Title: One Good Deed
Author: Andrew Grey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Release Date: February 10th 2014
Length: 200 pages / Novel
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Luka Krachec immigrates to the United States to find his cousin dead and his cousin’s wife hospitalized after a terrible accident. He meets Peter Montgomery at the funeral. The American seems nice and captures Luka’s attention when he offers to help him with his English.
Peter has spent most of his life believing he shot his father at age six, and his family uses his regret and overwhelming guilt to keep him under their proverbial thumbs. Peter does his best to make up for what he did by helping others, and agreeing to help Luka with his English yields something amazing when they hit it off.
When Peter opens up to Luka about what happened when he was a child, Luka senses some holes in the story and suspects Peter needs some help, so he approaches the head of the psychology department at the college where he works. Neither expects to open a long-barricaded door to secrets, denial, and family manipulation.
One Good Deed is another deviation from Andrew Grey, and one, I have to say, that I have already reread twice. The story begins with Luka arriving in the US to find his cousin’s funeral his first destination, and his sister-in-law in a coma. What a way to begin a journey in a new county! Well, that event did provide Luka with one thing, an introduction to an American whose life revolves around helping others.
Peter is a man whose life was derailed when he was six and his father was shot… he has always believed that he’s the one who killed his father and so he’s poured his entire life into helping, teaching, serving, and sadly, allowing his family to use and abuse him. That leads him to Luka, but when he offers to help the sweet man learn English, Luka teaches him more that a little about life, love, and himself.
This story was lighter on angst, that many other Grey stories, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s a light story. It’s NOT. Between guilt, fear, a government that doesn’t want to let go, and both having to learn to move on from the past, this is anything but easy. However, it is wonderfully written, deeply touching, and passionately addictive.
Love conquers all… be in hate, fear, guilt, or the past. This is one story you need to pick up and devour. It’s also one that will stay with you long after the last words are read. Oh, and Luka is one character that not only comes off as truly real, but it one I wanted to crawl into the pages to hug more than once. And if you’ve never read an Andrew Grey story (gasp!!! How!!!) this is a perfect time to dive in and enjoy.
“Hello,” a soft male voice said from next to him as Luka stared out one of the windows.
“Hello. I’m Luka, Josif’s cousin. I just arrived from Belgrade today.”
The man nodded and smiled. “I’m Peter Montgomery. Josif and Bella were—are—friends of mine,” he said in perfect Serbian, which was surprising given that Peter looked anything but Serbian with his blue eyes, light hair, and ruby-red lips that captured Luka’s attention for a few seconds. Then Luka forced himself to look away. “We met when I helped them learn English a few years ago.”
“You’re a teacher?” Luka asked.
“Yes and no,” Peter answered, waving one hand back and forth. “I’m a social worker, but in the evenings I help people learn English. It started with a young couple I was helping out. Then I began holding regular classes for other people who wanted to improve their skills. Soon I was teaching a lot of people. I taught them English, and they taught me Serbian.” Peter blushed adorably. “I learn languages very quickly. I speak a number of them, including Spanish and German.”
“I only speak Serbian and German,” Luka said. “I took English in school but that was long ago.”
“We can change that if you wish,” Peter told him.
Luka wanted to hear more, but people began making their way into the church, so he followed and sat down near the front.
The service started, and Luka was thrilled. There were some differences from what he was used to, but it was conducted in his language. Everything about the Mass was familiar and surprisingly calming, even if it was a funeral. He hadn’t seen his cousins since they’d visited Belgrade a number of years earlier, but he still felt their loss. Luka had been looking forward to seeing his extended family again. But honestly, it was hard for him to think of much other than what he was going to do now. He knew it seemed selfish, but….
Rather than dwell on the funeral and his own precarious position, Luka let the familiarity of the service calm him. There were people here who understood him. Yes, he was a stranger in a strange land, but he’d found a small piece of home here, and he could live with that. As the service continued, he listened and responded at familiar points in the liturgy, one constant in a sea of life changes.
At the end of the service, there were few dry eyes. It pleased Luka to know his cousin was that well liked and cared about. They prayed for Bella as well, sending her their thoughts and well wishes for a speedy recovery. Then, slowly, people stood and began filing out, talking softly as they moved. Luka followed behind the others, a little lost in his own world.
“Excuse me,” he mumbled when he bumped into someone.
“It’s all right.” It was Peter, and he turned to smile at him. “Are you going to the luncheon?”
Luka nodded. He guessed he was. He saw Steven, who seemed to be following the crowd, so Luka did the same.
“Was the service similar to those back home?”
“Yes,” Luka said. “It was very comforting and nice. I’m glad my cousin was so well liked.”
“Your cousin was loved,” Peter told him. “He was always willing to help others. People relied on Josif, and he’ll be missed.” Peter motioned him forward, and they went into a large hall where tables and chairs had been set up. Everyone gathered and talked, taking places at the tables. Luka sat next to Steven, and Peter sat on the other side of him. More than once while they waited for the others to gather, Luka caught himself glancing at Peter, wondering what was behind the sadness he saw in those huge blue eyes. Something in Luka’s heart told him it wasn’t from the funeral today. It was much deeper than the loss of a friend. Whatever had happened to Peter had touched and maybe even scarred his soul. Luka shivered and looked away.
“You should see if Peter can help you learn English,” Steven said from the other side of him. “I was told you already have a job, and that’s great, but learning English will help you get along outside of the Serbian community.”
“Of course,” Peter said, and Luka turned toward him in time to catch his smile. “I’ll be happy to help you if you want.”
It was probably too soon for Luka to be making decisions, but he found himself nodding anyway.
“What did you do for a living in Serbia?” Peter asked.
The room quieted before Luka could answer, and the priest stood up at one end of the room. Everyone bowed their heads, and the priest said a blessing. Then people began getting up. Luka followed the others, and when the time came, he filled his plate and returned to his seat. Some of the dishes were familiar, but many were strange. He took a little of everything, even the green stuff with white things suspended in it.
“You’re brave,” Peter told him, indicating the green, wiggly stuff.
Luka didn’t know what Peter meant until he tried the green stuff. It was sweet, chewy, and terrible. He swallowed and pushed it to the side. His mother had always taught him never to waste food, but in this case he was most definitely going to make an exception. If this was an example of American food, then Americans were certainly strange.
“That’s Jell-O salad,” Peter told him in a combination of English and Serbian. “Beware,” he added with a warm smile.
Luka wanted to laugh, but wasn’t sure it was appropriate, so he returned the smile and began eating again. As soon as he took the first bite of real food, his appetite kicked in and he began to eat quickly, his empty stomach demanding attention. The food was better than the green stuff, some of it familiar, like the sausages, called cevaps, similar to what his mother made.
“You didn’t tell me what you did,” Peter said from next to him.
“I worked in scientific research for the government,” Luka explained, but he gave no further details. His previous employer had not been particularly pleased with his decision to leave, and with the way he’d felt he had to leave, he knew he wouldn’t be readily allowed to return. “I really can’t talk about it.” Secrecy had become a habit he couldn’t easily break.
“Is that the kind of work you’ll be doing here?” Peter asked.
“I work for university here,” Luka said in English. “Josif help me,” he added. He hoped he still had the job and remembered the papers safely tucked in the bottom of the bag he’d carried with him. “I have papers.”
“Excellent. It sounds like you had some excitement getting out of Serbia.”
Luka nodded. “It is free except when the government no want it to be.” He wasn’t sure if he made sense, but Peter nodded, and Luka smiled.
“Your English is pretty good.”
“I learn in school, but not use much. I know is bad.” It sounded bad to his ears, but he forced himself to continue. He needed to get used to the language. Everything was, of course, much easier for him to say in Serbian.
“No, it’s not. You just need practice,” Peter said in Serbian. “First you need to begin to understand, and then you’ll feel more comfortable speaking. It’s very natural and something I’ve helped a lot of people with. I can help you too.”
“Okay,” Luka agreed. He’d been in America just a few hours and he’d already met someone who might be a friend. Maybe two someones, if Steven turned out to be as nice as Luka hoped. It would be nice to have a friend who was like him, though here it didn’t seem to be a big deal.
“Where are you staying?”
“For tonight I’m staying with Steven, but after that I don’t know. Josif and Bella had written me to say that they had a small apartment I could live in, but with Josif….” He hesitated, then said, “With Josif gone, I don’t know what is goi
ng to happen.” He swallowed hard and returned to his food. It gave him something to concentrate on other than the people he’d lost and how alone he was. Luka turned to Steven. “Can I see Bella?”
Steven paused for a few seconds before nodding. Then he went on to explain that she was in a special area of the hospital and only family could see her. Since Luka was a relative, that shouldn’t be a problem, but Steven wouldn’t be able to go in with him.
“I can take him,” Peter interjected. “I have nothing else to do this afternoon. I’ll take him from here to the hospital, and bring him back to your house afterwards.”
“Thanks,” Steven said. “I have things I have to get done this afternoon. That would be great.” He smiled and then added, “I don’t have plans for this evening, so we can talk then and I’ll show you around if you like.”
“Thank you,” Luka said. “That would be nice.”
They finished eating, and people sat around, talking. Then, after a while, they began to leave. Luka looked around, wondering what would happen next. A few people stopped by to introduce themselves. Some were cousins and more distant relatives he hadn’t ever met. They seemed happy to see him. Some spoke Serbian and some didn’t, but all of them shook his hand vigorously.
“We can go see Bella when you’re ready,” Peter told him once more people filtered out.
ANDREW GREY grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Since then he has lived throughout the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and works in information systems for a large corporation.
Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing). He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.