A Dangerous Man is a gripping psychological thriller told in first-person viewpoint by Michael, whom the title describes. Michael is a volatile mixtur...moreA Dangerous Man is a gripping psychological thriller told in first-person viewpoint by Michael, whom the title describes. Michael is a volatile mixture of traits: he's highly attractive, he experiences wild mood swings, and he has a tendency to get obsessed. Despite his complete lack of self-esteem, others like him and admire his talent.
He sketches constantly to escape the reality of his life. Unfortunately, his preferred style is unpopular with most art galleries, which sell traditional oil paintings of the British countryside. Michael specializes in edgy and surrealistic still-life arrangements done in pencil and charcoal.
The novel opens with Michael sharing a flat in London with his landlords Joe and Paul, who are a gay couple. Joe frequently travels on business trips related to the art gallery that he owns. When Joe is away, Paul demands sex from Michael as part of the rent.
Some intriguing reasons compel Michael to tolerate this awful situation. He's tired of drifting on to a new flat where his life gets even worse. He hopes that Joe will one day decide to show his art. He needs to be desired. Finally, through complicated past circumstances, he has come to see himself as a prostitute.
Joe tries to help Michael by getting him an interview with a London firm, which needs some edgy modern art for its lobby. If Michael can make a good impression, the job will be his. Michael rushes off to meet the manager whom he will need to charm.
Jack is handsome, ten years older than Michael is, and from a wealthy family. Michael thinks Jack's accent is "… a thousand notches above mine on the social scale." Jack and Michael experience a mutual attraction, which sets into motion a complex plot with some tragic consequences.
A Dangerous Man is not a gay romance with a traditional happy ending, but it is a compelling work of gay fiction and a real page-turner. Things to praise include the flawless writing and the subtlety with which Michael's tragic past is revealed. The London setting is vivid and three-dimensional, and the author has a perfect ear for dialogue. (less)
A Roof for the Rain takes place in a futuristic USA devastated by global warming and war. Black blizzards of pesticide-laced dust sweep across the ari...moreA Roof for the Rain takes place in a futuristic USA devastated by global warming and war. Black blizzards of pesticide-laced dust sweep across the arid landscape. The drought has lasted for almost twenty years during which the Water Lords have controlled access to uncontaminated water.
Twenty-five year old Jacob lives with the resistance movement in an underground bunker away from the walled cities. The rebels recycle every drop of water and those younger than twenty remember no other life. Ever since Jacob lost his parents to the environmental disaster, he has allowed himself emotional closeness with no one.
The story opens when Jacob and his nineteen-year-old lover Ethan journey topside on a scouting mission to check out damage from a recent earthquake and look for water. Many hope the drought may be ending its long cycle. Clouds have been sighted on the horizon and plant life is starting to return, though Jacob tries not to expect too much. Ethan is optimistic and full of energy.
Their reconnaissance throws them into peril from both the Water Lords and a dust blizzard. This triggers an extended memory in which six-year-old Jacob views the early days of the environmental catastrophe.
Normally, any flashback interrupting present-day action would send me into a fit of impatience, but here it is compelling. It occurs at a natural lull in the story. Meanwhile, Jacob is the type whose painful memories would emerge against his will. It is suspenseful to piece together his glimpses as a bright but very young child of how the resistance movement began.
You might be wondering if a novelette of 11,720 words can handle a plot as big as a futuristic, environmentally damaged world with its struggle between the resistance and the Water Lords. It succeeds by narrowing its focus to that precise moment in time when change is possible both on a global level and on a personal level.
It is true that we don’t get the overall scope of the conflict. However, in showing Jacob's decision to allow hope into his heart, the story foretells the healing of his world. This is beautifully done. (less)
Uneven is a BDSM story that blazes its own trail, which has nothing to do with stale ritualism and everything to do with outbursts of passion. It cent...moreUneven is a BDSM story that blazes its own trail, which has nothing to do with stale ritualism and everything to do with outbursts of passion. It centers on sadomasochism, but not as erotica. Instead, Uneven is a wrenching drama told in the close third-person viewpoint of Rase, who gets a wake-up call to stop living a lie.
Rase is a smart, good-looking man in his forties, who is the wealthy and powerful CEO of a successful international company. His second marriage is failing, but he is a loving father to his college-age son Takis.
However, Rase has sexual secrets that he has deeply repressed. For years, he has been sleepwalking through a false life to please his tyrannical father, his stockholders, and his wife. In reality, he's gay, he's a sexual submissive, and he's a masochist.
That last part is the hardest for him to admit even to himself. Almost no one understands a need to experience pain. But Uneven casts no judgments. Rase is a masochist because that is just the way some people are. There doesn't have to be a reason.
The story opens when one of Rase's stockboys sets off a metal detector with a pair of handcuffs hidden in his pocket. It's Gabriel, a handsome man in his twenties, who has a cool, indifferent poise. Without thinking it through, Rase confiscates the handcuffs and tells Gabriel to come to his office at the end of the day to get them back.
Though Gabriel doesn't get a viewpoint, we readers can guess what he must be thinking – that a powerful authority figure is going to play mind-games with him. He returns at the end of the day as ordered. He and Rase have a shocking encounter, which opens Rase to all his old cravings. In the next few days, Rase teeters on the verge of a psychological breakdown.
Finally, he seeks out Gabriel’s tiny apartment in a bad section of town. Gabriel lets him in and they have an intense and brutal sexual encounter. They come together out of need, but each is still blinded by his misconceptions.
Rase suffers self-loathing over his masochism. Gabriel is filled with anger and the pain of isolation because his sadistic predilections have caused him to be used as a sex-toy by wealthy men like Rase.
However, they experience a strong emotional connection. The wounds of both men’s past make it hard to trust, but Rase becomes increasingly convinced he wants a relationship with Gabriel. Now he has to convince the younger man.
What makes this story unusual is how emotionally vulnerable Gabriel is, even though he’s a sadist. He is smitten with Rase. Often in BDSM stories, we get a tedious, smirking dom who is always in complete control of the situation. Part of what makes such a character so boring is that he can muster no stronger emotion towards his lover than the fondness someone would feel for a pet.
But look at Gabriel and Rase. They are two broken halves that come together like soul mates.
I had no problems with Uneven other than I would have liked one sentence on what product or service that Rase’s international corporation supplied – just a concrete detail for realism.
Uneven doesn't sugarcoat the physical beatings that Rase suffers, so it may be a hard read for some. But it is definitely worth reading and will probably become a classic in our gay romance genre.(less)
Here we have five British guys, who make porn movies. The self-pitying director is sleeping with his lead actor, who is a preening diva. The diva bick...moreHere we have five British guys, who make porn movies. The self-pitying director is sleeping with his lead actor, who is a preening diva. The diva bickers with the other lead actor, a surly strongman. Viewpoint character Jack and his lover Grady are supporting actors and nice guys.
However, Jack is concerned to realize that Grady is sneaking off alone to their trailer, obviously to find solo sexual fulfillment. Could this mean that Grady is unhappy with their sex life? Jack must fend off everyone’s well-meaning advice and gather the courage to find out what Grady needs and why Grady isn’t asking him for it.
This comical story about the importance of communication is especially funny when it plays up the contrasts. For example, Jack and Grady, two stoic workingman types earnestly trying to repair their emotional bond with each other. Or take the workplace itself where porn DVDs are cranked out as monotonously as piecework in a factory. The porn titles are sly puns on well-known books. (My favorites were probably “Lust of the Mohicans” and “Sex and Shagability.”) Jack and Grady are endearingly in love with each other, and their coworkers are hilarious. Recommended.
The story opens in Seattle, Washington. Seth works as a paralegal and is secretly dating his boss Lars, who is deeply in the closet. Seth has arranged...moreThe story opens in Seattle, Washington. Seth works as a paralegal and is secretly dating his boss Lars, who is deeply in the closet. Seth has arranged a romantic vacation for them at his aunt and uncle's kosher bed-and-breakfast, located deep in the snowy Canadian woods.
At the last moment, Lars refuses to go because his clients and peers might wonder about him taking vacation during the week of Hanukkah. They might guess that he is dating Seth, who is Jewish. Seth and Lars have a bad argument and break-up, and Seth goes to Canada alone, saddened and furious.
When he arrives at the bed-and-breakfast, his aunt and uncle are missing, and he has to let himself in with the spare key. He worries about what could have happened to them, but he has no time to investigate because the guests start showing up.
Eccentric and demanding, the seven of them expect the full kosher experience that they have paid for, complete with the lighting of the Hanukkah candles at sunset. There is even a rabbi among them, and he will know for sure that Seth is a non-observant Jew and totally unprepared for innkeeper duties.
Seth has to cover for his aunt and uncle, but he doesn't know how to cook beyond grilled-cheese sandwiches. The mysteries of kosher cooking lie well beyond him, and some of the guests have food-allergies as well.
Fortunately, Lars, who is a talented cook, arrives to beg Seth’s forgiveness. Now Seth must sort out his feelings for Lars, locate his aunt and uncle, and suppress each new emergency at sunset so that the Hanukkah ceremony can proceed smoothly.
Carol of the Bellskis is laugh-out-loud funny, offers complicated characters and real emotional depth. Seth and Lars are complex characters who both change for the better. Lars shows remorse and strong desire to win back Seth, who continues to hold out for the relationship that he deserves. This is a strong addition to the author’s much-loved series of Hanukkah stories, which include Carol of the Bellskis, Miracle of the Bellskis, Holiday Outing, and Love Ahead Expect Delays. (less)
A prolog acquaints us with Carrick ("Crick") who is nearing the end of his two-year tour as an army medic in the Iraq war, and looking forward to rejo...moreA prolog acquaints us with Carrick ("Crick") who is nearing the end of his two-year tour as an army medic in the Iraq war, and looking forward to rejoining his lover Deacon Winters back home. From here, we go to Part One, which starts thirteen years earlier with seven year-old Crick in Levee Oaks. Crick has already learned to avoid his neglectful mother and bigoted, Bible-thumping stepfather by seeking solace at the Winters horse ranch where Deacon's father takes in all strays that need a loving home.
Crick worships Deacon, a serious boy, five years older than he is, who is already learning to train horses. Deacon relates to Crick much as a kindly but remote older brother would, tolerating Crick's demands for attention and trying to keep him out of trouble. Deacon's driving focus through the early part of the book is to influence Crick to leave the small town that Crick hates so much and go forth into the world to develop his talent at art school. However, because of his abandonment issues, Crick has a great need to feel wanted and to stick close to his family-of-choice.
Part One, which runs about 50 pages, keeps us in Crick's viewpoint as he grows up and graduates high school. During this time, as he realizes that he is gay, his feelings for Deacon evolve from hero-worship to romantic love and lust. Meanwhile Deacon (who dates girls) remains inscrutable, causing us readers and Crick to experience increasing suspense over his eventual reaction whenever Crick gets the courage to declare his love.
The story continues in large sections anchored in each main character's viewpoint with the point of view switching more frequently as the story moves into the present day. Deacon's sections give the most vivid impression of the struggles of running a horse ranch while coping with formidable obstacles such as the land itself (drought, fire, snakes, floods) and small town bigotry.
The novel fearlessly grapples with such heavy topics as survivor's guilt, addiction, homophobia, and even teen pregnancy in a subplot that centers on Crick's feisty stepsister Benny. At its heart, the novel is not just a love story about Crick and Deacon, but a celebration of one's family-of-choice, especially when one's family of origin turns out to be exceedingly crummy, which is the case with Crick. There are no easy outs or cheap solutions in Keeping Promise Rock, and it matches a very strong plot with equally memorable characters.(less)
(1) I'm really liking this kid Chulito. His name for his penis (Papito!), his epic sex dream -- it's all very...moreSome initial thoughts: Finished March 4.
(1) I'm really liking this kid Chulito. His name for his penis (Papito!), his epic sex dream -- it's all very funny, endearing, and realistic.
(2) I can see kind of a love triangle developing. I'm really curious about Kamikaze, if he's even aware of what he's doing. Not getting as much of sense of Carlos yet, but enough. He's still in the distance. I found Kaz very creepy because of his drug dealing and his refusal to provide for his infant son. Also, it seemed to me that he manipulated Chulito emotionally and even sexually throughout the book.
However (view spoiler)[ his acceptance of Chulito coming out redeemed him. I wasn't sure if I even believed it at first, but it felt increasingly realistic. His strong cultural and neighborhood ties with Chulito would have enabled him to keep their friendship. I admired the scene in which he explained to Chulito that getting out of the criminal life wasn't that easy (even while I disliked him for not warning Chulito when first recruiting him). The author managed a beautiful balance of realism and hopeful optimism, which is never easy to do. (hide spoiler)]
(3) the sense of Puerto Rican New York City is awesome -- vivid, three dimensional, vibrant. I love a strong setting.
As of March 4: This book just kept getting better and better. I'll admit that I prefer reading gay romance to gay fiction because I want the happy ending, and sometimes I'm wary to try something that doesn't look like an obvious romance because it could have a tragic ending -- to make a point about homophobia, and to get more more respect from the critics.
Fortunately, that did not happen here. Our two very appealing heroes get their happy ending. The ending was awesome with (view spoiler)[ the near riot in the neighborhood. We get a range of reactions to Chulito and Carlos's very brave coming out -- some like Papo and Damian have violent homophobic reactions, some like Brick and Julio and Puti stand up for our heroes, and most of the rest of the neighborhood have reactions that fall all through the middle range. Very realistic, never oversimplified, and very revealing of the cultural and neighborhood loyalties. (hide spoiler)]
Also, I'm one of those readers who gets impatient with dream sequences, and I think the two we get in this book are the only ones I've ever liked in all my reading. The epic sex dream! The Macho Meter dream! Too funny.
Best of all was the unabashed romanticism between Carlos and Chulito, which was especially striking coming from Chulito with his badass attitude and expressions. These two boys were meant to be together. Very highly recommended!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Just for fun, 6 word synopsis: Teacher finds purpose in rural Mexico.
Gorgeously vivid depiction of tropical Mexican countryside and memories of crowde...moreJust for fun, 6 word synopsis: Teacher finds purpose in rural Mexico.
Gorgeously vivid depiction of tropical Mexican countryside and memories of crowded, urban Mexico City. Relatively uncomplicated but appealing main character.
Leisurely pace to the story, which covers a year in the life of a student-teacher at a rural school and his interactions with his students which correspond to the seasonal festivals. He has to face some indirect homophobia, but the story keeps an optimistic tone.
There is a romance here, but it isn't central. The book feels much more like gay fiction + coming-of-age fiction. I enjoyed reading it.(less)