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The Strength of a Man

by Sara Winters

The Strength of a Man - Sara Winters
Editions:ePub: $ 2.99
ISBN: 9781476074252
PDF: $ 2.99Kindle: $ 2.99
ISBN: 978-1479317899
Paperback: $ 6.99
ISBN: 978-1479317899
Size: 9.00 x 6.00 in
Pages: 110

James Theard comes into Kurt’s life when he needs someone the most. A friend first and boyfriend second, James becomes his shoulder to lean on, a voice of reason and helps Kurt learn he is stronger and more capable than he imagined.

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Kurt frowned and looked down, just making out the blurry outline of his feet in the water. He thought of all the things he couldn’t bring himself to talk about. The letter he’d left on the table at home. The tearful call from his mother asking if his sudden decision to be gay was a sick joke. His father snatching the phone and threatening to disown him if he didn’t get some help. The silence from his best friends before he finally gave up waiting for a response to his emails. No, nothing was going on. Nothing he could discuss with a relative stranger.

“No,” Kurt said finally. He pressed his lips together and crossed his arms over his chest. He needed to get out of the water. He was cold all over.


James nodded. “Fair enough.” He paused, moved as if to touch Kurt’s shoulder, then returned his arm to the water at his side. “Whatever the reason, I can tell you’re not focused. And if I can tell, Coach Davis has known for a while and won’t let it slide for much longer.” He paused and searched Kurt’s face.

Kurt avoided his eyes, all at once feeling short of breath and naked, as if James’s scrutiny could force him to confess his darkest sins and confront the demons who’d stolen his peace of mind. It would be so easy to confide in him, this stranger who was in no position to judge. But as much as Kurt wanted to find one person who could listen and understand, what he wanted more was to take back the last few weeks of his life and find a way to cocoon the wounded part of himself from being hurt again. It was a child’s wishful thinking, but there it was. He wanted to turn back time and make his parents love him again. He wanted to pretend his confession had been a nightmare that ended before his parents returned home from seeing him off to school. He wanted to be a son they could love, if it meant he didn’t have to be alone in the world.

He looked back at James and nodded to show he understood the warning.

James studied him for a few more moments before he said, “All right. Try it a few more times and I’ll let you go.” He stood back and watched Kurt try the turn and kick several more times before waving his teammate out of the water. “That’s enough. Hit the showers.”

Enough as in I’m done for today or done altogether? Kurt followed in silence, nerves twisting his stomach into knots. He grabbed his towel and toiletries from his locker and debated if it would be appropriate to ask for an evaluation while they were in the shower.

When James walked into the shower, he chose one near the far wall. Kurt stayed as close to the door as possible. A tense silence had fallen between them and Kurt drew the inevitable conclusion. After his performance, James couldn’t stand to look at him. He’d been swimming as if he’d just stopped using his floaties and they both knew it. Now, with his apparent inability to take on even the smallest lesson, Kurt felt sure it was only a matter of how, not if, James would break the news to him.

It was just as well. Failing at this would just be another step in what his father had called his descent into hell. Another would be the way he found his eyes drawn to James. Through the steam in the shower, he could just make out the outline of the other man’s shoulders and legs, and the delicious stretch of skin between. It only took a few seconds of imagining helping James wash his back before Kurt was fighting down his erection, hoping James wouldn’t turn on his way out of the shower area and notice his teammate about to come all over himself like a twelve-year-old after his first wet dream.

Reviews:Lucy on Hearts On Fire Reviews wrote:

Good heavens, poor Kurt. You want to scoop him up and hug him. He wants to be accepted for who he is, and though he knows his father will have issue with it, he has hope for his mother. That isn’t to be when he leaves a carefully worded letter explaining he is gay. To make it worse, not only do his parents reject him, but his two closest friends, who he thinks will be in his corner and convince his parents he is the same son he was before, also reject him. Devastating at any age, but a freshman in college, just on his own for the first time? Awful.

Kurt is a member of the swim team and he is floundering, as would be expected when your life is in upheaval like that. The Coach directs a senior member, James, to help him out. There may be a double reason why Coach wants James to help Kurt. James has been where Kurt is now, gay, rejected and afraid of failing the team. Coach helped James, James will help Kurt.
Kurt has additional baggage with him – his first sexual experience was with a user, and the second was with an abuser. Kurt has a lot to get over before he can become whole. James is patient, and wants only Kurt’s best. Sometimes, Kurt acts like an ass (for example, he gets angry at James for things such as suggesting counseling) but he is trying to work through things by avoiding them. He needs a nudge sometimes.

One disappointment for me was that as the story progressed the swimming seemed to take a back seat. It’s very prominent in the first part, and then relegated to very back. It comes up briefly but only really as a way for Kurt’s mom to come up. As a swimming fan, I would have enjoyed that focus. But there is a lot for Kurt to deal with, so we focus on that. James, that man is a saint, honestly. James’ friend Blake comes across as a doofus and yet I really liked him as well. He’s just funny, honest and in James’ face about things.
I thought his parents were realistically portrayed (unfortunately for those who thought they were loved unconditionally) and mom especially, gravitating from one end to the other, trying to find a balance, was a true life character. Kurt is so lucky to have James, and James is lucky to have Kurt. Recommended.

Gabbi on Top 2 Bottom Reviews wrote:

This is the first book I’ve read by Sara Winters, and I have to say I’m impressed by this short story. She really captures the angst and emotional trauma that one of her heroes, Kurt, goes through, and even though they’re a lot of things going on with him, it’s not overly done and the romance between Kurt and James really made this a lovely read.

Kurt has recently come out of the closet to his parents and to his dismay and heartache, they have rejected him. As a member of his college swim team, his performance at meets and practice has suffered because of Kurt’s pain. He believes he’s about to be kicked off the team and is starting to think that there’s nothing positive in his life, the captain of the swim team, James, steps in and offers to give Kurt some pointers and help him.

Soon, James and Kurt fall into a fast friendship and their relationship starts to evolve into something very special. But Kurt’s hurt and anger often keeps him from totally trusting and opening up to James. Lucky for him, James is a very patient and understanding person, so hopefully with a little love and acceptance, Kurt will begin to believe in both himself and in the relationship he and James have together. Will Kurt be able to work through his past hurts and open himself to the love that James wants to give?

I really liked this book. When it comes to the story in general, it’s not always an easy read. Kurt’s life is filled with sadness, anger and confusion, and this brought out all of my protective instincts for him. I just wanted to grab him and adopt him for myself. At the beginning of the story, Kurt feels a lot of loss and self-loathing, but with James’ guidance he begins to work though his pain and starts to evolve into a more confident man. I thought the drama between Kurt and his parents was well written and I often felt sorry for Kurt and the hell he went through. Even though there’s a lot going on with him emotionally, in the end Kurt still proves that he’s able to stand on his own and be proud of who he really is. I enjoyed watching him evolve into a stronger person and thought he was an all-around likeable and sympathetic hero.

James is a total doll. He’s truly perfect for Kurt. He’s supportive of Kurt without smothering him with over sympathetic gestures. He allows Kurt to grow and change at his own pace and ended up being the boyfriend that most people would be proud to have.

I really enjoyed the roller-coaster ride of emotions the author gave me while I read this book. I do wish the book had been a little longer. The ending was a big rushed for me. I wish there has been an epilogue or a least another chapter or two instead of the quick summary at the end. But otherwise, the story moves along quite quickly and is well-paced throughout. I thought the trauma that Kurt goes through was realistically written as well as the steps he took to overcome it. Recommended!

About the Author

Sara Winters began reading at three, writing fiction at six and had become totally immersed in the idea of creating new worlds before becoming fully aware of her place in this one. Writing has always been her number one love, bringing hours of enjoyment and earning her the privilege of being able to connect with people from all walks of life with just a few descriptive sentences.
When she allows herself to spend time in the real world, she is a professional procrastinator with half a dozen unfinished novels and ideas for two dozen more.