Review - "Tipping the Balance" by Christopher Koehler
Great character study of two beautiful men
Very Highly Recommended
Drew is a driven man. He is a successful real estate salesman, flips houses on the side, and has created a comfortable life for himself. He is out and proud, and has fought to be respected as such. His best friend Nick, coach of the CalPac rowing team, has found the love of his life in rower Morgan. More and more, Drew is seeing the hole in his life that not having a partner causes, and it hurts. He wants a man for himself.
Brad was on the rowing team with Morgan, but graduated. He works for his father but is dissatisfied with the job. Lives at home but hates it there. Is known as a straight party guy who has a different woman every week. But when he met Drew at one of the regattas when he was rowing, something shifted inside.
Drew has an immediate attraction to Brad, but knows he is straight. He just hopes there is maybe something more there. But he is willing to just be friends to have the big lug in his life. And Brad finds himself thinking about the man everyone knows is gay. Finds himself fascinated by him, and drawn in a way he doesn't understand. Maybe they could be friends.
When Brad's father pushes him to find someway to market the disaster of a housing development, Brad sees the perfect opportunity to make friends with Drew and find out what this strange attraction is all about. He doesn't know that Drew has been on Nick and Morgan to get Brad's contact information for weeks.
When the two finally get together for lunch and become fast friends, will be enough for either man, or prove to be too much? And will the business partnership they found grow into something more personal?
This is, hands down, one of the best character studies I have read of a straight guy who slowly acknowledges an attraction to a gay man. It was fascinating, touching, heartbreaking, empowering and so very very tough and tender all at the same time. I was drawn in immediately, thrown into this slow seduction of a book, and was never let go. The evolution and slow unveiling of what proves to be a revelation of not only Brad's awakening as a gay man, but Drew's journey towards discovering of his own heart was powerful.
First - Brad. This man touched my heart. His pain and awkwardness and fear and bravery and big heart got me, just slayed me. He was so scared, and made so so many mistakes but always, always kept his compass north facing Drew. Mr. Koehler just slammed the ball out of the park with this characterization. Told all his life that he amounts to nothing, that every action he makes isn't good enough, he learned to hide his heart and his mind and put his spirit to sleep. When being a part of Nick's squad woke his heart up, meeting Drew awakened his soul. And we got to see him blossom.
And Drew. He first saw Brad as a hunk of a man, someone to seduce and have his way with. As he put it to Nick - "You have your rower, why can't I have one?" His plan to turn the straight boy, or at least get laid out of the deal, evolved into something so much more than he ever anticipated. Because what he thought he saw in Brad initially - an intelligent, fun and sexy man - woke up his heart from its slumber also. He was forced to look inside and acknowledge that he wanted more in his life than work and the occasional bed mate also. He wanted, no, he deserved, love.
What really worked so well in this flat out winner of a tale was the wonderful growth of both men. They each were faced with challenges that sometimes broke them. Brad, with his hateful and belittling and dangerous father, was crushed emotionally and spiritually. His fear rode him until he shattered. And Drew - his unwillingness to draw back from "full out gay man" to allow Brad to some out at his own pace almost cost him everything. And the brutal assault on him almost killed him physically and spiritually.
And yet. And yet both men, survivors, scarred and hurt and broken and aching and bleeding, stood and took what was offered. They rose above, and learned to lean on each other as well as stand on their own feet as whole, strong and proud men.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the lesson we all can learn. So simply, strength and love come from sharing the pain.
Beautiful. Just...beautiful. These two men, just got me.