Hope by William Neale


I am very glad that MLRpress asked MANtastic Fiction to take a look at William Neale’s Hope. Some of our members had kept up with the Home series, but I had yet to start it. This gave my the perfect opportunity to discover what everyone had been raving about.

Blurb:

Dumped by his closeted lover only to fall for a man who’s already taken, Spencer Hawkins finishes up his fellowship to discover he doesn’t have a job. For anyone on the outside looking in, it seemed Spencer was failing miserably at life in general, until one phone call changes everything. The prospect of pulling up stakes and relocating to a new city provides the one thing he needs most—Hope.

Hunter Harrison’s partner has left, abandoning not only him but their adopted son whose heart defect has left them in limbo awaiting a heart transplant that may not come in time. It took meeting Spencer for Hunter and his son to find something new to hold onto—Hope.

Building a love that can last a lifetime will take strength and the one thing they found in each other—Hope.

Available from MLRpress

Here is what fellow bookclub member Lynn had to say about it:

Wow, what a great story! I’ve read and enjoyed all of William Neale’s books and this one didn’t disappoint me. In fact, it went beyond my expectations.

Hope is about, well, it’s about Hope. It’s hoping Spencer can find love and happiness after his lover of three years leaves him. It’s hoping eleven year old Ethan finds a new heart in time to save his life. It’s hoping Hunter won’t have to bury his son. It’s hoping Rogie and Ryan, two young men who have committed themselves to one another have what it takes to make it last. It’s hoping Thomas finds his true worth as a human being.

This book s not only a journey of finding new love, but also new beginnings and finding your true self.

This book had me not wanting to put it down. All of the characters are interesting and they all have their own story to tell.

I found it interesting and kind of sad that Hunter didn’t think he could take care of his sick son and have a relationship with Spencer. I have a feeling Hunter really wanted this relationship with Spencer but was to afraid of being hurt. Hunter’s partner had left him shortly after adopting Ethan, so Hunter had to take on the responsibility all alone, and had been doing so for years. He just didn’t want to get hurt again. I believe Spencer had to prove to Hunter that he was willing to be there for both Hunter and Ethan. Spencer was there for Hunter when he needed him the most and proved than in fact. Hunter not only needed but wanted that love and support that only Spencer could give him.

Spencer on the other has his plate full. I feel Spencer had some soul searching of his own to do what with trying to fit into a new job, teaching English at a very exclusive school, in which he has to deal with false accusations that may have well turned out to be the beginnings of and end to his teaching career. Getting over his lover Carson who left him after three years. Getting back into the dating scene in search of “the one”. Spencer is a smart guy, he knows what he’s about and what he wants out of life. He makes some choices that are nothing but a win for everyone involved.

It’s a well balanced read, you have the love interests, but it isn’t all butterflies and buttercups! Some really bad stuff happens, but everyone gets through it and they are all the better for it.

The only thing I didn’t like and I thought it a little odd at the time, was a little episode in the beginning of the book. It seemed out of place and I was confused when I read it. As the story goes on, it started to make sense to me. The author wants us to not like this character, he wants us to find him repulsive and a little sleazy! But, by the end of the book, this one character redeems himself in ways that was really shocking and surprising. There is hope for him yet.

This is the last book we’ll ever read from William Neale. I know he had many more great stories to tell, and it breaks my heart knowing we’ll never get to read them.

And here is what I thought:

Hope, like all of the books in the Home series, is bigger than just the main couple. There are several points of interest that keep the novel from being one type of story. I appreciated how all the different fires within the story were handled – almost brutal situations with a hint of sweetness – a William Neale trademark. We get to revisit with characters – that because those people are just as fleshed out in this book as they were in their own book – I found it wasn’t entirely necessary to have read the previous novels to be completely aware of what was going on and how they fit in. And I thought the romance itself was very interesting. The book blurb more than hints at the resolution, but there is a short time where the reader might root for it to go another way.

I love supporting cast and Hope has quite a few. The events of Hope almost directly follow the events of Always Faithful. We see his opportunity to head back to Cleveland and that naturally brings in Rogan, Lucas, and their family. There are a few subtle characters that become much more involved in Hope, which may suggest that there might have been at least 1 more book in this series. Fortunately, the personality of the assumed future-book-leading-man was still such that he wasn’t really ready for a relationship so there was no obvious set-up or cliffhanger where he is concerned.

I am a huge pain in the butt about reading things in order. Can’t help it. No matter how many people tell me that one story doesn’t really influence the next too much, I have to start at the beginning. I’m always afraid I’m going to miss some obscure detail or important moment that will limit my enjoyment of the current story. Crazy, I know. But when I received a request to take a look at Hope, I had not read the rest of the Home series. I had only read a couple of his short stories. So, of course, I had to start at the beginning … Hence, my 3 day weekend with William Neale. What I found impressive was the complete wrap-up he accomplished with each book. Repeating characters and situations where dealt with so smoothly that I can honestly say that Hope can be read without having read the previous books. I’d recommend them whole-heartedly, however, not because Hope is incomplete without them, but because their journeys are just as colorful and engaging.

I think there are two defining themes in all of William Neale’s novels. The first thing might be the most obvious – sweet, romanticized characters and dialogue. The second being his knack for targeting themes that get overlooked, serious aspects that might make people uncomfortable because of the injustice and horror. How he was able to balance the sweetness with the darkness was a true talent.

As stated in his own bio, William Neale knew that not everyone appreciated his characters getting along so well. Very few of the conflicts are between the romantic couple. In a theme I enjoy very much, most of William’s pairings are between friends or rivals who shared a long history and were finally ready to make the leap. Hope was a little different in that Spencer, our main hero, was relatively new in town and was meeting his love interest(s) for the first time. What had already been established, though, was Spencer’s romantic nature and his desire to find a lasting lover. I love that we see him “date” instead of just sticking with the first guy he meets. I found that to be more realistic.

As issues would arise, Spencer (or one of the supporting cast) would know just what to say. This more than anything, is where the “sweet” shows up. On one hand, I applaud the character’s maturity. On the other, I wonder if I would have been so level headed. The result is a thought provoking guide that might help young gay men, and probably people in general, in dealing with similar situations. I did notice, though, that Hope had a few instances where characters would go with a gut reaction first and then have to do a little damage control before the situation got too out of hand. This may have been a compromise between William and his readers.

In complete harmony with the romance are some really tough subjects. Like with his other novels, Hope is heavily couple-based for the first 40-50%. The second half of the story is the couple, along with the rest of the cast, dealing with some really important and horrifying realities. It is what I’ve come to expect from William Neale’s books but is unlike so many of the “sweet” stories that fill the M/M genre. Hunter is in real danger of losing his son, Spencer finds legal and moral trouble at his new job, Thomas remembers his horrific past and tries to reshape his future. A high school student decides if he even has a future. These aren’t new topics, but the depth and conviction in which these events are handled makes me want to put a copy of Hope (and all of the Home series) in the hands of every person over the age of 16 who may be struggling with their sexuality and/or identity.

I have only 3 criticisms.
-The first is that I would have preferred some of the dialogue to have been broken up more. Same words, just some indication of tone/attitude changes so that it was more conversational instead of run-ons.
-The second is that there were many more abrupt scene changes than any of his previous novels. Was that intentional? A style purposefully chosen to highlight the struggles of the character most often abrupt? Or because William didn’t get a chance to put his final touch on it? I don’t know.
-And the third is the maturity of a couple of the kids. Granted, the kids have always been characterized as being mature for their age, but I felt that adding their bit of news at the end was a little rushed. It was good since we won’t get to see more of them later so it was nice to see them so settled, but had there been an opportunity for more stories then I would have been upset that they weren’t given as much time on page to develop as the other characters.

Overall, I am definitely impressed with Hope and will be adding it to the books I highly recommend.

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