My oldest son is twenty-four now, but back when he was very young, we had a chance to get him into a really awesome special education pre-school. My husband and I, along with Big T and his younger sister, were looking for the interview room at the school campus, when a smartly dressed woman in her fifties walked up to us. She ignored my husband, walking hand in hand with his daughter, and made a beeline for me.
Oh, Ms. Lane—I’m so glad to meet you! We have so much to talk about regarding your son’s development.”
And what followed was an exercise in frustration.
At the time, I was working full time and my husband was spending mornings with the kids before taking them to daycare and then going to school. And then to work. He had no car—he was literally walking a mile with one kid on his shoulders and one kid by the hand before catching a bus, and then another bus, and then a ride home from a friend.
My husband was a superhero—and a superlative father.
But during the interview, nobody—not the teachers, not the school psychologist, not the speech therapists—asked his opinion on a thing. I explained several times that I wasn’t there in the morning, and my husband would know, but it didn’t matter. Matt was a man, and he wasn’t qualified.
I was outraged.
I had been raised by a single father—until he met my stepmother, of course, but even then, they were a team.
This generation—the one my oldest two children belong to—have been raised with the notion of equal parenting. My kids would never assume a woman couldn’t have an education or hold down an important job just because she was female. And they would never assume that a man couldn’t be a good parent, whether alone or working as a team.
When I wrote Larx and Aaron, I was writing about men of my generation, though. Men my generation weren’t always primed to be single fathers—but that didn’t mean they couldn’t learn.
When I was a kid, I remember being asked why I’d stayed with my dad. The truth was, my mom wasn’t a suitable parent—but at seven, the only words I had were, “Why wouldn’t I?” When I was in high school, a friend’s aunt passed away. All of her cousins were brought into the school counselor’s office and told, “You know, your father is going to leave. Be prepared. That’s what men do without a wife, and your grandparents will care for you.” I was stunned. Outraged. But nobody else was.
And I am still flabbergasted—our politicians, our media, our news reports—all seem to point to a society that believes men are functionally disabled when it comes to raising children.
But I’ve seen men—real men—do the job, and do it right. No, they’re not always great at braiding hair, and often they could give a crap what sort of outfit a little girl wears when she leaves the house, but if a kid is fed, clothed, loved, and generally attended to, then a parent has done his or her job, and done it well.
So when I wrote Larx and Aaron, who both have demanding jobs and multiple children, I didn’t want to write a stereotype of incompetence. I wanted to write the same parent I’ve been, the same parent my husband has become, the same parent my father is. I wanted to write a parent with a learning curve, who had made mistakes and raised children he didn’t always understand. I wanted to write a parent who made his children a priority, but who still had an identity of his own—even if it was a little obscured by time and work and parenthood. I wanted to write two parents who could come together as a team, and who wouldn’t fumble the handoff, because that thing—that person—between them was the most important thing in the world.
And I wanted to show children growing into adults who think of themselves as part of a team.
Bonfires, for me, was a chance to show parents as they are at their best—all parents, female, and, yes, male.
Responsible. Kind. Funny. Tender.
Ten years ago Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron George lost his wife and moved to Colton, hoping growing up in a small town would be better for his children. He’s gotten to know his community, including Mr. Larkin, the bouncy, funny science teacher. But when Larx is dragged unwillingly into administration, he stops coaching the track team and starts running alone. Aaron—who thought life began and ended with his kids—is distracted by a glistening chest and a principal running on a dangerous road.
Larx has been living for his kids too—and for his students at Colton High. He’s not ready to be charmed by Aaron, but when they start running together, he comes to appreciate the deputy’s steadiness, humor, and complete understanding of Larx’s priorities. Children first, job second, his own interests a sad last.
It only takes one kiss for two men approaching fifty to start acting like teenagers in love, even amid all the responsibilities they shoulder. Then an act of violence puts their burgeoning relationship on hold. The adult responsibilities they’ve embraced are now instrumental in keeping their town from exploding. When things come to a head, they realize their newly forged family might be what keeps the world from spinning out of control.
Buy at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Bonfires-Amy-Lane-ebook/dp/B06XDQVB96
Review by Cat Clontz
What a Stunner!
Bonfires is the newest addition in the repertoire of author Amy Lane. Having enjoyed everything I’ve read by this author in the past, I must admit I grabbed this book based on her name alone rather than reading the summary. That being said, however, allow me to ensure you that this is a brilliant book based solely on the content!
To begin with, the main characters are both in their forties. Yes, I know, it’s surprising – and wonderful! A novel that isn’t about twenties, clubs, partying and tricks leading to love. Instead, both of these men are well established in life, both have teenage and college age kids, and both of these men will steal your heart. They are honest, flawed, quirky, have great relationships with their at-home kids, and real life issues with their college age crew. Oh, and there are chickens, which leads to a hilarious decision by one of the kids and an interesting discussion between Larx and Aaron. All of this leads to a story that sucks you in, grabs your head and heart, and refuses to let go.
Aaron is a sheriff’s deputy, and Larx allowed himself to be conned into taking on the principal job at the high school where he was happily teaching. They have a common link in their high school age kids that allows their relationship to begin. The step from acquaintances to friends is drawn out, allowing for feelings to develop organically and for readers to really get to know these two men. It is a slow burn romance that includes the having to plan intimacy around children who are old enough to come and go at will. However, that doesn’t stop or even slow down the growing relationship.
The plot itself is fairly straightforward, but then there are all these subplots. The chief subplot is the mystery aspect of the book, although it is fairly obvious “whodunit” pretty much from the start. Written in first person alternating points of view, you really get the opportunity to see inside the heads of each of the men. The descriptions of their surroundings are sometimes vague, forcing the reader to work to truly gain a mental picture, and even then, it’s somewhat fuzzy.
The character development is strong, as are the topics covered throughout the novel. From divorce to death and coming out to living truths, it also shines a spotlight on homophobia and the repercussions of the willfully ignorant bigots who choose fear and hate over education and understanding. For all that this last sentence may cause you some fear, allow me to state that there is actually very little angst in the story.
Bonfires will carve itself a place among the favorites on your bookshelf. I fervently wish for continuation of this cast of characters in more works to come. There is just no way the author can stop at a single book here (I hope, I hope, I hope). Do NOT miss this book, or you will kick yourself. Four and a half stars of wonderful!
Star Rating: 4.5 stars
ARC provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange for an honest review
About the Author
Amy Lane exists happily with her noisy family in a crumbling suburban crapmansion, and equally happily with the surprisingly demanding voices who live in her head.
She loves cats, movies, yarn, pretty colors, pretty men, shiny things, and Twu Wuv, and despises house cleaning, low fat granola bars, and vainglorious prickweenies.
She can be found at her computer, dodging housework, or simultaneously reading, watching television, and knitting, because she likes to freak people out by proving it can be done.
Connect with Amy:
Facebook group: Amy Lane Anonymous