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I'm a hopeful cynic.

Caregiver - Rick R. Reed *This review may contain mild spoilers*This is my first book by Rick R. Reed and, from what I gather going through his other titles (which are mainly of the horror and crime genre), it’s not a typical example of his work.The story takes place in the year 1991 and it’s about Dan Calzolaio, a man in his early thirties, who moves from the North (Chicago) to the South (Tampa, Florida) with his partner, Mark, in an attempt to make a fresh start in life. It’s not exactly something he wants, he likes his life in Chicago, but Mark’s addiction to coke has become uncontrollable, severely affecting not only the practical aspects of Mark’s life (like ruining his job as a car salesman) but their relationship as well. So Dan agrees to Mark’s suggestion to move to Florida, wanting to give their relationship yet another chance and trusting Mark will really leave his bad habits behind. While job hunting, Dan spends his free time volunteering for the Tampa AIDS Alliance, and that’s how he meets Adam Schmidt, his AIDS buddy, who is already suffering from the disease. Adam’s sparkling personality and his determination to enjoy whatever time he has left to the fullest sweep Dan off his feet and win a special place in his heart. Dan also feels a strong physical pull towards Adam’s partner, Sullivan, but he suppresses it as inappropriate.Before long, though, things take a dramatic turn, with Mark jumping off the wagon and also getting arrested for cruising, something that serves as the final nail in the coffin of his relationship with Dan, which ends unceremoniously. To make things worse, Adam ends up and eventually dies in prison and Dan and Sullivan are put in a position where they finally have to confront their feelings for each other.While I feel this story is honest in its intentions, my general impression is that, even though all the necessary ingredients were there, it didn’t take off. For starters, I didn’t see the need for all those different POVs, I believe it could have worked better if it were a single (Dan’s) POV book since it seemed Dan was the focal point of the story. Also, the characterization felt a bit superficial. I didn’t really empathize with the characters, apart from Dan maybe, but that was kind of inevitable because most of the story is told through him. The fact that Dan got to spend only a couple of days with Adam (they met twice) before the latter was put in prison thus stopping any kind of interaction between them didn’t help convince me about all those feelings of deep friendship and love Dan claimed to have for Adam either. How can you love someone so much when you barely know them? Their correspondence while Adam was in prison didn’t really count towards building and strengthening their newly established friendship because they already claimed they cared about each other profoundly in those letters. Adam feeling the same way about Dan and Sullivan seeking consolation and comfort in Dan (a person neither of them knew anything about and either of them had spent a mere hours with) like there was no one else in their lives felt strange and inadequate. But maybe relationships were different and easier twenty years ago.Another thing that felt strange and contrived was the way Adam was arrested. Granted, he had a record and he was in violation of his parole and he would have ended up in prison sooner or later but Sullivan calling the cops on him was a major WTF moment. Adam attacked Sullivan, I get it. But they supposedly shared a past (their relationship span a number of years) and they had supposedly gone through much worse. Sullivan calling the cops and having Adam arrested (at that point he didn’t know Adam had a record or that he had violated his probation) felt totally out of character.Furthermore, the way Dan and Sullivan’s relationship grew after Adam passed away lacked real depth; where the characters’ words and reactions didn’t feel simulated, they felt cloaked with unnecessary drama and too many tears. The idea that Adam could have planned for Dan (or whoever his AIDS Buddy would have been, really) and Sullivan to end up together because he felt he had to find someone to take care of Sullivan after he passed away didn’t work for me. I believe everything would have worked better had the book been longer, had the author provided the characters the space and the appropriate situations and the necessary page time to make everything more believable, more realistic and insightful, less hasty and maudlin.Still, like I said in the beginning of this review, this story is honest and simple, it doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t. And I appreciate that in a book.Dreamspinner Press kindly provided me with a copy of this e-book through NetGalley.com in exchange for an honest review