Title: Foundation of Love
Author: Scotty Cade & Z.B. Marshall
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary M/M, interracial
Length: Novel/220 PDF pages
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Review Summary: A wonderful romance in a beautiful setting, with an intelligent plot and characters who were so real I felt as if I knew them.
Years ago, Wes Stanhope fled his hometown of Charleston to escape the constraints of society and his controlling father, Colonel Robert Lee Stanhope IV. After completing medical school and building a successful practice in pediatric oncology in Seattle, Wes is called home for his mother’s funeral and presented with an opportunity to build and run a children’s hospital—his mother’s legacy—a choice he ultimately makes despite his misgivings about his father’s role as chairman of the hospital’s board of directors.
When Wes begins to build his team, he is introduced to a young, handsome black architect named Tyler Williams. Sparks begin to fly between the two men, and although Wes doesn’t identify as gay, denying his attraction to Ty becomes impossible. But Ty won’t be a dirty secret: if Wes wants to build a relationship, he’ll have to come out, brave his father’s racism and homophobia, and risk his chance to continue as the hospital’s CEO and realize his mother’s dream.
I wanted to read this book because the blurb interested me on a number of levels, not the least of which was a plot that was not a throwaway and an excuse for lots of sex, not that there’s anything wrong with lots of sex but I much prefer a story with atmosphere and complexity and wonderfully crafted characters. There aren’t that many interracial M/M love stories with a real plot, and the degree of difficulty in Foundation of Love was pretty high (old money; a controlling, homophobic parent; a society that was mired in the past; two MCs who were polar opposites; AND a challenging and important project.) The authors had a major task to navigate around the many issues and come up with a believable conclusion.
Wes grew up as a member of a very privileged family that had lived in Charleston for generations in a home that had been built shortly after the Revolutionary War, but he couldn’t wait to leave because he found the lifestyle stifling and his father too controlling. After he graduated from the Citadel military academy he went to medical school in Chicago and settled in Seattle where he was appointed to the prestigious position of head of pediatric oncology at the Seattle Medical Center. When his mother died his father informed him that her legacy was to fund a new children’s hospital to be built in Charleston and he offered Wes the position of CEO of the project. There was a catch — the colonel was the Chairman of the Board which consisted of his old cronies. Because he loved his mother he wanted to honour her memory so Wes accepted the job despite his misgivings.
He found out soon enough that, as he suspected, the colonel couldn’t resist meddling as he tried to manipulate him into changing his staffing plan. Wes ignored him and assembled his team which included a former colleague from Seattle Medical Center, Dr. Bradley Mitchell, his partner Mac Cleary, a pilot who ran a successful air charter business in Hiline Lake, Alaska and Tyler Williams, one of the most sought after architects in Seattle. Brad had recommended Ty and before he left for Charleston Wes met him to discuss the children’s hospital. Even though their backgrounds and financial circumstances were dissimilar their ideas were so in sync that Wes offered Ty a consulting assignment to prepare a preliminary plan for the Stanhope Children’s Center.
When Ty arrived in Charleston he stayed with Wes on beautiful Sullivan’s Island. Initially their relationship was strictly professional but eventually the attraction that had been simmering beneath the surface emerged. However Ty was very skeptical of Wes’s feelings for him because he was supposedly straight, although he did have one brief encounter in university with another man. Having been burned once Ty was not prepared to go back in the closet for anyone. Also, there was a major hurdle to any romance between them in the person of Alicia Lawford, a childhood friend of Wes’s who had always been in love with him and saw his return to Charleston as the ideal opportunity to convince him to marry her. Unfortunately Wes was not in love with her and had failed to find a love connection with any of the women he had dated over the years which made him wonder if he was incapable of love, but when he met Ty he realized why he had not felt that emotional connection with a woman.
The characters were all wonderfully crafted. Wes was somewhat of a contradiction – tied to the old ways of privilege (he didn’t see anything wrong with having servants, but to give him credit he regarded John and Glenna, his father’s servants, as family) however he was also a product of his life over the past 15 years, so his character was a great blend of both aspects of his personality. Ty was very New Age, a convert to Buddhism, and he practiced yoga and meditation while Wes used running as his source of exercise and inspiration. Ty’s roots were blue collar Detroit. He left his hometown when he came out as most of his family didn’t accept his sexual orientation. He had an unfortunate experience with his first lover who was in the closet and he was determined to live his life openly and not hide his sexual orientation, which initially created a problem for Wes. How would a biracial, gay relationship play in Charleston high society that was steeped in the past where gays were regarded as being “light in the loafers” and blacks had no place at the dinner table?
There was a host of secondary characters including Brad and Mac who have their own book Wings of Love which I’ll be reading soon. Their love for each other showed Wes who envied their commitment to each other, what his life with Ty could be like if he had the courage to go with his heart. As for Alicia, what a delightful character. An atypical Southern belle whose career was different from most of the women in Charleston society because she chose not to live a life of pampered luxury, to a point, and graduated law school. She pursued Wes using all of her charm, wiles and family connections, and she was crushed and angry when she walked in on him and Ty because she felt used even though he never encouraged her, but when the chips were down she was Wes’s biggest advocate. There were many others of note, Glenna and John who worked for the colonel as domestic servants just like in the old plantation days and loved Wes as their son. Riley and his partner David, owners of a small gallery who rented office space to Wes and became his friends, and of course I can’t forget the Miss Louella Penny, who knew everyone and everything that went on in Charleston society. What a great character!
Colonel Robert Stanhope IV was just as rigid and unbending and controlling as I expected and ran true to form under every circumstance that required judgment. What a pity.
Foundation of Love exceeded my expectations on many levels and I thought that the conclusion was intelligent and satisfying. The prose was smooth and at times enticing and I felt as if I were indeed in Charleston living with all the characters. I was also impressed that the black character, Ty, was not a caricature but just as intelligent and three dimensional as Wes and that his race was not made into an issue. In addition, one or both authors had some in-depth knowledge of the health care industry and hospital design, or they did a lot of research, because it showed and made the story authentic. I should mention that the tone of the book was serious at times with the illness of one of the secondary characters who was hospitalized, and this went on too long and was distracting. Also I didn’t care much for Alicia’s POV. My last criticism is that the prose tended to be too wordy, which some readers might find tedious, but overall the story was well done and the plot was great.
One of the standouts in the book was the city of Charleston and the surrounding area, as the authors painted a canvas showing the contrast between the historical and contemporary. American history at one’s fingertips – the glory days and the grace and charm of a society that most of us would never experience — money, influence, beauty, culture (maybe culture shock for some of us), from the museums, many preserved eighteenth century manor homes, Fort Sumter on Charlotte Harbor where the Civil War began, to the beautiful and relaxed beaches of Sullivan’s Island. On the flip side was Mount Pleasant a community of condominiums, housing developments and shopping centers – a huge contrast to the old plantations and farms.
If you’re looking for a story that’s different, with an appealing ambiance and wonderfully crafted characters, a credible plot and terrific writing, I highly recommend Foundation of Love.