Reviewed by Helyce
From Goodreads: Can a priest and a rock star obey love’s call?
Seventeen years ago, Jasper Hendricks and Nicholas Blumfeld’s childhood friendship turned into a secret, blissful love affair. They spent several idyllic months together until Jasper’s calling to the Catholic priesthood became impossible to ignore. Left floundering, Nicky followed his own trajectory into rock stardom, but he never stopped looking back.
Today, Jasper pushes boundaries as an out, gay priest, working hard to help vulnerable LGBTQ youth. He’s determined to bring change to the church and the world. Respected, admired, and settled in his skin, Jasper has long ignored his loneliness.
As Nico Blue, guitarist and songwriter for the band Vespertine, Nicky owns the hearts of millions. He and his bandmates have toured the world, lighting their fans on fire with their music. Numbed by drugs and fueled by simmering anger, Nicky feels completely alone. When Vespertine is forced to get sober, Nicky returns home to where it all started.
Jasper and Nicky’s careers have ruled their lives since they parted as teens. When they come face to face again, they must choose between the past’s lingering ghosts or the promise of a new future.
It was the first line in the above blurb that spoke to the Catholic school girl of my youth and I just had to read this. I’d not read either of these authors before so I had no idea what to expect, but I needed to see just how they’d pull it off. Priests, sex, gay men = trainwreck right? Wrong, so, so very wrong.
We meet Father Jasper first and quickly see that he is not your ordinary priest. He’s openly gay, runs a teen center for LGBTQ youth which is supported by the Catholic church. He is immediately likable and feels so down to earth. You don’t get the ‘holier than thou’ feeling at all. He’s in the community and you get the sense that he is happy and settled and doing exactly what he’s always wanted to do.
Nicky “Nico Blue” Blumfeld on the other hand is clearly nearing rock bottom when we meet him. Drugged out of his mind, thanks to his record label who makes sure the band always has what they need in the way of non-prescription drugs, he can barely make it onto the stage to perform. He along with two other bandmates, Sez and Mick, are so addicted, they can’t function without the drugs anymore and it’s affecting their music. But Nicky can’t see out of the black hole he’s drowning in.
“Nicky didn’t know and he really didn’t care. He should. He was the leader of this group, the mastermind, the brains behind the music, and he should really fucking care. But he couldn’t find any sort of emotion like that in the hollow where his heart had been.”
Following a collapse on stage, the three men are given no choice but to enter rehab and get the help they desperately need. Once sober, Nicky heads home, to where it all began. He doesn’t waste any time, heading straight to the church where he knew Jasper would be.
I love how the authors used the confessional to reunite Jasper and Nicky after 17 years. It somehow made their first interaction after such a long time just a bit easier with that little screen between them, keeping them from seeing each other face to face. And while they go through the motions of confession, mixed in with conversation here and there, we see what Nicky is really after–forgiveness.
Told in flashback memories, we learn how Nicky and Jazz meet and become best friends. That friendship turns into something deeper around the age of 17, but a misunderstanding and Jasper’s struggle with his calling split the boys up over one summer changing everything they knew and sending each young man on their individual path. Once Nicky and Jazz are again in close proximity of each other, they walk a fine line between trying to once again find their friendship within the boundaries of Jazz’s priesthood.
Their journey is full of emotion as they rehash that one summer and the truth is finally revealed. So much time lost because neither of them sought the other out in that immediate moment. Years that Nicky spent trying to forget Jazz and fill the hole in his heart with music first, and then later with mindless anonymous sex and then drugs just to numb that feeling of loss.
I found it interesting that Father Jasper initially appeared to have not been as affected by their parting. He follows his calling and becomes a priest, an out and proud gay priest, who then somehow talks the church into sponsoring a safe place, a home, for young people forced to live in the streets because their families cannot accept them for who they are. It’s not until Nicky comes back to town that we see Father Jasper’s strong foundation start to falter and he begins to question everything about his path. I loved that while Nicky strives to respect Jazz being a priest, Jazz is the one who immediately begins to struggle with having Nicky in close proximity.
“Jasper tugged gently on Nicky’s hair, lifted his shoulders off the rock, and placed a soft kiss on Nicky’s lips, like a benediction.
Nicky jerked back and sat up straight. “What the hell, Jazz? This is a bad idea. I’m not going to be on the other end of your guilt trip tomorrow when you regret this.”
His heart pounding Jasper sat up too. “I know. You’re right, I don’t know what came over me. I feel like…I wouldn’t regret much, right at this moment.”
I struggled with how best to talk about this book because I think it’s one of those that you’re either going to outright avoid because it’s content might go against your beliefs or be drawn to it out of a sense of curiosity for those same reasons. I was raised Catholic, so I admit, curiosity got the best of me. I quickly fell for both Nicky and Jasper and wanted them to find their way back to each other. I wanted Nicky to succeed in his sobriety and find his muse and make good music again. Emotional and heartbreaking with some really dark moments that did bring me to tears, this story pulled me in and had me rooting for their second chance at love.