I’m going to go back on my word and say this might edge out Worth Waiting For as my favorite of the Heart of the South trilogy. As I said, I got this with a bunch of others last month when they went on sale.
Even more so than Worth Waiting For, this one seems to have more of an “agenda” (and I mean that in the least anti-politics way possible) of social acceptance. There was one line in the book that really summed it up for me: “God, was Jericho some kind of sexier, trans-friendly Mary Poppins?” (30)
Jericho, a minor character from Worth Waiting For, is back from three years in Haiti teaching and finds a summer job “nannying” for well-to-do Sterling, a dentist coming to terms with his sexuality coming to life while his young daughter Alexa is transitioning from male to female. And if I’m honest, the Alexa/Jericho story was much more interesting/engaging than the Jericho/Sterling story.
I really enjoyed the relationship that developed between Alexa and Jericho. This entire relationship was possible because, even though he was doing everything he could going above and beyond to support his daughter, Sterling wasn’t able to be one step removed from Alexa by the biological fact he was her father and had to make sure that she was okay while keeping up with the Jones’s (aka his parents-in-law). The premise around Alexa’s birth was realistic enough in that Sterling as a gay man had only one sexual encounter with Alexa’s mother and she became pregnant. they decided to keep Alexa and everything evolved from there. Alexa’s mother died a few years prior to the story beginning and we enter the story as Alexa is transitioning and her grandparents are refusing to accept her identity.
“Jericho knew well how hard it was to get other adults to come around from ‘your identity doesn’t exist’ to ‘your identity makes me uncomfortable’ to ‘it’s none of my business how you identify, just tell me what you want me to call you.'” (135)
Similar to my last response, I had issues with the Jericho/Sterling power dynamic. It did work in that even though Sterling had all the power (employer/money earner) and Jericho became the dominant sexual partner (at least on the page), but it didn’t work in that there was not a reversal of roles even though both Sterling and Jericho had the internal dialogue to say they wanted it. Again, I can’t complaint too much because I felt that Qualls does a wonderful job of including sex, but not turning her books into erotica – but imagine how much hotter it would be if the sex-scenes were diversified to match the internal dialogue of the characters.
Recommendation: Again, this is worth reading if you want a quick somewhat light read. This one has more of a punch than either of the others when it comes to social issues and I really wanted to know more about the new family unit of Sterling, Jericho, and Alexa after the story ends and that’s always a good sign.
Opening Line: “Dad! You came! I knew you would.”
Closing Line: “‘It’s a tough job,’ Jericho said with a straight face. ‘Luckily, I know the right family to handle it.'” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Worth Fighting For
“Oh, bless the Bible belt and the near-obligatory offer to help newcomers find a church family. ‘Thanks,’ Jericho demurred, ‘but that’s not necessary. I’m only here for the summer anyway.’ Three years of mandatory six-days-a-week chapel with TeachUniversal was plenty. Christianity was fine, in a general way, but he’d never been quite as gung-ho for Jesus as everyone else he worked with in Haiti was. Surely God will forgive me taking a bit of a break after that.” (37)
“Maybe summer camp administration was a recommended career choice for people who would probably be carded at bars until they turned fifty.” (129)