
When I was younger, my mom had friends who were lesbians. I didn’t know what the label meant at the time. I just knew that Carol and Jo-Jo were always together. They were awesome. They were fun to play with and when they babysat me and my younger brother, we always had a blast. Looking back on it, I guess I knew they were “together” in some capacity, but sex wasn’t something I knew about yet, so for me, they just were.
Of course I eventually learned about sex and about what being gay meant. Funny anecdote: I remember watching some after school special where a young boy talks about another man trying to have sex with him. I asked my mom’s best friend how that was possible. She was so shocked by my question, her only response was, “Go ask your mother.” Now, I never asked my mom and I never talked to her about sex or homosexuality with her, because I didn’t feel the need to. It’s not that it was some kind of taboo topic of which I was forbidden to speak. It was more that, somewhere along the line, I’d made the decision that it didn’t matter. People have often said I have an old soul, so even at a young age, and even though my high school was as “the same” as one could be, I knew that what or who someone else loved only mattered to them. Drawing from my experiences with Carol and Jo-Jo from when I was younger, I knew that as long as someone was a good person, it didn’t matter who they had sex with.
Fast forward to college. The first day I met my roommate her sister walked in the room first (I had already moved in) and she said “This is Shelena. You know she’s gay, right?” I didn’t. Somewhere in the “you bring the mini-fridge and I’ll bring the microwave” conversation, our sexual orientations didn’t come up. All I did was shrug, say, “Hi. I’m Melissa and I’m straight.” Looking back, I can’t imagine how nervous she must have been to share that piece of information with me. Here we both were in a brand new setting, leaving behind all that was familiar, and she had this added burden of being worried about being accepted. I’m proud to say Shelena was recently married. She and her wife are a wonderful couple. They’re people I’m proud to know.
My cousin is also a lesbian. She and her wife are currently expecting a baby boy and I am so thrilled for them. I’m sure they get looks from people, cringe-worthy stares, but they love each other so much that they wanted to have a baby together and share that love with him. You know what? There are some straight parents who could learn a thing or two from them.
A few weeks ago, I shared an UpWorthy video on my Facebook page.
I was so touched by the video that I was moved to tears. The purpose of it was to show that LOVE IS LOVE! But it wasn’t only an LGBT video. There were interracial couples, two gay fathers and their son, an older couple, a sister hugging her sister who happened to have Downs Syndrome. In short, it was beautiful.
A pastor made a comment on my Facebook post that “Love is love, but sin is still sin.”
*Disclaimer – This was a post from one pastor and I, in no way, am grouping all religious leaders into his category of comments.
I saw red. Not only because the video was about so much more than just being gay, but because even if it had been, who are you to marginalize a group of people while you hide behind your beliefs as a means to voice your bigotry and hatred?
This brings me to my point about why I love writing gay romances so much. Writing in this genre is in some way giving a voice to a group of people who have fought for far too long to have one of their own. I’m not delusional. I don’t think I have that far of a reach, but if I can reach one person who may be struggling then I feel like I’ve done more than write a book. If I can help someone re-evaluate their prejudices, then that’s freaking amazing.
As a parent, I teach my children everyone is different. Just because they’re different from you, does not mean they are better or worse. As a teacher (and yes, I still teach – high school English – and I write gay romances), I try to instill the same values in my students.
For me, gay romances are so much more than just sex – though, I’m certainly not complaining about that part. They are about making the world a more loving, understanding, and compassionate place, one book at a time.
Let Love Live by Melissa Collins
Title: Let Love Live
Author: Melissa Collins
Publisher: Melissa Collins
Release: 5th July 2014
Genre: M/M (contemporary)
Who would you become if you lost the only person who ever mattered?
For twenty-six year old Dylan Hopkins, the answer is easy. He’s become no one. Memories of the happier times are all he has left as he finds himself meandering numbly through his now dull life. Though he cares about his work and family dearly, he’s yet to let himself find love again. Afraid of letting go of what he once had, Dylan chooses to keep his heart buried, where it belongs, having died a long time ago.
Conner Michelson is about to change everything Dylan knows. He’s every bit the bad boy persona - tatted up, ex-MMA fighter, but after an injury leaves him unable to fight, he has to rethink his goals. Having just opened his own gym, Conner can cross his first major life accomplishment off his very short list. Next up: find a man he can settle down with and build a family. Seems simple enough - a dream most people have, but when he meets Dylan, his carefree, easy-going life is thrown into a tailspin.
Determined to keep Dylan in his life, Conner vows to resurrect Dylan's long ago buried heart and let love live once more.
Lisa’s and Mark’s Review
“For those who deserve to be loved….no matter who they love.”
Lisa: Let Love Live by Melissa Collins is book five in her Love series. This also marks the first M/M book in this series and can most definitely be read as a stand-alone romance. What an absolutely wonderful, heart-breaking and emotional read this turned out to be! This is a tale that took a hold of my heart in a vice-like grip right from the beginning and it was only when I read the very last word that I could finally breathe once again and exhale. I could not help falling in love with all three men that this story is centered around. This is not a ménage book for those of you wondering about the “three” men I just mentioned. Instead, it is a book divided up into two very powerful parts. Seriously, I am still reeling and trying to sort my head when it comes to all that this author made me feel with this one. Phew! How did you feel about this one, Mark? What did you think about the overall story arc and the fact that it is broken up into two parts?
Mark: I thought dividing the book into two parts with a gap of eight years between each part was perfect. You could really get a feeling for how Dylan’s guilt had followed him for such a long time changing him completely from the confident, young and carefree man he was with Shane when we meet him in part one compared to all the issues he had to overcome in part two in order to find his HEA with Connor. In part one I reckon I ran the whole gamut of emotions with Dylan’s and Shane’s story until I was left bereft and sobbing into my Kindle at the end of part one. Wishing and willing both Dylan and Connor to overcome their issues to fight for their HEA by part two. And when they do finally make it, I can still feel the elation I had for both of them but also the bittersweet end to Shane’s story. Once again Melissa writes alternating chapters from each character’s POV which is something that sits very well with me personally as a reader as I feel you get a very balanced view.
Lisa: The first part of the book is about Dylan Hopkins and Shane Connely, two best friends who are in their final year of high school. Both are popular athletes who seem to have it all together. However, behind their cool and collected exteriors are two boys struggling to come to grips with who they are. Shane and his brother Reid are being raised in a home that is full of verbal and physical abuse, suffering at the hands of a tyrant father. Shane is struggling with so much internally, afraid that if he admits out loud what his deepest desires are and who he believes he truly is that his world will come to an end. Dylan comes from a loving home with supportive and loving parents so coming to the realization that he is gay and admitting it to himself is a much easier process for him.
“I was too afraid to let my guard down. Too afraid to numb the pain. Because if the pain was numbed, then what else would I have.” ~Shane
“We’re still us. Just more honest now.” ~Dylan to Shane
“I’ve never been happier than when I’m with you. You’ve given me a piece of myself I didn’t even know was there. I knew it existed, but I just didn’t know how to let it. I can’t ever repay that. But I can give you me. I can give you all of me because that’s all I have.” ~Shane to Dylan
Dylan and Shane slowly awaken something in each other and their relationship as best friends moves into a new and petrifying territory. High school is so tough. It is hard to be a teen much less one that is struggling with self-identity issues. The feelings being experienced and issues at hand must seem so insurmountable. Shane held my heart in the palm of his hands. Holy, did I ever feel for him. I am not sure if a character has ever made my heart ache so badly. I wanted to hug him and offer him the comfort that he so desperately needed. While Dylan is ready to tell the world about who he is and confess his feelings for his best friend, Shane struggles with how to express all that is causing him such huge internal turmoil. Despite all this, the love they shared was so beautiful and pure. What Dylan and Shane go through, particularly Shane, evoked such a plethora of emotions from me. I was saddened, then happy, angry, heart-broken, and I wanted so badly for things to have worked out differently. What happens is a real issue amongst gay teens (and adults) I am sure, and it needs to stop. So much more could have been done. I am trying to write this review without giving too much away. What did you think about Dylan and Shane’s story, Mark? I am absolutely positive that, like me, you were powerfully affected. Am I right?
Mark: “Powerfully affected” for me is an understatement, Lisa - lol! As I already mentioned I was left utterly bereft at the whole pointlessness and hopelessness of the situation, especially Shane’s. In part one I relived my own insecurities and issues once again as a teenager that many gay teens have. Melissa does such an excellent job with this. Oh to be able to go back in time and talk to my teenage self and tell him that it’ll all be alright, don’t be afraid, things will get better. I so wanted to do this for Shane, tell him to be strong and everything will be OK in the end. But the pull of families no matter how bad they are is still a very difficult thing to break away from. It also shows us how much difference a family can make when having to deal with these issues. Dylan’s family is loving and supportive, so although he is a little insecure, he is able to come to terms, accept and be happy. Thank goodness so were mine. Shane’s family was to say the least completely the opposite, well in particular his father. I HATED him!! Such men should be locked up for domestic violence. However it also shows us the more horrible effect of how such objectionable people still get away with it as all the self confidence that anyone possesses is systematically beaten out of them and in due course become a victim of their own circumstances starting to believe what they are being told and that is they are worthless. I not only felt for Shane whose situation was made even worse with him being gay, but also his younger brother Reid who he loved so much and also his mum. Shane was so in love with Dylan and he became Shane’s comfort zone a place where he could, at least while he was with Dylan, be happy for a few precious moments. Even today I’m afraid too many gay teenagers suffer Shane’s fate and I cried a mountain by the time I got to the end of part one. I’m actually still choking up thinking about it while writing this review.
This should not be allowed to happen and I can only hope that anyone who suspects this kind of thing is taking place somewhere with someone they know that they are brave enough to report it and not turn a blind eye. It’s not always easy to do this as Dylan shows us, wanting to respect Shane's wishes, but he regretted it for a very long time after.
Lisa: The second part of this story involves an older Dylan, a twenty-six year old Dylan to be exact, and Conner Michelson who is a twenty-nine year old ex-MMA fighter who has recently opened his own fitness gym. Eight long years have passed since what transpired between Dylan and Shane took place. Dylan still has not really moved on and is carrying around a whole lot of guilt. He is no longer the same easy-going and carefree guy that he was back in high school. Now, Dylan is someone who is standoffish and unwilling to get too emotionally attached to anyone. Conner has also had his share of hurt and disappointments in his life. Opening his own gym was a turning point for him and he feels like he is ready to move forward with his life, find someone special and settle down.
“Being able to forgive myself is going to be the only thing that will let me move on and maybe possibly be happy once again.”
“Come on, Dylan. I won’t bite.” He winks before adding. “Unless you want me to, but that’s more of a third date revelation.” ~Conner to Dylan
When Dylan meets Conner the attraction is most definitely there. As both men harmlessly flirt and move into a somewhat fragile relationship, Dylan discovers that for the first time since Shane he wants something more with someone. However, is he even capable of opening himself up and becoming vulnerable again? Conner treaded carefully when it came to Dylan but he also was not one to allow himself to be kept at a distance. Either he and Dylan were going to try or he would walk away. I loved that. Conner was simply the right person to help Dylan finally get to the point where he was ready to move forward and be happy.
Mark: The first thing that I loved about part two was to find out how Reid and Dylan are now so close as friends, they are really like brothers. They are also counsellors in the gay-straight alliance for high schools. I thought this was a wonderful character development as this gives them both their chance to make the world a better place in their own way. No one should suffer like Shane did. And who better to be counsellors than people who have experienced such atrocities first hand. Although the one big difference is that Reid has moved on, is married with a family, but Dylan still has issues and can’t get past his guilt. Even Reid sees this and tries to make him realise he needs to start to move on himself. However, Dylan finds this more difficult than Reid and when Dylan goes to a therapist and we hear about what happened when he got home after that fatal argument with Shane, how he was treated by Shane’s father, how he wasn’t allowed to say goodbye to Shane. My heart just broke all over again! SHIT, no wonder the guy had issues. I would have too. Yep, choking up again!
However, when Reid and Dylan go to the opening of a new Gym and the manager, Connor, stumbles across Dylan in the doorway then the attraction is immediately there.
Lisa: The romance between Dylan and Conner was sweet and passionate. I loved how they both simply fell for one another. It was not easy and they both find themselves being thrown off kilter; however, what they shared was beautifully messy, honest and something worth fighting for. I think Conner came into Dylan’s life at exactly the right moment. Dylan had hit a fork in the dark and dismal road he was travelling. He could continue wallowing in his pain and misery or he could seek the appropriate help and take steps to move on with his life. I think Conner and the promise of what they could have were the little push that Dylan needed. Conner was someone who brought light and happiness into Dylan’s world and it was that beautiful light that was calling him and led him to take the right path.
Mark: Well Lisa, when I learnt about what Connor had been through and considering the issues Dylan is fighting I always ask myself whether two damaged souls can really be good for each other. Can two wrongs make a right so to say? Well, Connor's and Dylan’s story is certainly not without it’s ups and downs, but thank goodness Connor is a patient and loving man who sees what Dylan must be going through, sees through the pain and guilt and knows that he is worth fighting for. But as you said Lisa, Connor, just like Reid, have moved on and now it’s Dylan’s time to do the same otherwise he’ll never find that happiness that he is looking for. It is a painful road he has to travel but I felt Connor was just so right for him even if at first Dylan wasn’t prepared to let Connor into his heart. Dylan had loved once and got his heart broken in the most imaginable way possible and I could feel that angst of not wanting to have your heart broken like that again. But constantly pushing people away and not taking the risk that you could possibly be hurt again will never lead to anything that is wholesome and loving. It was as though Dylan had been constantly punishing himself for everything that had happened. However, in Connor he finds someone who isn’t going to give up that easily, maybe he finds his forgiveness somehow in Connor, and a big sigh of relief from me when Dylan takes that leap of faith and opens his heart up to Connor.
Lisa: All in all, Let Love Live is one of those books that will stay with me for quite some time. I was so deeply affected by what I read and have been unable to leave the story and the emotions it evoked in me behind. One character in this book that I adored was Reid, Shane’s brother. He played a big part in both stories. I will have to now go back and read his story which is told in the earlier books in this series. Melissa Collins has truly written a remarkable book which is a MUST READ for all lovers of romance.
Mark: Ditto Lisa!! I couldn’t agree more. This book for me was a lot more than just the sum of its parts. A book that sent me on an emotional roller-coaster ride but also a critical look at some of the issues we still need to address in our society even today if we’re ever going to make it a better place. A book that will stay with me also for a very long time and yes like you I can only recommend it to anyone out there. If you haven’t read this book yet then make the time and MAKE SURE YOU READ IT! And for all those teenagers out there struggling to come to terms with all those emotions you feel afraid to express. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! – Please talk to someone.
Melissa Collins has always been a book worm. Studying Literature in college ensured that her nose was always stuck in a book. She followed her passion for reading to the most logical career choice: English teacher. Her hope was to share her passion for reading and the escapism of books to her students. Having spent more than a decade in front of a classroom, she can easily say that it’s been a dream.
Her passion for writing didn’t start until more recently. When she was home on maternity leave in early 2012, she read her first romance novel and her head filled with the passion, angst and laughter of the characters who she read about it. It wasn’t long before characters of her own took shape in her mind. Their lives took over Melissa’s brain and The Love Series was born.
Connect with the Author
Melissa wil be giving away one ebook copy of Let Love Live to one lucky winner. Just enter the Rafflecopter draw below for your chance to win.
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