Title: Heart of the Race
Author: Mary Calmes
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Characters: Brian Christie, Varro Dacien
Sub-Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Varro Dacien spends his life riding toward the next adventure. Brian Christie, his best friend and touchstone, the one person who’s always truly seen him, plays sidekick on these madcap adventures and subsequent trips to the hospital until he can’t take it anymore. While Brian can see Varro, Varro has never caught on that he’s breaking his best friend’s heart.
Without Varro, Brian builds himself a life that’s all about just getting by, doing his best to ignore the hole in his heart and his life. Without Brian to balance him, Varro pushes harder and takes more risks to reach that ultimate high. His job racing high-octane bikes on suicide-level courses makes it easy to get that rush… until it’s no longer enough and Varro realizes it’s not the race, but who’s waiting at the finish line that truly matters. Now he just has to convince Brian to be there.
Told in 1st person, Brian tells us the story of how he ended up in the care of the Dacien family and how he fell in love with his foster brother, Varro. Where Brian is cautious, seeking stability and a home, Varro is an adrenaline junkie, always on the go. Brian is hopelessly in love with Varro, and follows on his insane bike races until he can no longer watch the injuries the man receives. He makes a break, leaves, and builds a life without Varro. But without Brian, Varro gets more hurt, more intent on the next high because he doesn’t understand why the thrill factor is suddenly missing. When he finally gets it, the piece that’s missing, it might be too late.
Varro and Brian are different, yet they complement each other. In fact, Brian needs Varro to give him the love and rush of desire he desperately needs, and Varro needs Brian for the calming effect and for a loving home he doesn’t realize he wants. These men are distinct personalities. Ever since they were kids, they’ve been there for each other, but as adults it’s more complicated when their personalities clash and when one of the is straight and the other gay.
This story takes a long time to get where it needs to, and the first person telling hampers this a bit. As we don’t get Varro’s point of view, he appears very selfish and ignorant, even childish. But the truth is the man’s been going so fast his whole life that he’s never stopped to think what’s really important. And Brian’s been keeping the secret for so long he doesn’t know how to let it out or go anymore, not even when he’s with another man. He may be with someone new but in his heart he only loves man. This is realistic and painful, the fear of losing someone you love, and having to hide who you are. I was damn near desperate wanting them to find each other.
Despite the long build and the lack of Varro’s point of view, this is a good solid story with much to offer. Friends/brothers to lovers is a theme that fits well into the racing scene. No, we don’t actually get a coming out story. This is dismissed with a few lines. For such a long story I was expecting it would be touched a bit more, especially considering the macho impression people get from the racing sport. That part missing took out half a star from me, that and the use of the first person. The racing world does become familiar to an extent, and a bit scary too, in this story. But we don’t see the impact of Varro’s decision to be out and proud. I didn’t expect hearts and flowers, but I was a bit disappointed we didn’t get to see this unfold.
Beyond these minor bits, I can easily recommend this. A very well written story with a happy ending that made me smile widely. Mary Calmes is an excellent author, and I’ll definitely be checking out more from her.
Reviewed By: Susan