Thank you, Carter G. Woodson, for being the visionary behind Black History Month. Of course, Black History Month 2019 isn’t complete without those of us who stand at the intersection of Black and LGBT. Today, we have out and proud celebrities such as Jason Collins, Lee Daniels, Wanda Sykes, Kelvin Atkinson, Jussie Smollett, Laverne Cox, Sampson, Paris Barclay, Azmarie Livingston, RuPaul, Angela Davis, Frank Ocean, Azealia Banks, Don Lemon, Johnny Mathis, E. Denise Simmons, Emil Wilbekin, Raven-Symone, Andre Leon Talley, L.Z. Granderson, to name a few.
We also have our LGBT authors and poets that paved the way for us, inspired us to be the best we can be today. Our legacy includes such brothas and sistahs as Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Bruce Nugent, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Audre Lorde, Pat Parker, Jewelle Gomez, Lorraine Hansberry, Ann Allen Shockley, Janet Mock, Joseph Beam, E. Lynn Harris, Essex Hemphill, Assotto Saint, Dawn Lundy Martin, Anita Cornwell, Mike Warren, bell hooks, Nella Larsen, Toni Newman, Angelina Grimke, Samuel Delany, Alice Walker, Octavia Butler, Wallace Thurman, Sapphire, Cheryl Clarke, Ricky Laurentiis, James Earl Hardy, Terrance Dean, Frederick Smith, Stanley Bennett Clay, Wyatt O’Brian Evans, Jacqueline Woodson, Melvin Dixon, and more. Some in our past were able to boldly live and speak their truth through their words; others couldn’t. All, however, have lent their unique voices to the literary history of this month. I honor them as such, and encourage you to check out their work.
That being said, His Light in the Dark by Remmy Duchene caught my eye and my rapt attention. In the M/M romance genre, Remmy stands out as an author who features multicultural romance and male couples of color in her work. Set in Toronto, we see Maxim Hagan, a 37-year-old Jamaican officer who has returned home from a tour of duty after a roadside bomb leaves him with permanent damage to his leg and PTSD. At an early age, Maxim’s douchebag of a father walked out on him, his mother and his younger brother Trajan, leaving him with psychological scars and a distorted sense of responsibility. Choosing the military rather than college to lessen the financial burden on his mother, he also sought it as a means to run from his sexuality and the trunks of guilt and shame he’s been carrying around for years. With the help of Trajan, Maxim opens an auto repair shop. His pride makes him reluctant to accept help, but Trajan prevails.
Enter onto the scene Ethan Garrick, an out-and-proud, thirty-something Black gay man who is a graphic designer. In fact, Ethan is the one who designs the logos for Maxim’s auto shop. With his parents divorced and deceased, Ethan lives with the disappointing news that they never wanted kids, that he was the result of a drunken “accident.” Sure, his parents were there, but only up to a point, and he craves that sense of family and a good man.
Through mutual friends Libby, Bane and Kono, Maxim and Ethan meet. For Ethan, the heat was on the moment he laid eyes on Maxim, but his gaydar was malfunctioning. Maxim, with his deeply closeted psyche, didn’t make the process easy for him, leaving Ethan constantly guessing, “Is he or isn’t he?” To Maxim, Ethan represented his greatest fear and his greatest desire rolled up into one irresistible package. For someone whose sex life consisted of occasional, random hookups, a man like Ethan, who wanted more, terrified him. Yes, the fear factor and self-worth issues were in full bloom at the thought of coming out.
The pull of Maxim is strong. Drawing him out about his past and finally having him admit that he’s gay made root canal work look like a picnic. Ethan, however, sees something special in this broken man, more than Maxim sees in himself. They can’t seem to stay away from each other, and Ethan is OK with the idea of a dirty little secret–until he becomes one.
Even with the love of family and friends, Maxim is in a prison of his own making because of the fear factor; there’s an adage out there that says, “The darker you are, the harder it is to come out.” However, through the baby steps and the times they behaved like idiots, Maxim and Ethan win their HEA, and Maxim realizes that Ethan is his ride-or-die guy.
Since this romance novel features a Black male couple, I applaud Remmy for challenging a belief that, in M/M romance, a Black gay man with the masculine bent of Maxim is always a dominant top. Maxim and Ethan’s evolving love life is, in all probability, closer to the truth. If you’re looking for steam and heat, His Light in the Dark has it in abundance; of particular note is a scene involving a Corvette. At the end of the day, it also embodies the spirit of family and unconditional love, and that accepting help is also the mark of a strong man.
In the spirit of Black History Month, all you M/M romance lovers, this is a novel well worth checking out at your local Amazon/Barnes & Noble library.