RIGHT BACK WHERE is an unexpectedly sweet love story of enemies-to-friends-to-lovers. It also doesn't shy away from depicting a hard truth, and a faction of the town's penchant for bigotry was wonderfully balanced by another group's unequivocal acceptance.
Sam Garrett left town five years ago under hurtful circumstances, and he wouldn't have been back if it were not to visit his beloved music teacher, Mrs. Greene, who was kind to this motherless boy and encouraged him to reach for his dreams. However, he was shocked when he heard that she had recently passed away, and by the terms of her will, he had to stay with her son, Cody Greene, in her house for eight days. The problem was that Cody made his childhood days miserable, and he didn't want to be stuck with his nemesis even for a day. However, he didn't want to disappoint Mrs. Greene, and so he agreed, never knowing how much he'll learn the truth about the past. But could he let go, or would he run away again?
The story was told in Sam's first person point of view, and even colored by Sam's childhood experiences, we can see that Cody is a sweetheart. This being an m/m romance, we could sort of guess that Cody's had a crush on Sam way back then, and now, all those accidental touches and tightening of fingers give me such a thrill when I read about them. I couldn't wait for when they get together! But of course, they had some paths to navigate before they could reach there, and the journey to that end was thrilling. Cody is sweet and adorable and endearing, and here's a line from him that grabbed at me:
"I've been waiting for this for a long time; waiting for you -- for you to be my first, because I've always wanted it to be with the man I love."
I couldn't help but empathize with Sam, for all the things he went through. When I read about his past, I almost cried. Cody said it true: Sam is a brave young man, right up to the end, and he's got a big heart. But by then, he'd undergone some stuff and changed and came out a better man. He's a likeable character, and you can't help but root for him, especially when he's standing up to all the bigotry in the town.
I didn't expect this story to hit me as hard as it did. I couldn't have foreseen from the blurb that it would affect me so. While this is a romance between Cody and Sam, the author also portrayed clearly how Sam and Cody were treated by the bigots in town, and it was heartbreaking to read. And they're adults. How much more when it's happening to young people who are confused about their identity? Or to their peers who think them different? Who take their cues from society?
We were all afraid. We were all boys in love, and we were so afraid of it....The whole world was against us--everything we'd ever been taught or heard from our parents or seen on television--it all said we were wrong. It all said we should be afraid. And all that fear turned into hate.
However, recent events have shown us that society is evolving, what with the wider acceptance of homosexuality and laws allowing same-sex marriage. We're moving forward--tiny steps, but steps in the right direction. Sam said it best:
It's a balance--tolerance going both ways.
While the story focuses on the intolerance against homosexuals, the same could be said for other prejudices that are happening in the world. It's strange to think that living in a first world country as we are, some of the thinking are still backward and seem to not have catch up to the times.
I finished this book with a satisfied smile. Ms. Kilgore moved me to tears several times in the book. I can't wait to go back to Alvarado and see how Cody and Sam are doing. I think I know who the main characters would be in book #2 and I can't wait to read about them!