Title : Bolt-Hole
Author : Amy Lane
Publisher : Dreamspinner Press (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Contemporary, Mystery
Length : 246 pages (e-book)
Published : March 27, 2013
Terrell Washington’s childhood was a trifecta of suck: being black, gay, and poor in America has no upside. Terrell climbed his way out of the hood only to hit a glass ceiling and stop, frozen, a chain restaurant bartender with a journalism degree. His one bright spot is Colby Meyers, a coworker who has no fear, no inhibitions, and sees no boundaries. Terrell and Colby spend their summers at the river and their breaks on the back dock of Papiano’s. As terrified as Terrell is of coming out, he’s helpless to stay away from Colby’s magnetic smile and contagious laughter.
But Colby is out of college now, and he has grand plans for the future—plans Terrell is sure will leave his scrawny black ass in the Sacramento dust until a breathless moment stolen from the chaos of the restaurant tells Terrell he might be wrong. When the moment is shattered by a mystery and an act of violence, Terrell and Colby are left with two puzzles: who killed their scumbag manager, and how to fit their own lives—the black and the white of them—into a single shining tomorrow.
Bolt-Hole is the story of thirty year old African American, and in denial gay man, Terrell Washington. It’s the story of Terrell’s journey to finding himself. Despite having a degree in journalism, Terrell has found himself stuck tending bar at chain restaurant Papiano’s. The fact that he’s Head Bartender doesn’t really negate the fact that life, and white men in power, have prevented him from achieving all that he is capable of. He learnt that lesson all too well when, fresh out of college, he applied for a position, was granted an interview, only to be told that position was no longer available as soon as they saw the colour of his skin. That experience, and growing up poor in a neighbourhood that made it hard enough to break away from the cycle of crime and poverty, left Terrell angry and guarded.
Colby is a twenty-five year old All American Boy, with his blonde hair, blue eyes and muscular frame. He started at Papiano’s as a server a year ago, after getting a newly minted degree in Sociology. He comes from a good family that love him and shares a place with his sister, a lawyer (that comes in handy later!) and her two cats. And he’s been watching Terrell for that year and liking what he sees. One day, while hanging out on the back dock on their break (a regular occurrence), Colby finally makes his move only to be interrupted by a gunshot. As the mystery of who shot their General Manager, and the effort to prevent the young black man, Percy, from being unfairly accused (this is where Colby’s lawyer sister comes in very handy), brings them closer, despite Terrell’s insistence that he can’t be gay, their relationship quickly becomes something way more than friendship. Even though the romance and Terrell’s journey of discovery are the main focuses, the mystery is not a suddenly forgotten plot point – it is resolved.
At face value they seem to be a contrast, but in reality Terrell and Colby are a good compliment to each other. Terrell may have bitterness and anger from the way life has treated him, but at heart he is a kind man and Colby sees right to the heart of him. Colby unabashedly admits to having been slowly seducing Terrell for the last year. He’s so very patient with Terrell. He gives Terrell the time and space he needs to find that acceptance for himself. He understands that the history Terrell has slowly revealed to Colby over their year long chats has defined Terrell’s denial of who he is and the acceptance that there’s nothing wrong with being who he is. Colby watched and waited for a year for Terrell to be ready, to be open to the possibility of them.
Although he couldn’t remember a defining moment, Terrell grew up knowing that he was not allowed to be gay, so he spent most of his life trying to not be. That to be so was to be dirty, obscene. So that’s the type of sex he had had. Furtive, meaningless one night stands. “As much as Terrell had tried to make things about black and white when he’d been younger, there was nothing black and white about his grandmother. She wasn’t all bad and she wasn’t all good–she was just the woman who had raised Terrell, and that was what was and he couldn’t change it. He wondered when she guessed he was gay. It had been bothering him since he’d been told not to bring Colby by. He tried to mark the time when she had changed toward him.” But as his relationship with Colby develops, he comes to the conclusion that if he was dirty, then Colby also had to be dirty, and that was the one lie that he just couldn’t believe. Terrell’s grandmother did the best she could with the grandkids she was left to raise, but she was very flawed herself and unable to accept Terrell for who he was, even when he was out of the hood. I like that she was complex, not a straight out villain. She loved her family, but her lack of acceptance of Terrell being gay was a poison that was preventing him from accepting himself. Colby showed him that even though you love someone, if they are a negative force in your life and are categorically unwilling to change that, they have no place in it. They don’t have the right to make demands of you or expect your support when they are not prepared to provide support in return.
As Terrell slowly blooms under the love that Colby shows him, his guard starts to come down, despite his belief that he is unworthy, not enough, for someone like Colby. He shows these moments of complete unselfish tenderness towards Colby. And they are beautiful to see. To Colby, Terrell’s everything. “Terrell, you are the nicest guy. You help the new people, you smile at all the regulars, you’re honest as the day is long. That’s why I wanted to spend time with you.” Colby’s been quietly making plans, while waiting for Terrell to get with the agenda, he wants a future with Terrell. “Since last September. I wanted you to be a part of…hell, everything.” Colby kissed his knuckles again. “You’re skittish, T. It took a while to bring you in. But you’re worth it.” When Colby reveals his plans – the opportunity to see what they could do, what they could be – the only question is: will Terrell be brave enough to take it?
As a character, Terrell is understated and real. He’s complex and, at times, a study in contrasts, but never descends into being a cliche. Colby may seem almost too perfect, but this is Terrell’s story, from his point of view, and although he does see and recognise Colby’s flaws, to him Colby is perfect – perfect for Terrell. I absolutely adored both of them. They were so sweet with each other and the sex was hot! As always, Amy Lane has given us believable and fully developed secondary charcters that flesh-out the world she has created. They explain and support her MCs, giving them a backdrop of realism. Bolt-Hole is not all heavy angst, even while dealing with heavy subjects. Terrell may be a socially repressed black man, but he’s got a sense of humour! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not puppies and rainbows, either, but there’s a good balance there. And let’s face it, Amy Lane does broken so very, very well. Highly recommended for anyone who likes a well-crafted story with fully-fleshed out charcters. I loved every word of it.
Rated 5 stars by BookSmitten