In Freshwater’s debut, John Peter Wells learns having it all isn’t enough.
John is chief counsel to Sen. Patrick Donovan, a Washington power player. But there’s double trouble in paradise: His partner, David, restless because of John’s laserlike focus on work, prowls the capital’s gay haunts; and Donovan, who wants the presidential nomination, hires an adviser who convinces him John's homosexuality is a liability. Meanwhile, Donovan’s daughter, Melody, John’ research assistant, is pining for him in unrequited love. Herein a narrative hole: Surely a modern young woman would understand that sexual preferences are immutable, but a depressed Melody commits suicide in Boston on the night her father announces his presidential campaign and pushes John out of his job. John collapses and winds up taking the ferry to Provincetown. What follows is part fish-out-of-water story, part protagonist-finds-himself story as John tries understand Melody’s admonition to him the first time he met her: "Just be careful not to lose yourself along the way." Provincetown hosts eclectic characters—flamboyant bookstore owner Byron; elderly widow Florence, mourning her son’s death from AIDS; and Lynn, an empathetic psychologist. Each is distinct, and drawn with familiarity, but archetypical. John tells people his name is Peter, a dual identity the author handles deftly, and stumbles toward romance with Danny, a carpenter/hunk restoring an old church. Danny’s the confused scion—"I’m not gay!"—of a prosperous family floundering after the deaths of his parents and younger brother in a plane crash. While there’s more than one instance of brief point-of-view changes causing a hiccup in the narrative flow, Freshwater’s familiarity with the political posturing of D.C. and the gay-tourist-town–meets-high-power-hideaway that’s Provincetown gives the story a solid sense of place.
Freshwater’s first foray will appeal to readers looking for romance rather than a literary exploration of sexuality.