Tracy’s review of The Strength of a Man by Sara Winters
Kurt Dennings learned one life lesson the hard way: love, even between a parent and child, is not always unconditional. After coming out and experiencing a painful rejection from his parents and friends, Kurt feels as if he’s lost everything that mattered.
James Theard comes into Kurt’s life when he needs someone the most. A friend first and boyfriend second, James becomes his shoulder to lean on, a voice of reason and helps Kurt learn he is stronger and more capable than he imagined.
James and Kurt are both on the swim team at NYU but Kurt is a freshman and though he’s a good swimmer he needs just a little fine tuning. The coach assigns James to be his personal coach for a time to better Kurt’s technique.
James is thrilled with the assignment because he’d noticed Kurt from the first time he saw him at the swim tryouts. He would like nothing more than to date Kurt but Kurt is a little standoffish and James isn’t sure what the issues are.
Kurt is in a rough place when he’s approached by James and told that they are to work together on Kurt’s swimming. Kurt is highly attracted to James but his emotions are running all over the place. Kurt had come out to his parents in a letter that he had left for them to receive when his parents got back from dropping him off at college. His mother thinks he can change the fact that he’s gay and his father just yelled at him. He’d had no contact with either of them for 2 months and he was very low.
James manages to not only improve Kurt’s swimming but he also asks him out and the two become a couple. But Kurt, on top of the issue with his parents, has some past problems he still hasn’t worked out. He had slept with two guys before he met James (when he was back at home) and both experiences had more or less scarred him emotionally and scared him enough that he couldn’t relax or trust James not to hurt him during sex. This is understandable but Kurt keeps going hot and cold on James and James wants Kurt to seek help.
This was an interesting story and much more emotional that I thought it would be. There were actually two part to the book. The first was his relationship with his parents and his feelings of abandonment. He wanted more than anything to reconcile with them but knew the possibility of that was pretty slim. He had actually lost close friend because of his coming out but that wasn’t mentioned but in passing. The second part was Kurt’s inability to trust James but yet he didn’t want to lose his boyfriend over not having sex with him.
Basically Kurt was afraid of being alone if he wasn’t what someone else wanted him to be – in this case a sex partner – or do what they wanted. He had horrible self-esteem issues on top of it all so he felt he wasn’t a good swimmer or deserving of James’s attention. He wanted to have sex with James but he was afraid of the pain that he’d experienced with a previous boyfriend. He would try to go all the way with James – thinking he’d get dumped if he didn’t put out – but then would tense up and the pair wouldn’t have sex. Kurt was so hurt from his past but he kept insisting that he didn’t need help and that just got old after a bit. I felt for him but he just couldn’t face his fears.
James was a great guy. He was kind and understanding and though left with blue balls on a number of occasions he was nothing but kind with Kurt. I know Kurt had been hurt and I understood his fear but after being with James for 2 months or so how could he NOT trust him. He knew him so well but still leery of the whole thing. This really brought Kurt’s “like” rating down for me by a whole lot. He knew James and James had never done anything to make Kurt believe that he would hurt him. I’m not saying that Kurt should have jumped in the sack with James right away but after two months he just should have known his boyfriend better.
With regard to Kurt and his parents…well I wasn’t thrilled with this part of it. I thought that when Kurt’s mother approached him he should have been a bit more considerate. He was angry, and I get that, but the fact that his mother was making any effort at all should have given her some brownie points.
Overall this was a good story. I liked the writing style, and though I didn’t LOVE the story I thought it was a very decent read.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5
You can read more from Tracy at Tracy’s Place
This book is available from Sara Winters. You can buy it here or here in e-format.
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