Father Joe Tierney was pastor of a large urban Catholic parish in the Midwest when he learned he was HIV+. The story of his diagnosis and its results is told in Father Tierney Stumbles.
Now Joe desperately wants to reconnect with his ex, Kenny, who currently lives in San Diego.
Joe's friend, Edward Brockton, finds Joe a job at a gay guest house in Palm Springs. On his first day in Palm Springs, Joe meets a young man of the streets, Oscar. Then Edward Brockton comes to visit. The man who owns the guesthouse, Cy, turns against Joe in an effort to keep Joe from Oscar.
The driving issue in the story: how will all the possible love connections resolve?
Occasionally, ideas are repeated within paragraphs and from different characters’ perspectives, and sometimes conflicts are more told than shown, but these lapses are offset by the appeal of characters who openly acknowledge their seemingly “soap opera existence.” The romance and drama are complicated by each character’s complex relationship to their sexuality: some can be fully “out,” but some must keep their sexuality hidden for the sake of job security and comfort.
Shekleton shifts perspectives frequently, providing a look into each character’s inner thoughts and motivations. Readers may struggle to keep track of the many characters at first, but the author successfully differentiates their voices. Shekleton also provides positive depictions of healthy, safe sexual relationships between people living with HIV. By the novel’s delicious climax, it’s unclear who will end up with whom, but readers can be certain that this sunny novel is a treat.
Takeaway: Romance fans will love this tender, fun look into gay life in Palm Springs.
Great for fans of: Victor J. Banis’s C.A.M.P. series, George M. Johnson, Mathew Rodriguez.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A-