Taking Stock

It’s 1971, shortly after homosexuality has been decriminalized in Britain. Stockbroker Phil McManus breaks up with his young boyfriend, Richard, as the latter has no concept of fidelity or monogamy, which is how Phil caught him cheating.  A few days later, his boss at the brokerage firm where he’s worked for years calls him to his office to tell him he’s been accused of insider trading, something the upstanding Phil would never do, and sends him home for two weeks.  When he comes back, it’s even worse: the firm has tracked down several offshore accounts in his name, and Phil realizes Richard is twisting the knife as payback.  While a forensic audit is conducted, Phil has to be out of the office, so he promptly rents an unseen cottage whose best feature is its location – 150 miles from London.

Laurie Henshaw runs the farm he inherited from his uncle Matthew, but must now depend on the farmhands to do all the work since he suffered a stroke out in the fields.  Angered by his body’s new limitations, he stalks off to the post office one morning after an argument with his housekeeper and longtime friend, Sally, although it takes but a few steps to realize the hike wasn’t a good idea.  But he’s can’t just collapse on the side of the road, so he struggles his way to the post office, where he promptly collapses in a chair. Phil is there and offers Laurie a lift home, providing help without pity, and being a good British host, Laurie invites him in for tea.

Although it takes some time, each deduces the other is gay and recognizes their growing attraction. As Phil organizes the ledgers that have gone unattended since Laurie’s stroke and breaks a welcome sweat alongside the farm laborers, Laurie is both attracted to and afraid of losing Phil to a return to London. At the same time, Phil ponders if he can revisit a firm that so swiftly doubted his integrity and a life in London that now seems empty.

A.L. Lester has written a stirring story of mature love that touches even the hardest heart, reminding readers that love comes in many shapes, sizes, and conditions.

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