The summer after high school, Eli Dunn and Jess Early explore an abandoned brothel in the rural Florida Panhandle.
- I'll Still Be There by Keelan Ellis
I'll Still Be There by Keelan Ellis
CS Christopher Stone
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About the Author
Keelan Ellis is a true crime enthusiast, a political junkie, and a comedy fan. Despite a compulsion to sometimes wallow in the depths of humanity’s corruption and sadness, she considers herself a romantic at heart. The stories she really connects with are about love that’s been twisted into hatred, and she believes that with honesty and forgiveness, love can overcome. Keelan loves good bourbon and classic country music, great television and well-prepared food, especially shared with like-minded people. She’s not a fan of parties and large groups of people, but there’s nothing she loves more than a long conversation with friends. Her favorite part of the writing process is the collaborative stage, hashing out plot and characters with smart and talented friends. It’s where she truly comes to understand the people she’s writing about, and often falls in love with them. With the support and encouragement--as well as some serious editing help--Keelan has found the writing niche she’s always searched for. Sometimes she gets blocked, and when that happens, there’s only one thing she knows to do. Just like Inigo Montoya, she goes back to the beginning, writing about the characters who inspired her so much in the past.
June 01, 2015
I'll Still Be There by Keelan Ellis Reviewed by Christopher Stone
I was totally captivated by Keelan Ellis’s romantic, supernatural romance I’ll Still Be There. Her exceptional storytelling skills soar in capturing the sagas of two disparate gay couples, their lives separated by fifty years and also by the social progress made by the LGBT Community in the decades since Stonewall.
Clay Bailey and Silas Denton’s tale unfolds in the Florida Panhandle, during the mid twentieth century, a time when American LGBT’ers had less than zero rights.
On the other hand, Eli Dunn and Jess Early, also living in the Florida Panhandle. are post Stonewall, post AIDS, Generation Y boys. They have rights, protections and social acceptance about which Clay and Silas could only dream. But even in twenty-first century America, coming out to yourself, as well as to others, can be hard to do.
Keelan Ellis stitches together her twin tales seamlessly and compellingly. So what choices have I but to give this excellent book five star?
In alternating chapters, I’ll Still Be There’s first half chronicles the two relationships. Eventually Clay and Silas’s story converges with that of Eli and Jess – even though Clay and Silas are long dead when the stories meet.
In the twentieth century story, Clay Bailey is a gay teen runaway, escaping parents who don’t accept him for himself. Like so many young gay castoffs in his day, the attractive, fit Clay turns to the world’s oldest profession as a way of surviving in a cruel world - peddling his youthful flesh for a disgusting pig of a pimp.
When later, Clay exchanges prostitution for pimping; he treats his own stable of pulchritudinous pretties with the consideration and respect he didn’t get from his pimp – that swine has been brutally butchered by one of his boys. Beyond consideration and respect, Clay protects the youths that work for him.
Gorgeous, barely legal, Silas Denton is one of them.
Clay has a special affinity – a sexual longing for - Silas, even though he thinks himself a chump for desiring the kid. Clay doesn’t act upon his longing – he dare not believe the much younger pretty boy could share and return his feelings. And then there’s the whole issue of not becoming romantically involved with an employee.
That’s why Clay keeps his feelings to himself – that is, until a violent incident makes it impossible for him to suppress his desire any longer.
But to Clay’s delight and surprise, Silas return’s his affection in spades. They become lovers first, and then later, they are partners in life and in business – the men go on to own and operate a successful heterosexual brothel – a bawdy house with one male whore for the precious few who are willing to admit and indulge their skewed sexual tastes.
Keep in mind: all of this unfolds in mid 20th Century America, a pre Marriage Equality, and pre AIDS era – an era wherein movies, TV, and even the stage rarely tell gay stories. When those stories are told, the gay characters are without exception miserable wretches who commonly took their own lives before the curtain came down, or the movie ended.
In Clay and Silas’s day, the American Psychiatric Society classified homosexuality as a mental illness. And, believe it or not, that didn’t change until 1974.
In Elijah and Jess’s story, beginning in the early twenty-first century, Eli is secretly in love with Jess, his boyhood bestie. Jess feels the same way about Elijah. But they are not out to themselves, much less to anyone else.
That doesn’t mean that Cassie, their gal pal, and Eli’s parents, don’t sense the special chemistry between them.
After high school, Jess reveals his love for Eli. But unable to cope with his same gender sexual orientation, Eli joins the military, leaving Jess behind and alone.
Surprisingly Eli becomes more comfortable with his homosexuality in the military where he befriends an “out” fellow soldier who has a same sex spouse back home.
Eli returns to civilian life, hoping to start a life with Jess, but he is shocked and confused to learn that his beloved has become engaged to their mutual friend, Cassie.
Murdered in their bed in the 1960s, Clay and Silas’s ghostly personalities still haunt the brothel they had called home.
When Jess brings Elijah there, the horny ghosts take their carnal pleasure through their flesh and blood twenty-first century counterparts.
Along the way, Jess breaks off his engagement, and the disembodied Clay and Silas join forces with the very much alive and well Eli and Jess to make dreams come true.
Throughout the author effectively utilizes physics and metaphysics to tell her dual stories of gay loves: one undiminished by physical death, and the other unfettered by adversities.
Through gal pal Cassie; Ellis tells a third story: this one, a tale as old as time – that of the heterosexual woman who foolishly gives her heart to a gay man – subsequently suffering heart-wrenching consequences.
Start to finish, the author makes many notable points about the human and post-death conditions. Yes, she effectively makes points without ever belaboring them.
In the end, Miss Ellis succeeds not only in telling beautifully two love stories, but also as in simultaneously outlining the amazing progress the LGBT Community, and technology, have made in the decades since Stonewall.
If you read only one romance novel this summer, you’d be hard pressed to do better than I’ll Still Be There. As for me, I shout, “Brava, Miss Ellis! I’m ready for more, more, more!”
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