Harmony Ink Press, Reviewed by Tina, Winter Sandberg

A Very Public Love For Winter Sandberg’s “Private Display of Affection”

“…Not everything needs to be about sex. Just doing what you’re doing right now is fulfilling. Hold each other. Kiss for hours. Kissing is the best. It’s two souls communicating.” – Winter Sandberg

Title: Private Display of Affection (North Star #0.5)

Author: Winter Sandberg

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 210 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Hugo Thorson knows he’s gay, but coming out during high school is not part of his plan. His parents are open-minded, but Hugo doesn’t want to add more stress for anybody, especially his dad, who is fighting terminal cancer.

At a summer job he meets and befriends Kevin Magnus, and before long, their friendship becomes something more. Kevin knows this will anger his overbearing father, so he decides to protect his secret by dating a girl at school.

Hugo plays along, but it’s still hard to watch the two of them together just to make Kevin’s homophobic father happy. And when Hugo’s father dies, he realizes he can’t go on living the lie. He comes clean to Kevin, who decides Hugo’s true feelings are more important than his father’s expectations.

One fact remains: Kevin and Hugo’s relationship must always be hidden behind friendship, lies, girlfriends, or secret kisses. Will they find a sanctuary big enough to hold their feelings?


Review: Hugo and Kevin are back! Or we are back. Or something like that! Private Display of Affection is Winter Sandberg’s YA adaptation of Posy Roberts’s novel Spark. Spark is book one in the North Star Series, so named because of a compass keychain one character gives to the other early in their relationship. I loved Spark, Fusion and Flare, the three novels which made up the original, adult series.

Private Display of Affection takes us inside the early years (actually, just the first year) of Hugo and Kevin’s relationship. We have read about them as adults, with flashes of their early time together. Now we get to bear witness to the time when they met and first got to know one another. Little bits of it felt like a re-read. This was due to the memories Ms. Roberts included in Spark. But most of Private Display of Affection felt new, as it was completely fleshed out and told to us as it was happening, not just in brief glimpses of something that happened years in the past.

This was a most enjoyable read. I fell so in love with Hugo and Kevin, the men in the original series. It was a privilege to meet them as the boys who were growing into the men I knew they would become. I found that I love them just as much as boys as I do as men.

Hugo knows he is gay. The only person he has told is his older sister. He knows he can never come out in the small city where he lives because it is an incredibly intolerant place. Kevin and his parents move into town the summer before Kevin and Hugo are to start their junior year of high school. They meet at the Hormel plant where Spam is made. They both work there for the summer. Hugo asks Kevin to have lunch with him. Kevin has never had sexual thoughts about boys before. He also is terrified of what his father, the ever appearance minded tyrant, would do if he found out that Kevin and Hugo were more than friends. His father doesn’t even approve of Hugo as a friend because Hugo has no social value and is unable to provide Kevin with the social standing his father covets.

So a plan is conceived. Kevin has a “girlfriend” but still sees Hugo. It breaks Hugo’s sensitive heart to watch Kevin making out with a girl in the halls at school. He can’t take it anymore and distances himself from Kevin. Then, when Hugo’s father dies, Kevin is forced to face his feelings for Hugo and makes changes in his life that enable him to be with Hugo more often. But they agree that they can never be open about their relationship outside of Hugo’s house. Hugo’s older sister and mom are awesome. They are loving and supportive and educational to the point of complete embarrassment. I firmly believe every gay teenager would benefit from having a mom like Ruby. Hell, every teenager, regardless of sexual orientation, needs a mom like Ruby.

Private Display of Affection is the first in a YA series of adaptations. There are to be three or four total, which will take us to the point in time where Spark begins. Even knowing the rough road ahead for Kevin and Hugo, and knowing I will cry my fool head off, I look forward to reading every one of the books Ms. Sandberg writes about these characters.

Onward to senior year to see what trials and parental restraints are put in the way of true love!

Very publicly recommended.

You can buy Private Display of Affection (North Star #0.5) here:


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