Book Reviews

Substitute Heart by Summer Michaels at Less Than Three Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Romance
Reviewed by Serena Yates on 08-January-2013

Book Blurb

Three years have passed since Travis buried his husband, but he is unable to let go and move on. Even the support of his late husband's fellow Marines cannot motivate him to live again. His apathy for life reaches a breaking point when he is fired days before Christmas, and an unexpected visitor shows Travis that he has one last chance for a happy future, else he is doomed to one far bleaker...


Book Review

The title is a pretty good description of what anyone who lost a loved one, a partner, will probably feel when they first start considering the need to move on. Any lover after the one who dies can only be a substitute, right? This story sets out to prove why this is actually a misconception, and how one man, Travis, learned about the dangers of shutting of his heart forever after his husband, Lane, dies. Yes, it takes a lot of courage to truly move on, but it is necessary and can be very rewarding – if it is done with the right person.

Travis is devastated about Lane's death, and he isn’t even officially recognized at the military funeral, even after DADT is gone. I thought the men, all from Lane's unit, giving him a private ceremony after everyone was gone was a brilliant touch and can only wish every military spouse with a same-sex partner would have something like that. The misery that becomes his life is awful, and I hated how he turned down all real attempts to help him. But this is a typical reaction: 'getting on with it' at the surface level and ignoring any deeper feelings.

Oliver is a great guy, who was part of Lane's unit. He is clearly interested in Travis, but becomes a friend instead. That is who Travis needs him to be initially. When he finally makes a move to let Travis know he wants more (3 years later), Travis still isn't ready. Oliver is saddened, but doesn’t give up. What a man!

That is when Lane, in the manner of the "ghost of Christmas Past", or a "Christmas angel", takes over. I loved what he said and did to show Travis his two alternative futures. As ever, he doesn't tell him how to get there, but the difference between the two options is so stark, even the emotionally shut-down Travis gets a clue.

I really loved this story a lot! It made me cry, it made me smile, and, in its ultimate conclusion, it gave me hope. If you like stories about people going from deepest despair to finding a reason to live again, if you want to read about the feelings of loss and loneliness of losing a partner and the (unnecessary but very real) guilt they first feel when starting to live again, and if you're ready for a roller coaster of emotions, you will probably like this short story as much as I did. I can totally recommend it to anyone looking for a warm, uplifting read.




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Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Short Story, 11300 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 12-December-2012
Buy Link