Author: Renae Kaye
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 3 stars
Type: Novel in a Series
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Andrew and Paul learned about God and Jesus in different churches and realize their views of spirituality are worlds apart.
Andrew was raised Catholic and was told his homosexuality was a sin. For his entire life, he hid the truth. He married and had children to present a façade to the world—that of a straight man. It’s not until he has an affair with Paul, who shows him a different side of Jesus, that Andrew realizes he can be gay and still believe in God. Paul’s Jesus is one of acceptance and love, and in Paul’s church, being gay is not a problem.
For Paul and Andrew, falling in love is the easy part of their journey. They must make it through the fires of cheating, being discovered, Andrew’s wife leaving, the necessities of childcare and family life, the demands of their jobs, and working on their commitment to each other. Only then can they be safe in each other’s heart.
Review: Safe In His Heart is the second book in the Safe series. Although Paul first appears in the previous book, Safe In His Arms, this book can easily be read as a standalone.
Paul meets Andrew at the gym they both frequent. Acting on their mutual attraction, what starts as a bit of fun in the gym’s showers quickly develops into a passionate affair. Paul knows from the very start that Andrew is a married man and deeply closeted, but Andrew’s marriage is an open one and he has his wife’s blessing to seek sex elsewhere – coming from conservative catholic families, their marriage is for appearances and children only. Although not devoutly Catholic anymore, Andrew has battled with his religious upbringing all his life; one verse from the bible in particular has caused him to be uncomfortable in his own skin, believing his homosexuality to be a sin. One thing Andrew has never had doubts about is his desire to be a father and his four year old daughter, Lilah, and two year old son, Jeremy, mean everything to him. Andrew is terrified of anyone finding out that he is having an affair with another man, believing he would lose his entire family. While Paul comes from a much more inclusive and tolerant religious Christian background than Andrew, he still has his own struggles of wondering why God had “given him the gay gene”.
When Andrew’s life gets turned upside down, he turns to Paul for support. Paul stands by the man he has come to love as much as he can, but in the end Andrew must decide what future he wants and if there is room in it for Paul to stand by his side, not just in the shadows.
I have to admit straight up that I have no interest in religion in my books, however I have read ones where a character has been religious and have still been able to connect with the characters and story. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted it to be, this wasn’t one of those books for me. I got frustrated with what sometimes felt like sermonising and completely skipped the page-length speech from Paul’s priest to Andrew on how homosexuality and religion can co-exist, but I own that this is down to my personal preferences. I liked Paul well enough, but I found absolutely nothing I could relate to with Andrew and both his hypocrisy and his choices throughout the story frustrated me. Andrew’s wife, Kristy, was little more than a cardboard cut-out, morphing from one thing to the next to suit the story’s requirements in the moment. Andrew’s PA Erica, on the other hand, I really liked. She was strong, funny and caring and I enjoyed it whenever she was on page.
I found that the pervasively one-size-fits-all, often antiquated ideas on marriage, child-rearing and women’s roles made it difficult for me to warm to the characters or the narrative. Quite a few times I felt like I was being given “teaching moments” that seemed out of place in a gay romance – the main one being that a mother/parent should stay at home full-time to look after the kids and household and not send them to childcare because that is what’s best for small children. Maybe the author was using it as character development, but I found these biases more alienating than anything.
Andrew was self-serving and showed next to no growth throughout the book. The only reason he and Paul found their HEA was because circumstances forced his hand. It was often stated how much being a father meant to Andrew and how they were his whole world, yet he didn’t seem to have much day-to-day basic interaction with them, just the highlights. In fact, when he did have to spend more than an hour or two with them, he noted how difficult and tiring the responsibility was, that he found their chatter cute at first but it soon got old, and he was “quickly exhausted by catering to their demands”. We are told one thing, but consistently shown another.
The two main beliefs held by each MC that I found the most difficult to understand and relate to where 1) Andrew’s assertion that God had blessed their marriage with two perfect children, so therefore God couldn’t be angry with them because otherwise why would they have been blessed, and 2) Paul’s revelations during his Christmas morning prayer for understanding on why his best friend, Lon, had lost almost his entire family – the reason for them dying being to create the man who would help Casey (Lon’s boyfriend) through his problems. Both of these occasions really highlighted how much I was the wrong fit for this book and how little I had connected with the characters, their beliefs or struggles. I was left feeling that there was little about the story that I related to in any way.
The writing is good in Safe In His Heart and the sex scenes were hot, but the characters and the storyline, especially the religious element, just fell flat for me. Readers whose beliefs fall more along the lines of the ones held by the characters and portrayed in the narrative will likely get a lot more enjoyment from the story than I could. However, as much as this book didn’t work for me, I did really enjoy the first book of the series, and I’ve loved the other books I’ve read by the same author, so I am very much looking forward to reading her other stories.