The Handyman’s History

by Nick Poff

Handyman Ed Stephens and his partner Rick Benton have begun their new life as the masters of Penfield Manor. After the first big event in their new home, Rick’s sister’s wedding, they hope for a long stretch of peace of quiet.

Instead, Ed and Rick both find themselves involved in new activities. As Rick's boss, Realtor Vince Cummings, becomes aware of the opportunities available in the sudden expansion of Porterfield, he and Rick become guiding forces for a major redevelopment project. Meanwhile, Ed's innocent suggestions regarding the revival of a local festival lead him to become a member of the Porterfield Days Association, and the acceptance of additional responsibilities.

It's Rick's discovery of a tombstone in a disused town cemetery that sparks Ed's curiosity about the background of his father's family. Ed begins to question the relationship he had with his deceased father and hopes learning some of the Stephens family secrets will enable him to make peace with his unresolved feelings.

The usual cast of suspects is back to both enrich and complicate Ed's life: His sharp-tongued but supportive mother Norma, his sister Laurie, and housekeeper Effie Maude, who maintains her position at Penfield Manor, and provides amusement for Ed and Rick with her observations and pronouncements. Their best bud Gordy is on the scene as well, struggling to build a relationship in the early years of AIDS. Even Ed gets a taste of the hostility becoming more common as fear of the disease spreads.

As Ed deals with the realities of being a gay man in a small town in 1985, he unexpectedly finds support from two unlikely sources, a visually impaired client, and a clergyman new to the town. THE HANDYMAN'S HISTORY, with its soundtrack of classic oldies, will take its readers both forward and backward in the continuing saga of Ed and Rick, as their relationship strengthens, matures, and endures.

Heat Level: 3
Romantic Content: 1
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Reviews:Terry Anderson on Goodreads wrote:

I read Nick Poff's first three books in the Handyman's series, but that was quite a few years ago. When I started reading The Handyman's History I realized I had forgotten who these characters were, so I stopped halfway through and went back to re-read the first book, The Handyman's Dream, so I could re-familiarize myself with Ed Stephens and his handsome husband, Rick Benton.

Nick Poff is a good writer. The story moves along nicely. It's set primarily in 1985, with occasional flashbacks to the mid and late 1970s when Ed was coming to terms with his sexuality and trying to understand and accept who he was. I love that in the intervening years Ed and Rick have carved out good, happy lives for themselves in a small Indiana town where many people would not have been open to accepting people who are different, especially gay men, when nearly everyone in the world was scared thinking they would catch HIV just by touching a homosexual. If I hadn't moved away from my small town I would never have met my fabulous husband, a man I've now known and been in love with for 35 years. Still, it made me wonder what my life would have been like in a quiet town had I stayed put.

An interesting difference between the first and last books in the series is Poff's language. As I re-read Poff's first book, I think the only profanity might have been an occasional "damn," but the fourth book is much more adult, with quite a few swear words. It didn't turn me off, but I found it interesting to see how Poff's writing style had changed. It's bolder, stronger, and better. If you lived through the 1970s and 1980s, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the number of references to popular music and TV shows that may bring you happy memories.

Too many fictional stories about gay men start and end with a single romance, and that's the end of the story: a young man meets another man, they do the dance of "is he or isn't he", and when they eventually fall in love, the story ends. Nick Poff's Handyman series takes a similar story and stretches it well into the years beyond the lovers' first meeting. I've always wanted an author to tell me what happened to his or her characters rather than just leave me wondering whether their love lasts, and Poff does this well.

Ed Stephens and Rick Benton are nothing but likeable. Ed's mother is loving but obnoxious. The other characters are mostly supportive of Ed and Rick, although the occasional bully and mean broad show up, which underscores the reality that gay men faced in the 1980s.

Thank you, Nick Poff. I really liked this book. (less)

Lyn Perkin on Amazon UK wrote:

Ed Stephens is a man after my own heart.. loving, caring but with just enough bite to provide a witty or scathing riposte to all the haters. And there are haters in this book because the story represents real life. While continuing the story of Ed, his husband Rick and their families Nick Poff has also given us a wonderful insight into what made the boy Ed into the man we’ve all come to know and love. There are sad, funny and sometimes, heartbreaking flashbacks which take us back to harsher times where being gay was illegal and dangerous. This is a beautifully written and genuinely uplifting book which will leave you waiting eagerly for the next episode in Ed’s life. Read it. You won’t be disappointed.

About the Author

Nick Poff enjoyed a long career in the radio industry until technology took all the fun out of it. That same technology, however, enabled him to pursue another dream -- writing and publishing stories about everyday gay men in the "flyover states" of the US. A widower, Nick lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he currently has a day job in the transit industry to take care of the mortgage payments on a home in an historical early twentieth century neighborhood, and cover the Friskies expenses for his current feline companion, Jasper.

His first novel, THE HANDYMAN'S DREAM, became the beginning of a series of books about gay handyman Ed Stephens. In this book, Ed meets his dream man, Rick Benton, in the autumn of 1980, and Ed enjoys all the exciting and beautiful aspects of falling in love. The story continues with THE HANDYMAN'S REALITY, and as the title implies, Ed learns about maintaining his relationship with his dream man. IN THE HANDYMAN'S PROMISE, Ed and Rick explore the meaning and boundaries of their commitment. In the fourth volume, THE HANDYMAN'S HISTORY, Ed reflects on his past as a way to come to terms with is present and the future. THE HANDYMAN'S SUMMER, available October 8, will take Ed and Rick on a journey of discovery regarding the challenges of being gay in the twentieth century.

Nick enjoys reading, old pop music, and the sillier aspects of pop culture. His current passions include both "Wentworth" and "Stranger Things" on Netflix,  and discovering obscure 45 rpm gems from the late sixties and early seventies. He also spends a good deal of time rolling his eyes at the political and societal madness of the world.


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