Perfect for Me
Author: DH Starr
Cover Artist: D. W. Skinner
Publisher: MLR Press
Amazon Buy Link: (go to right side nav at the bottom and insert from there)
Publisher Buy Link
Length: 81K words
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Sean Sullivan is a principal and a happy person, but he has one major complication…HIV. Frustrated with constant rejection, Sean decides to stop dating negative men. When a student experiences a crisis and Sean meets Emery Benton, the case worker assigned from Child Protective Services, his decision is challenged.
Sparks fly the moment they meet, but Emery is negative and Sean doesn’t want the pain of another disappointment. As he struggles with his feelings for Emery, a war between the fear in his head and the fire in his heart force him to answer one simple question…Is this the perfect man for me?
Sean starts out the book on a date with a man he has high hopes for. And in one swell foop we can see that he is an honorable man who gets his honesty thrown back at him. One too many rejections based on his HIV status and he’s willing to throw in the towel on dating from the HIV negative pool.
I’m not sure anyone outside the education field really knows all a principal does, but I’d like my (hypothetical) kids to have one like Sean—he knows his students, what they’re up against in school and at home, cheers on their successes, and digs them out of holes. And when one young man ends up in the hospital and taken from his dysfunctional family, Sean is there to bolster him. So is Emery, the caseworker from Child Protective Services. He’s another “best of all possible professionals,” and a genuinely nice guy. And he has eyes for Sean.
Instant attraction is delightful for the attractees, but I was a little distressed that they were both focused on each other to the point of having to remind themselves frequently that there was business to attend to, whether it was a teenager who’d been beaten or a school to run. They were just barely keeping a lid on it at work, which might be fine if you prefer the sighs of love to the edges of external plot, but I was ready to tap one or both on the shoulder from time to time. The young man’s plight really did need some undivided attention.
Since Emery is HIV negative, Sean is reluctant to get involved, no matter how appealing he is—too many rejections already mean he’s jumpy, and his current robust health might not last, and what then?
I enjoyed several aspects of the story, particularly the men’s efforts to help the young man, who had his own agenda and worries. The supporting cast, like Sonya the foster mom, and several others, were likeable and wise, in matters of teenagers, health, and occasionally the heart. New York City’s nontouristy areas were front and center: the author is clearly familiar with and fond of the city, and several of the meals Sean and Emery ate made me hungry.
The men so clearly belonged together that watching Sean figure this out was kind of frustrating, but in a good way. He did eventually figure out where exactly the problem lay, but not before wringing my heart a bit. Emery didn’t show quite the same sort of growth, but he was steadfast in his opinions all the way through, and clearly a good man. The story was definitely angsty, but not depressingly so—the material supported the emotions, not only between the men, but toward the teenager they were trying to help.
The style was mostly smooth, aside from a couple of Emery’s speeches that sounded like textbook prose, but the story would have benefitted from a more thorough proofreading—there were enough homonym errors and comma issues to become intrusive.
The story managed to treat a very serious issue with a hand light enough to entertain and serious enough to educate, and left me wishing Sean and Emery would be happy together for a long, long time. And if these men have anything to say about it, Lamar will make a success of himself too. 4 marbles