Button down

Button Down - Dawn Kimberly Johnson
4.25* 

I saw the blurb and immediately wanted to read this story. I was a little worried about the level of angst and inner musings, self-loathing and misunderstandings that might await me. A totally unfounded fear as it turned out. 
Ford is the second son of the town mayor, deacon of the church and all around ambitious man. Ford has always lived in his brother Royce's shadow. He wants to please his father and earn his love and respect but even at 30 doesn't feel like he's ever quite good enough. 
“Ford knew he would never shine as brightly in his parents’ eyes as Royce. His big brother would always be bigger, stronger, and better-looking. Ford’s only consolation was knowing that no one loved him like Royce loved him. His brother always had his back.”

He's kept his homosexuality a secret for the most part. He's afraid of losing his family, especially his brother Royce.
Ford is a good man, a good friend, a good son and brother. I really liked him. 
But meeting Gus, he now has a reason to come out, his own happiness.
“Mm-hm. But what do you want, Button?”
Ford scrubbed his face with his hand, glanced toward the bedroom, and sighed, “I know what I don’t want. I don’t want to be afraid anymore.”

Gus was kicked out at 16 when his religious parents found him kissing a boy, but he's made his way in life, has great friends and doesn't hide who he is. His lover left him and went to 'conversion therapy' which has been especially hard on Gus.
I think Gus is a great guy, he has strong convictions and a good heart.
He didn't pressure Ford, he understood his situation.
“as he imagined the fear and horror Ford must have been feeling at that time, so young and surrounded by people who likely believed he was an abomination. No one to talk to. Just like me.
They had taken different paths—Ford distracting himself, pretending, buttoning himself down, and Gus bursting out, albeit against his will and sooner than he would have liked. Ford had held on to his family by lying, while Gus had lost his by telling the truth.”

There are a lot of issues covered in this story, religion, prejudice, political ambitions, conversion therapy, being true to yourself, coming out, standing by your family and loved ones, homophobia and acceptance. Despite all that it wasn't a dark or depressing story, as a matter of fact, I found it uplifting and hopeful. I loved watching Ford come into his own and actually once he decided on it, it was surprisingly easy for him.

Ford's mama and grandmother rock! His best friend Cicely was wonderful and even Royce turned out more than ok, despite a few hiccups. I wasn't thrilled with the way Andy's story played out, but that was probably just me.
At times it felt a little 'preachy' but it was all wrapped up in such a way that I didn't mind at all.
I loved that these guys are honest with each other, no mind games, no unnecessary drama and I'm really glad I read this story.