Scar Tissue by GL Roberts was a wonderful burst of fresh air from the gay romances I’ve read lately. Many of them are set in modern times or in the early 1900s or in the wild west. This one takes place in 1976 in and around Washington, DC. The 70s certainly weren’t a friendly time to be openly gay, even though it was after the Stonewall uprising.
For DEA agent Bob, he leads a cautious life. He’s out to close friends and a few others, but he knows how to keep quiet so he doesn’t rock the boat in his government job. He’s quickly smitten with a new CIA cadet he meets. Bob learns quickly that Mike is also gay. The two carefully start to go on dates all the while realizing that they must be careful for so many reasons. Besides all the outside influences, Mike comes with baggage that he’s fearful of sharing with Bob.
Roberts does a wonderful job putting this story squarely in the 70s. The descriptions of the world ring true, from the cars, to the clothes, right down to the phone in Bob’s house. It’s a great immersion. The characters are also very much a part of their time. They are passionate while realizing they must be careful. It’s a risk to kiss outside. It’s a risk to linger too long looking at each other around most of their co-workers. Reading this, at times, reminded me of Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man showing just how closeted, dangerous, and yet vibrant, the 60s and 70s were. Beyond that, the characters Roberts creates are ones you can’t help but root for as you learn more about them.
It would be wonderful if Roberts revisited these characters for another story. I’d like to see where things go for them.