The Next Call by Sue Brown

Title : The Next Call                 Word Count : 44,470

Genre : Contemporary Gay Romance

Blurb : Mark Grayson volunteers for an LGBT helpline, the same one that helped him through his teenage years. One day he takes a call from “Ricky,” a suicidal man being forced into a marriage he doesn’t want. For weeks Mark talks to Ricky and provides support, but he’s frustrated by the lack of information Ricky provides and the decisions he’s making. In the meantime, Mark starts a relationship with another volunteer. Then tragedy strikes and Mark takes time away from the helpline, but when he comes back, Ricky is waiting. Mark realizes Ricky is stronger than before and their relationship changes, but Mark isn’t sure what their future holds if their relationship is destined to be at the end of the phone.

My Review :  Death is something that I don’t think you can ever really prepare for, whether it’s your own or the loss of a loved one. Actually,  it is quite unnatural to be prepared for death. There is an innate instinct in all of us to fight to the last breath or to hold on close to the ones we love in crisis. At the LGBTQ hotline where Mark answers the phones, he is faced with talking people down off the ledge figuratively or real on a daily basis. Mark is always the friendly voice of reason that reaches out to these young men to save their lives in some way. His boyfriend Ian works at the hotline as well as being a busy  nurse at the hospital. After one too many complaints about headaches, Mark urges Ian to get it checked out. Before he can even follow through  on the advice from Mark, Ian drops dead at work from a brain aneurysm. Mark is grief stricken and devastated for the broken promise of their new found love.

 His pseudo family and friends at the hotline help him in his time of grief. He takes some time off to process the change in his life. Eventually,  he gets back into the swing of things but he withdraws within himself.  One of the men that he talks to through the hotline is Ricky. Ricky is very hesitant to share any information about himself.  All Mark knows is that Ricky is leading a double life, he has a wife and he is famous but he can’t risk his career by coming out. Ricky only  wants to talk to Mark, he just wants that one person with whom he can totally be himself. Mark and Ricky become really close and they form a friendship that causes Mark to break protocol and give Ricky his personal phone number. They talk a couple of times per week and these talks really rejuvenates both of them.  It is a getaway from the quagmire that is Ricky’s life and it renews Mark’s spirit so that he can see that there is light beyond death. These talks soon turn into sexy time for both of them. They give into their needs and burn up the lines with steamy phone sex. Hot,  hot , hot.

Mark is conflicted with the three men in his life and in his head: his  boyfriend past, present  and future . He is constantly bogged down after having conversations with his cheating ex Tam. He is stuck in the present with thoughts of what could have been a beautiful relationship with his dead lover Ian. Most importantly, Mark is realizing how attached he has become to Ricky, someone who is becoming so important to him, someone who he’s never met, someone who has no plans to leave his wife and live as a gay man.He wonders if he could have a relationship with someone who is as deep in the closet as Ricky, could this be his future?

Ricky finally gets tired of his situation and decides to give it all up, to just have a chance at a normal life. He really wants to explore and see what it would be like to have a relationship with Mark for whom he’s developed strong  feelings.  Ricky’s anonymity explodes when Mark starts putting the pieces together and realize he has been talking to Dicky Lomax a famous football player all along. Mark stands by him throughout it all and he’s there to catch him when he falls and his social life comes tumbling down around his ears. I give this my ratings of 3 – it was ok, give it a try.