Book Reviews

Mild to Wild in Massachusetts (States of Love) by Paul Walkingsky at Dreamspinner Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Fiction
Reviewed by Serena Yates on 25-January-2018

Book Blurb

Brett has spent twenty-seven years trying to be perfect for the Mormon grandparents who raised him. Unfortunately, doing so has meant missing out on lots of life experiences—and denying a major part of who he is. Now that his grandparents are gone, Brett is ready to make up for lost time, break out of the sedate façade he’s always presented, and do something he would have never considered before: attend a gay men’s spiritual retreat in rural Massachusetts.


While trying to infuse some spice into his life with workshops like Erotic Massage, Body Painting, and Drag 101, Brett meets Boston nurse Karl, and it’s hard to deny the connection between them. But will Brett’s lack of experience and Karl’s insecurities end their romance before it can really begin?


It might be a spiritual retreat, but Brett must learn to embrace his physical reality if he’s going to grab on to his chance at love.



States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.

Book Review

The title of this novella promises a journey – mild to wild – and that is what the book delivers, although not exactly in the way I expected. This story focuses on Brett’s journey of self-discovery, and at the age of twenty-seven and never even having admitted out-loud that he is gay, Brett has quite the distance to go. Other than some teenage fumbling in the backseat of his grandparents’ car (while they were driving), Brett has no experience. Considering where he comes from – a strict Mormon upbringing and a personal choice to always be “a good boy” – his decision to go on a retreat for gay, bisexual and questioning men alone is quite a step. The experiences he has while in the “wilderness” where the workshops take place, the conclusions he draws for himself, and the decisions he makes could be considered “wild” – for him and who he used to be.

There are a lot of things going on in Brett’s head as he begins to tell his story, and a lot of it is about his memories, thoughts, and reactions to what happens once he ventures out of the closet. Not everything goes as he expected, and some things happen unplanned and different from what he wants. But going from someone always afraid to be “left behind” like his mother did when he was a young boy, and afraid his grandparents would do the same if he came out, to someone who can be open about his sexuality can be a very difficult path, and Brett is not the impulsive type who just dives into new things. And as the retreat exposes him to some of the physical and emotional elements of being a gay man, Brett has a lot of information and feelings to deal with.

Brett’s careful approach to life gave me an opportunity to see where he was coming from, and helped me understand some of his reactions when he meets new people. Why he sometimes thinks he knows what he wants (like sex), only to find out that a different approach (like getting used to hugs) might work better. The very varied cast of secondary characters who accompany him on this journey is as important as Brett’s thoughts, and the author presents a great selection of very different men who support Brett’s learning in many interesting ways.

I have to admit that I was sort of disappointed, at first, that Brett did not find love. But then, as I thought about it, I realized that is not fair because a good story does not have to have a romance for me to really like it. I guess that I just really wanted Brett to find love. The problem is that a novella of about seventy-five pages is far too short for a man like him to get to that point, to be believable the story would have to be a novel – and, as far as I am concerned, it deserves to be. I’d definitely want to find out more about Brett and how he handles his new reality, how he grows, and how he becomes the kind of man who is true to himself in all parts of his life.

If you like thoughtful, character-driven stories about change and growth, if you want to see what a liberating experience it can be to learn how to be true to yourself – including all the pitfalls and baby steps, and if you’re looking for a read that is insightful rather than action-packed, then you will probably like this novella.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Dreamspinner Press for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Novella, 74 pages/27056 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 12-April-2017
Price $3.99 ebook
Buy Link