Author ~ Drew Hamilton
Published ~ 29th October 2015
Genre ~ Fantasy/Paranormal M/M Romance
Max Carter wanted to follow in his parents footsteps and serve in the Army since he was a little boy. As he got older, he was worried about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but it wasn’t insurmountable, because he didn’t have a boyfriend and nobody had ever accused him of being gay. It would be his little secret.
Max met Sam in his sophomore year at the University of Colorado. They didn’t meet in the traditional way—they dreamt about each other for months before Sam moved to Boulder.
This is the story of their commitment to each other, their country and the higher power who brought them together for a mission they never considered.
This book is a work of M/M fiction with language and situations suitable for adults only.
Drew Hamilton is a relatively new author. He seemed to pop up out of nowhere, a surprisingly confident and passionate young novelist. He’s already way beyond the majority of gay romance writers, an author who produces superb and profoundly moving books - inventive and creative gay fiction that touches the soul.
“Boulder Boys, Max & Sam” is a perfect example. At first, I saw it as a light fantasy about two boys in love. Then I feared it was one of those endless epics (it covers almost a decade). It’s neither. What it is, is a remarkable book that defies and transcends its genre. It addresses big issues: life, death, and beyond, overcoming evil with love and compassion, and loves both fated and well-earned. It’s a spiritual book, one with a vision of Heaven, not as a place of judgment, fire and brimstone, but a gentle and generous alternate dimension of compassion that provides loving guidance and the reassurance of eternal life.
Don’t let my description put you off. This is not really a paranormal or religious book. It’s a damned good tale of authentic, colorful and empathetic characters, of families that love and families that hate, of redemption, not just of the main characters, but potentially, of all humankind.
The protagonists are a handful of boys in the process of growing into admirable young men. The book starts with just two brothers, Max and Morgan, recently relocated to Boulder, Colorado by their loving parents. Their dad is a former drill-sergeant who builds cabinets in a home woodworking shop, their mother a respected psychiatrist. Though the boys are often mistaken for twins, Max is more than a year older than Morgan and they’re best friends who room together, by choice, in a basement bedroom. Mr. Hamilton has written some charming, snarky, brotherly dialogue, always careful to temper the friendly insults with the deep affection and respect that defines them, not just as brothers, but as best friends. These boys are dedicated to each other, two good boys, boys any parent would be proud to call their sons. And they are both gay.
Max has a secret. He has been dreaming of a beautiful young man for years. He is the “imaginary friend” of his most private dreams, a phantasm so real that Max can’t really accept that he’s a figment of his horny imagination. As it turns out, he’s not. One day, a young man comes knocking on his door in response to an ad his father posted for a workshop assistant, and Max is stunned. It’s the boy from his dream, real, live and standing, in the flesh, at Max’s front door. Sam’s jaw drops just as Max’s does – they both know immediately that they have been dreaming of each other for years. It’s fate, kismet, dreams made flesh. Sam is hired by Max and Morgan’s dad and Sam and Max become lovers – each other’s first.
The other main character is the haunted Buchanan house, a fire-ravaged and abandoned mansion right out of the Gilded Age. Rumor has it that two boys died in the house in a murder-suicide. Although it’s been declared off-limits by their parents, Max and Morgan are inquisitive young men and there’s no way they can resist the temptation to explore it.
What they find at the house astonishes them. Though the exterior is a deteriorating disaster, left to the elements for too many years, the back yard features a pristine pool, a patio surrounded by marble balusters, an immaculate kitchen with shiny modern appliances, refrigerators stocked with an endless supply of fresh food, and cabinets replete with freshly-washed plates, silverware, pots and pans. Yet no one lives there. Oddly enough, the weather at the house is always temperate, the sky always clear and blue, and time seems to stop when they are there. It doesn’t just seem to stop, it actually stops.
Then there is Jason. A vivacious, wise and energetic young man who seems to appear out of nowhere, a young man with the remarkable talent of making anything the boys want materialize out of thin air. One of the most remarkable things he provides is an express track to the house. In their dreams, Jason comes to both Sam and Max and tells them to go into their closets and close the door. When they do, they both appear, together, at the mansion. Since time stops when they’re there, no one even knows they’ve been gone.
Jason works for “upstairs” and has come to make a deal with Max, Sam, Morgan and Morgan’s new boyfriend, Nate. They will have free reign of the house, and all it offers, as long as they follow certain basic rules. They are given a grave responsibility - the bosses “upstairs” want them to cleanse the stain from the house and the land it sits upon. Many years ago, young native “Two-Spirit” boys, who were highly respected, even revered, by their tribe, were literally massacred, on this spot, by the Christian missionaries who found their love to be an abomination. Other gay people died there in the years that followed, and the site can only be purified and redeemed through acts of love, respect and compassion.
That task is both the core and the message of “Boulder Boys, Sam and Max”. The book follows almost ten years of their lives, through school, military training (post 9/11), the pain of Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell, death, separation, meeting the small group of young men who become their lovers and friends, family rejections and religious bigotry. One of the great scenes in the book, is when Jason recounts the tale of Gabe (the Angel Gabriel) telling off a nasty religious bigot for the perverseness of her spiritual convictions, hiding her hatred behind her religion. A little beating of wings and a couple of thunderous warnings turns the dreadful woman’s thinking around. As Jason says “It was taken care of.”
The boys lose some people they love, they find others. They mature and grow, using the house as a way-station for gay ex-military suffering PTSD, and others enduring the heartbreak of being rejected by their families, churches and communities for being gay. They grow abundant flowers and plants from long-barren soil. They breed service dogs, but mostly they provide love, attention, healing and redemption to the lost and abandoned. The good boys have grown into good men, at peace knowing there is an afterlife, and that, ultimately, they will never lose anyone they’ve loved and, most important, that their legacy of love and compassion has healed a broken and spoiled bit of the earth, and the people who inhabit it. Through all their trials and tribulations, these boys retain their innocence, still driven by hope, dedicated to a better world, believing that all broken people, hate and cruelty may still be fixed with kindness, compassion and caring.
Mr. Hamilton is extraordinarily careful not to preach, to treat “upstairs” (or as Jason explains, not so much “upstairs”, as parallel) with humor and humanity. There’re no fire-breathing devils, no thunder and lightning spewing forth from an angry God. In fact the people from “upstairs” will not even discuss religion, because there are so many religions and so many conflicts between them, that they work hard to keep themselves neutral. They are the Deus ex Machina in the wings that constantly nudges humanity forward, always toward light and love, through nurturing, and without threats.
I must admit, “Boulder Boys, Max and Sam” is not at all what I expected. The spiritual and paranormal elements are handled with delicacy and humor. One of my favorite lines is when Jason admits that the people “upstairs” never miss an episode of the TV show, “Supernatural”. The show is hardly accurate, but they love the irreverent take on life, death, angels, devils and those who fight to save humanity. They particularly love the irony of Castiel, traversing the Earth and the Heavens dressed in a trench coat – an angel disguised as Columbo? It’s nice to know that Heaven has not only a sense of humor, but a well-developed appreciation of irony.
How good is “Boulder Boys, Max and Sam”? One of the best books I’ve read in a while. Years ago, when I was studying music, a friend of mine, a talented pianist, was playing a Rachmaninoff Concerto in a university recital. Seated next to me was the head of the Music Department. I loved my friend’s performance, but turned to Dr. Friedman to ask him what he thought of it. I expected an erudite technical critique. Instead, he turned to me and said: “What did I think of it? It made my heart pound, and what more can be asked of any artist?”
Mr. Hamilton made my heart pound, my eyes well up with tears, my laughter burst forth with joyous abandon. What more can be asked of any artist?