Note: This ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
“We’re not asking for special treatment. All we want is to be treated the same way as you. This vote isn’t about whether or not you understand or approve of homosexuality. It has nothing to do with raising and adopting children. All a Yes vote would ensure is that we will be a little bit less separate from the rest of society. We just want to be equal. Nothing is going to change for you. Your marriages will still be as good or as bad as they are right now—your weddings still as lavish or as simple as you want them to be. Voting Yes won’t cost you anything and will give so very much.”
Helena Stone started her Dublin Virtues strong with the story of artist Xander Ekman and tattooist Troy Moriarty in Patience, but with Equality, the second novel, she not only gives readers a romance between Xander's and Troy's respective best friends, but she also touches upon the fight for same sex marriage in Ireland. Saying this is the author at her optimum would probably sound strange since I've only read two of her books, both belonging to one series, but hey, I'm basing my opinion on what I've experienced so far, and while I seriously liked the series starter, book two had that something...more. This book gave me those satisfying heartfelt moments, enough heated snippets, and a subject that shouldn't just be thought about but should be discussed more openly in many nations.
Eric Kavanagh and Lorcan Barrett seemed destined to meet. Had it not been through Eric being brought in as an interior designer to work on the offices of the company Lorcan worked for, it would have certainly been through their best friends who had fallen for one another. They clicked from the beginning and even with Eric having spent three months in Canada, being in each other's presence made it clear the attraction between them hadn't waned. But Lorcan's never been in a relationship and the lack of acceptance of his sexuality on his parents' end hasn't helped. However, he wants to try with Eric and volunteering to help the "Yes" vote for Ireland's same sex marriage referendum should bond them...right? Will Lorcan's issues get in the way of them saying "Yes" to staying together?
I love that this book was released on the second anniversary of the legalization of same sex marriage in Ireland, which happened when a referendum held had the "Yes" vote winning with 62%. This happened more than a month before the landmark decision by Supreme Court in the United States. Since 2015, a number of other countries have joined the ranks, and each time news like this breaks, I can't help but get teary-eyed. After all, it should be the right of every individual to marry who they want, regardless of sexual orientation. Unfortunately, it is a work in progress and a slow one at that. In the Philippines, the idea of legalizing same sex marriage is considered by many as more of an impossibility than legalizing divorce. Such is life in a conservative, mostly Catholic country.
I was born and raised Roman Catholic, but I've seen myself as more of a progressive Catholic for the past several years. I don't agree with every single stance the Church takes, and I'm not alone. Helena Stone's Equality reiterated the stand more and more people are more publicly taking and I applaud her for the manner in which she handled the debate between those who use religion as the reason they refuse to budge on accepting same sex relationships and marriage and those who simply want the same right as everyone else. The fact that Lorcan was gay and was fighting for the "Yes" vote but had parents who claim to love and accept him yet would vote "No" to giving him the opportunity to marry a man he loved should he ever decide to do so was heartrending yet so brave.
This could have been nothing more than a love story with the referendum as part of the scenery. Instead, the author shined the spotlight on both the evolving romance between Eric and Lorcan AND on the referendum. How those two as well as Lorcan's relationships with members of his immediate family are intertwined is what makes this such a fantastic read, and now, one of my favorites for 2017. It isn't overly dramatic nor angsty and there's nothing too complicated about it, but that doesn't mean that it's dumbed-down fare. This book made me feel AND think. Equality never pandered to a romance reader's sensibilities but what you do get is a very new relationship that's put through its paces as Eric, Lorcan, and the rest of Ireland see the dawning of a new reality. Five-plus stars. ♥
Read my reviews for the Dublin Virtues series:
Patience (book one) - 4.5 stars - My Review
Equality (book two) - five-plus stars - My Review (posted above)
Date Read: 31 May 2017
Learn more about Helena Stone.