Diversion Plan by Tag Gregory
The book Diversion Plan is set in Portland, Oregon, and uses a court-ordered diversion program for drug and alcohol issues much in the way other romances might use getting lost in a blizzard or stranded on an island: as a chance for its main characters to really get to know one another. Brent, a workaholic who hews to the safety of routines after having survived an abusive, manipulative ex-boyfriend, is the manager at a hotel. Guthrie is the free-wheeling, friendly bartender who works there. Always ready to go to the club or a party, Guthrie lives a commitment free life. Blackout drunk more nights than he admits to himself, his lifestyle catches up to him when he gets arrested in possession of drugs. Put in a diversion program that will help him maintain his bartending license, Guthrie must turn to Brent to sign for the work portion of his diversion plan. There were details that made me really suspend my disbelief, but I don’t know about diversion programs or running hotels, so I went with it. And I enjoyed how Brent’s efforts to distract Guthrie while he stayed sober turned into courtship and love. I also thought the author did a great job of depicting both the rationalizations and realizations Guthrie went through over the course of his treatment.
Unfortunately, the first-person alternating narration of this book was gummed up by a lot of explaining and summarizing. The edict to “show, don’t tell” is overused in my opinion, but this was a case where the pendulum was way too far over into the telling side. It made what was a well-imagined pairing of two very different people tedious to read in places.
CW: homophobia (in the family), alcohol and drug use disorder, PTSD, past abusive relationship
Endless, Forever by E.M. Lindsey
I got to know E.M. Lindsey through the series Iron & Works, centered around a tattoo parlor with a cast of thoughtful, queer, and often disabled artists. Endless, Forever is a novel that was originally published in 2016, and has been revised and reissued with a new cover.
Endless, Forever takes place over many years. The length of the timeline had me thinking of When Harry Met Sally, but the comparison really ends there. Endless, Forever is not a rom-com. It features, Oliver, a wealthy gay British-Japanese graduate student studying in southern California and Gabriel, a student and barista. Oliver has a mother who, in her homophobic religious zealotry, subjected him to exorcism and abuse in his teen and young adult years. He has tried to shield his non-binary sibling, Leo, from her reach, going so far as to move them both to the United States. But Leo’s high-risk behaviors, drinking, drugs, and disappearing, take up a lot of Oliver’s time and Gabriel is the first non-hookup boyfriend Oliver has had in forever. Gabriel is a transgender man, and I really appreciated the way that was not presented as an issue or obstacle in the narrative, but rather in matter-of-fact terms. Oliver and Gabriel were attracted to each other, end stop.
Oliver has a lot to work through in this novel, and Gabriel helps, but he does not magically fix everything – nor does he try to. The plotting of the novel seemed kind of attenuated, perhaps in part because of the movement of time: sometimes in days, at times in weeks, or even years. There is a lengthy part in the middle that I found quite difficult in an angsty way, but I recognize it was a necessary part of Oliver’s growth.
CW: child abuse, homophobia, drug and alcohol use disorder