Aqua Follies

by Liv Rancourt

Aqua Follies - Liv Rancourt
Editions:Kindle: $ 3.99
ISBN: 0-9985822-2-0
Pages: 186
Paperback: $ 14.99
ISBN: 0-9985822-3-9
Size: 5.00 x 8.00 in
Pages: 260

The 1950s. Postwar exuberance. Conformity. Rock and roll.

Homophobia.

Russell tells himself he’ll marry Susie because it’s the right thing to do. His summer job coaching her water ballet team will give him plenty of opportunity to give her a ring. But on the team’s trip to the annual Aqua Follies, the joyful glide of a trumpet player’s solo hits Russell like a torpedo, blowing apart his carefully constructed plans.

From the orchestra pit, Skip watches Poseidon’s younger brother stalk along the pool deck. It never hurts to smile at a man, because sometimes good things can come of it. Once the last note has been played, Skip gives it a shot.

The tenuous connection forged by a simple smile leads to events that dismantle both their lives. Has the damage been done, or can they pick up the pieces together?

This book is on:
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Excerpt:
Reviews:Jeannie Zelos on Jeannie Zelos Book Reviews wrote:

I loved this story, a great read, bringing in a very real feel of life in the fifties.
I was born at the very tale end of the fifties, but from my parents conversations about what they'd done this tale felt perfectly suited to the era.
Even in the sixties there was an emphasis on going out for entertainment. TV was limited, we didn't have one like many families until i was maybe 9 or 10, and even then it was limited- no 24 hr TV, only two channels, definitely no daytime TV so we had to do things, not sit indoors. Carnivals, festivals etc all took place in the tiniest of villages even, with everyone turning out for what was a break from the usual work, home, sleep routine. As kids we were involved too so a festival like Aqua Follies which wouldn't get off the ground now would have been high profile for many people. Liv does a terrific job or bringing that era to light.

Of course that makes it all sound like utopia, sunbeams and rainbows when it was anything but. Some of us lurked outside events, lacking the entry fee, trying to soak up a bit of atmosphere from the distance. There wasn't parental leave, childcare etc in jobs so we were bundled off to others or left to roam when parents were working. It was work or starve, pay the rent or out, and Human Rights Act was a far off dream...
Life was tough if you were ordinary, toed the line, conformed, but if you dared to want a same sex relationship - woe is you....Still illegal back then. ( I'm not really sure when that changed, need to have a look at that) It was awful and guys like Russel didn't even want to admit to themsleves they liked other men.
Its so sad, that pressure to conform, to stay safe and legal led to many marrying when there was no way they'd be fully happy. Russel certainly wouldn't be and poor Susie, having a husband that doesn't really love her. Sooner or later she'd realise that, and that's what happened to so many couples, marrying to hide they really wanted a same sex relationship, but brought up to think it was perverted, against the Church, and risking prison if caught.
We're a weird, judgmental group us humans.

I loved Russel and Skip. Skip's sure in his desires for men, has found a group and places where he's reasonably safe, but of course the police were given a pretty free rein then and he's got one that keeps a close eye on him, never missing a chance to nip, berate, harass him.
Police brutality and harassment wasn't recognised then so Skip had to just try to keep out of his way.
I loved Skip's mum, in a sanitorium with TB, as happened to many then. The Fresh Air stance is very true, there was one near where I live and the huts were left open on one side all year round believing that it helped the lungs. Must have been pretty cold in winter!
When Skip is worried about being convicted, even if its a fine and caution he rightly says he'll find it hard to get work. Who wants someone with a sex caution teaching music to their kids, joining their orchestra, working in their firm and of course without income he wouldn't have anywhere to live, even if he could get a landlord to rent to someone with that on their record.
The world was a different place then, though some things seem good, there were things like this that made it a hard place for so many.

Russel, he sort of thinks he's happy with Susie, there's no grand passion but he has nothing to contrast with how he feels so he think that's normal.
He knows his mum has been withdrawn after his brother died in Service, and he thinks it will make her happy if he gets married,so he's planning to ask Susie to marry him - til he sees Skip. One look and he's hooked, one word and he knows what he has with Susie isn't Love.

What happens now though? What will they do, can they do living so far apart, when men cannot live openly with, be in a relationship with other men.
Is there a way through or are they a doomed, never to be together couple. And can he settle for Susie if that's so?

Reading through the blurb I saw this was edited by KJ Charles, one of my favourite M/M authors - actually The favourite, she's my number one for that genre, and it made me wonder if she had much influence over this book.
At the end reading through Liv's explanations of how this book came to be she's had the input of many people and it reminded me of the "it takes a village to raise a child" phrase. Maybe it takes a Team to raise a successful book.
Certainly its worked well this time, and its a great author who listens to critics, and shapes the story while still keeping it essentially the one they had in mind. You can please some readers some of the time and all that....

Stars: five, an enjoyable read, taking me back to a time when homosexuality was still illegal, still seen as perverted.

Kazza on On Top Down Under Reviews wrote:

This book makes me feel old. I'm a child of the 1950s and I don't want to think I fit into some historical period, but it's been sixty two years since the 1955 Sea Follies in Seattle, the backdrop of this particular story. I think I'll stick with the term retro, that sounds way better. But you know what's funny? And I think this every now and then when someone posts something about 'those damn hipsters' like they're new, or the worst thing in the world, which they aren't. They were around in the 1950's and this book reminds me of hipsters and greasers... and Dobie Gilles (and Maynard G Krebs), if I'm thinking about America, which this book is set in.... So I can laugh and feel old all at the same time thanks to Liv Rancourt, and be reminded that everything old is new again.

This is a quality piece of writing and I can't recommend it highly enough to those readers who enjoy queer or gay historical romance with depth and breadth and a great sense of time and place, never letting you forget where you are. If you'd like to learn a few things about an era that is not often explored without being overcome by reds under the beds or conservative facts, and the junior senator from Wisconsin, then this is your book. Ms Rancourt knows this is a romance but still makes sure the world building is on point while allowing the MCs to take us on their journey shaped by their time - and what a journey it is. It sneaks up on you. I thought Skip was an amazing character and I found I'd gravitated toward his quotes when I was looking at clippings, but Russell's growth throughout is pretty spectacular and the best quotes of his, when he becomes somewhat more loquacious, are kind of spoilers. These are characters I'm still thinking about a couple of days after finishing it, and I'm hoping Ms Rancourt has one more book in place for Skip and Russell. If this book sounds like you, do yourself a big favour and grab it when it is released on June 15th.


About the Author

I write romance: f/m, m/m, h/d (h=human, d=demon or maybe vampire). Love is love, even with fangs.