I'm mostly familiar with Kyell Gold's work from his series, Out of Position, and reading a few shorter wReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I'm mostly familiar with Kyell Gold's work from his series, Out of Position, and reading a few shorter works of his this week as nice, mostly for the small commitment in time and getting to read a wider variety of his work. Because I don't really read anthropomorphic fiction outside of Kyell Gold's work (who introduced me to it), reading about even a few characters different than Lee and Dev and different from the contemporary football plot of that series was nice, and gave me a wider scope of what Kyell Gold can do.
This is definitely the sexiest of his work that I've read. The story centers on a group of friends at Hoffridge U. and their lives. At the center of that group and this story is Vaxy, a pine marten, and his sexual (mis)adventures -- namely the love triangle that forms between the sexy professor he works for in the lab (and their daily appointments in the closet between lab work) and the casual sex relationship with his roommate and friend Mike.
The trouble starts when Vaxy is interrupted by a knock on the lab door as he's sitting in Dr. Forrest's lap. He's actually surprised when it turns out to be Mrs. Forrest. It isn't as if Vaxy has loose morals or anything like that, he just likes to have a good time. And he is rather tight-lipped about secrets, others and his own. His surprise that Dr. Forrest was cheating with him makes him question their relationship, even though it was just all in good fun. The wife, however, is like a dog with a bone. She won't let the possibility of finding the person who her husband is cheating with, and somehow, Vaxy finds himself playing the wife off the husband and the husband off the wife, in a deep quagmire of kept secrets.
So why does it bother him if he's not the only one getting down with the sexy doctor? And why is Mike constantly getting upset lately about his "extracurricular activities". They don't have a relationship and Mike has never made him think that he wanted more. Add in the extra complications of one-off with their mutual friend Grace, and Vaxy finds that he's dug himself deeper into a mess that only just now realized was a problem in the first place.
Science Friction, isn't the sort of story you might expect from the title, but a more literal description of the business Vaxy the science student gets down to around the college. The issues dealt with could be heavy, but are written in a humorous light as Vaxy digs himself deeper into the mess. He's only really concerned with having fun and keeping things light, only to realize that it isn't the same for everyone else and he needs to evaluate his life and his real feelings. The love triangle isn't used to maximum effect. The focus of the story is really the misadventures of Vaxy. We get to know Dr. Forrest pretty well, but Mike much less so. This was a bit of an imbalance for me as a reader, though in retrospect works for the the story and was obviously done for a reason. And because the story is so short (at around 30k words), there really isn't time for the story to create a world around them, but focuses on paring down the story to the main plotline without a lot of interference from the outside world or extra scenes.
The story is capped off by a short story called "Armadillo Peccadillo", about Grace and his roommate Wally (briefly in the main story). I enjoyed this little extra so much! It really made me want more of the group of friends and their adventures, especially with Wally, Grace and Mike, who we got to know much less well than Vaxy.
This definitely isn't my favorite of Kyell Gold's stories, but it really couldn't be compared on the same level as the deeply involved stories such as Out of Position and it's sequels. It was, however, a whole lot of fun to read and very satisfactory indeed....more
Back when I was reviewing at Jessewave's in early 2011, this is the series that brought Kyell Gold and aReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Back when I was reviewing at Jessewave's in early 2011, this is the series that brought Kyell Gold and anthropomorphic fiction to my attention. I fell in love with Lee, the fox who dressed up as a vixen to seduce a straight jock and Dev, the tiger who ended up falling for him. Their lives and relationship continued on in tumultuous fashion after graduation when Dev was drafted into professional football and Lee sacrificed his gay activism for his love of football and became a professional scout. The visibility in the sport forced him back into the closet and their relationship suffered. They endured, however, only to be publicly outed by Lee's ex best friend and have since tried to make the best of their relationship and Dev's career as a professional gay athlete. Dealing with homophobic teammates, homophobic fans, and family troubles have made their relationship stronger as Divisions opens, and we reconnect with the two in a much more stable relationship than in the past.
Though their relationship is stronger in this third installment to the series, they still have problems going on in their own lives and just like in the past much of the story is seen from their different perspectives while apart. Lee is dealing with a crisis of career. Now that their relationship is public, he has to be careful working in the same sport that his boyfriend plays in. And should he even still be working towards a career as a scout? What happened to his days of activism, when he wanted to make a difference? At the same time, his family has fallen apart around him. He's close to his father once again and they're working to make their relationship stronger, but it has really only happened because of his parent's new separation. And the direction his mother has taken is even more upsetting when he learns that the organization that spreads hate he's been considering taking up activism to work against has their own hooks in her, turning her into an even more intolerant mother than she previously was.
Dev has his own problems. Now out of the closet and past his problems with his own team, their newfound camaraderie has made them a winning team that is headed towards the Division Championships. All of that is jeopardized by a new member brought to the Firebirds who seems determined to make his life difficult. Dev just wants to play football and he doesn't want to be made into a gay role model, something that his teammate and Lee with his reemerging activism can't seem to let go.
I've been excited to read this book for two years now, ever since I read the first two and I wasn't disappointed. The difficulty with an ongoing series is how so many different strands of a story become interwoven and then are left dangling when each book ends, and Kyell Gold did an excellent job taking up those strands and weaving them into the continuation of the complex relationship that I love. What I love so much about Lee and Devlin is that they have their own lives. It's so much more of a real life relationship that what we're usually given with romance plots, where a couple disappears into one another. They're given their own lives that at times perfectly mesh with one another and are at times completely at odds. Lee and Dev have to reconcile those things and always work on their relationship, or at least actively work so that it isn't destroyed among all the people that are trying to drive a wedge between them. Many of those people are back, some malicious (like Lee's past activism friend Brian) and some whose intentions are unknown, like Dev's new teammate.
The influences that surround them, especially in the wake of Dev's coming out press conference, serve to make Lee realize what an opportunity they have to help gay youth, especially other young athletes. The modern day epidemic of gay suicide and bullying take stage in this book as Lee learns that one of the young men who wrote to thank Dev after coming out on national television is reported to have committed suicide. This affects Lee deeply, having corresponded with the youth and now understanding the full impact of their actions, or in Lee's fears, their inaction. This is further compounded by the knowledge that the "family values" community his mother has apparently taken up with may have had a direct impact on the young football player and his reasons for taking his own life. Though only one part of the whole story, this subplot took front and center stage of this novel. It is indicative of the one central issue that stands between Lee and Dev and that is how they react differently to such issues. Dev, of course, just wants to play football. And with good reason, he's naturally one that almost tries not to be affected by such issues, on top of which if he does consent to putting more time into his public image and philanthropy, it could kill his career. This, of course, drives Lee insane. He's naturally a crusader and feels some guilt for letting his relationship and his love of football to dictate his life and career away from activism. Could he have been helping all along? What could he do now? Could he dismantle this organization meant to spread hate and lies and manipulation with the power his lover now has in the spotlight? Is it worth it to possibly sacrifice his relationship with Dev to save young lives? Their fundamental differences are continually pitting them against one another. In a sense, they deal with it well, but in many ways they're prolonging the issues -- I assume until the next (final?) book, which is only one of the reasons that I'm even more eager to read it.
When I find a book I love, I feel like a salesman. That's really not my personality, but when you love something you want to share it. I want to get all of you to read a certain book. In many ways, I felt that way with the first two books I reviewed in 2011. I hadn't heard of Kyell Gold at that time and I wasn't really sure that many people in the m/m romance community had at that point, though I know Kyell had popularity in other communities. I feel like Kyell Gold is a widespread name now in our genre, something I'm very happy about, and I no longer really need to sell this series to all of you reading my reviews. If you're reading this, chances are you've already heard of Out of Position and may have even read it. If you have, I know you'll want to read this new book, because I can't imagine anyone reading about Dev and Lee and not getting as hooked as I am....more
Sierra Snowpaw was sent to boarding school in the late 90's where he met a badboy coyote by the name ofReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Sierra Snowpaw was sent to boarding school in the late 90's where he met a badboy coyote by the name of Carmel. Sierra is on the straight and narrow after getting into some trouble with his friend at his last school and he fears the retribution from his father, a career military officer. But something about Carmel attracts him.
In the present day, Sierra is at the Lonnegan Ski Resort, and he's looking for Carmel. A tip has led him there, something that Carmel might have left for him himself. It has been 15 years, and despite their shared past and all the secrets they have about their time together in school, they haven't seen each other. But Sierra has some things that need to be said, and it isn't that he's still in love with Carmel. He is, but their past is a constant obstacle in his way, a way to remind him that loving Carmel isn't worth the trouble it will bring him.
Though I loved Science Friction, this story is in a very different vein. It is beautifully crafted and some of the best writing I've seen from Kyell Gold. It also remains one of the few on my personal list of books that make appropriate and judicious use of the flashback, something I normally detest and have very high standards for. This story is told in two parts -- 1997 and the beginning of the two boys' friendship, and 2012 and the present day mystery. I purposely made the summary more vague than I usually do, not only because the blurb itself is vague but because it is the whole point of the flashbacks in the first place, to carefully disseminate information. The present day story line acts as a mystery, with clues dropped purposefully like breadcrumbs to slowly build the story of the secret Carmel and Sierra share. You will get some idea of them from the tags in this review, but very little in the scheme of things and nothing that isn't given away earlier in the story, or that you can at least guess about their relationship or partnership.
Though this is the first story of this author's I've read which is written in this way (not a mystery but written like one for the reader to discover the story bit by bit and through intrigue), I'd say that this is a good taste of this author's writing. It's shorter, if you don't want to commit to something longer (and more expensive) and shows what this author can accomplish. As of now (at least from what I can tell), this isn't yet available as a Kindle book, or an ebook anywhere I can find. It is available for $9.95 at FurPlanet (see the title link above), but it might become available soon -- many of Kyell Gold's other stories of this length are, like Science Friction. I received a reviewer edition in ebook, but I loved this one so much I might just buy the soft cover from FurPlanet, also for the beautiful artwork by Sabretoothed Ermine.
I'm normally a very big fan of Sasha MIller's stories and novels, but this one just didn't work for me. I didn't really like either of the th2.5 stars
I'm normally a very big fan of Sasha MIller's stories and novels, but this one just didn't work for me. I didn't really like either of the three MCs and their behavior just completely baffled me....more
I've had this anthology to review for a long time now, too long. I certainly shouldn't have waitReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
3.5 stars Overall
I've had this anthology to review for a long time now, too long. I certainly shouldn't have waited so long to read it, but see, I'm anthology phobic… or I used to be. Lately I've been reading anthologies left and right, many of them by Storm Moon Press, and I knew I needed to read this one. I wasn't wary of the theme -- I've read anthropomorphic stories before and while I don't love them for their own sake and seek them out, certainly have enjoyed them. This anthology holds some really wonderful stories, and certainly merits a read. Or, since this has been out a while, you have the option of reading the stories as standalone books! A win-win in my book.
City of Foxes by Cornelia Grey (Pretty Good) Jake is a human in a city where the militia keeps the fox population in slum-like tenement cities. He has returned to the city he hates after 8 years away. Leaving on the heels of a tragedy and history he is reluctant to speak of, Jake rescues an underage fox from the throes of a group of militia-men about to shoot the young fox in the knees and gleefully play with their catch. Jake uses his ability to shoot raw power out of his hands to help the fox escape, but is shot in the ensuing chase and nearly captured. Instead, he is rescued just before capture by Liam, the powerful white fox who is the leader of the fox resistance.
The writing in City of Foxes is strong and the plot unfolds with the reader's participation. The world-building isn't freely given, yet each piece comes together along with the plot. I appreciated the respect given to the me to figure out the details and be an active reader. The only problem with this is that there is little time, in a short story, to allow the reader that space. While most of the writing was strong, there were a few times during the story where I lost the thread and wasn't sure about some of the details. Because of this, the story often skipped from active scene to active scene without a lot of connecting narration. This didn't leave much time for the developing romance, though it suited the main plot line -- the machinations of the militia and the countering resistance. All told, I liked it, but I could have used a little more romance between Liam and Jake to bring the story together.
Trust Me by Elizabeth Hyder (Pretty Good) Koit is a very masculine half-Shterpi (and proud of his very large "masculinity") that falls prey to his female friend Sera's meddling into his love life. Quite well known for his womanizing on their interplanetary space station where they attend college and live in the dorms, Koit finds Sera's urgings for him to open his mind to seeing men surprisingly exciting. After several sexual misadventures arising from Sera uploading Koit's profile to SuckAnyCock.com, Koit finds himself enjoying a dinner conversation and the ensuing experimentation with a man named Atlas. When he realizes just how well he's been set up he can only accept it, because Atlas is interesting, intelligent and sexy, and Koit wants to get to know him better.
I definitely enjoyed this one. The story was only loosely based on the scifi elements and mostly on the characterizations of Koit, Sera, and Atlas. I enjoy a fantasy/pnr/scifi that drops you in the middle and lets you figure out the world for yourself. It makes the world more interesting when the little details about the world give you the most information, rather than being stuffed up front with the history and culture. On top of that, I found it to be fun and quite funny, with witty characters and dialogue. Maybe not my favorite story in the collection, but definitely a solid one.
Alpha's Pride by SL Armstrong & K Piet (Me Like) Alec is a mid-level member of a pride of large, humanoid cats (and a few other animals). He has a close, loving relationship with his Alpha, Nahele, though he and a number of the younger members of the clan are dissatisfied with Nahele's recent rule. At 600 years old, Nahele has grown complacent in many ways, no longer the vigilant leader he was. His pride, however, won't allow him to admit it. Nor will it allow him to admit he is no longer fit to rule when Alec challenges him in front of the clan.
I liked this story quite a bit and I felt that we were given just enough information critical to make the story a success. We don't know much about their species or world outside their clan -- the focus of the story is the dissolution of the relationship between Alec and Nahele. In many ways, the story seems set up for a much longer work, with early foreshadowing of a lingering enemy race that might soon threaten them. This skewed my expectations of the ending of the story, and whether the mention was meant as I took it (and therefore the resolution of the story early), or as an example of Nahele's complacency in his rule, I'm not sure. I certainly would have enjoyed an expanded story, with more of the external forces in addition to the internal strife between the two characters, but the story certainly works well as it is
I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside by Wayne Mansfield (Not Feeling It) Jason moves into a room in a house near the beach. His landlord and roommate, Panos, is incredibly sexy, but Jason, who very much likes to show off his toned body, doesn't understand why Panos is always completely clothed, from neck to ankles, even in extremely hot weather. When Jason tries to get Panos to go swimming at the beach with him, he's immediately and forcefully shot down. He likes Panos, but what Panos is hiding obviously has something to do with his appearance.
Sadly, I found this story a bit lacking. It is much shorter than the others and is mostly about the sexual relationship between Jason and Panos. While that is definitely sexy, I found it more steamy by rote rather than originality, simply because we don't get to know the two very well. I had no problem with the secret that Panos is hiding -- this is an anthology about anthropomorphic characters after all, some disbelief must be suspended -- but, I did had a difficult time with the events that come after. They seems quite implausible and go by very quickly without much explanation. It disappointed me and seems to be on par with a lot of other stories this author has written. I've read a few things by Wayne Mansfield, this story in line with those, and I wasn't much of a fan of any of them. I wouldn't quite call this story erotica, because there is some romance there, but only barely. Fans of the author might like this story, but ultimately, it just wasn't for me.
Opening Worlds by Cari Z (Love It!) I have known this story would be good for a while now, after hearing from friends who have read the story and liked it. I've always been a fan of Cari Z's work. I almost can't even explain it, but each story I've read by this author has had something more… perhaps it is simply that her characters always have great chemistry. That is certainly the case here, as we meet and get to know Captain Jason Kim, a space pilot who falls in love with a Perelan male named Ferran. Perelan, a highly private world, is closed off to almost all foreigners. It is a matriarchal society with a rather large population of males in ratio to females. As such, the propagation of their species is paramount, necessitating fertile females to take many males in marriage. Ferran, as a sterile male is relegated to a rather low status in such a society, though his family connections and sterility allow him the chance to have a year away, off world, to explore all that he will put behind him later, dedicated to his new family. Falling in love with such a person, in such an impossible situation, can only lead to heartbreak for both of them. But staying away seems impossible.
This story certainly lived up to my expectations, and I'll definitely be reading the sequel to it soon. I loved both of these characters. The Perelans are an empathic and highly sexual species. Jason, a man who lives with the reminder of his failed love life daily, is extremely private and not very good at intimacy. Their slow romance in contrast to the bed hopping of the other Perelans on board only highlights that they're cultivating a deeper relationship. The pacing here is superb. For such a short story, I never felt rushed with so much that accomplished, and yet still felt the romance deeply -- as if this were much longer and I had spent more time getting to know the characters. One small disappointment was the need for narration to bring the story to it's closing scene. Perhaps if there weren't a word limit, this story might not have needed to be wrapped up as hastily. However, having a sequel to revisit the characters makes up for much of that. Highly Recommended, this one.
Songs for Guitar and French Harp by Angelia Sparrow (Me Like) Arthur is a sentient bear. As a Construct, a genetically cross bred animal, he was bred in a lab and escaped while in his mother's womb. He's raised by her and her illegal husband Frank as they travel with the carnivals and play for the money of wide eyed humans. Constructs have no rights. They're essentially slaves, and some of them are worse off than others. Gordon is one of these, used and abused nightly by his owner, he's a cat that dances with the hoochie show. As teenagers, they grow to love each other -- Arthur naive about fellow Constructs because of his rare happy (happier) life, and Gordon scared to give more of himself to Arthur -- until the year that Gordon doesn't come back with the show and Arthur has to grow up alone, always looking for his mate.
This story, while being deeply sad, is ultimately triumphant, though subdued because of the horror it doesn't shy away from. Arthur's point of view is frankly naive, simplistic at times, often conflicted by having a higher morality yet sometimes animalistic nature. All he wants is Gordon and what is best for Gordon, at times at the detriment to himself and those around him. It is a coming of age story. For much of the story Arthur is alone and looking for Gordon and we see him forced to grow up alone and in the harsh uncertainty of death or a worse life of rape and abuse for Gordon. Sometimes these things both clashed horribly -- which is the intent, I think -- and made this a difficult story for me to read, because it made me so angry.
At times I felt like Arthur's voice was a little too young. I understood why that was, but sometimes it didn't work for me. The story starts with Arthur quite young, and by the end I estimated he was around 20 years old. Despite different variables like the fact that he isn't human, and that he's been sheltered quite a bit, I didn't feel a distinct difference in "mental age" from when he's 16 to 20. Perhaps in the intervening years that are covered by narration, his age could be better delineated, or there shouldn't have been any sex in the story. I might have preferred that, honestly. No sex would have allowed them to keep the innocence, loss of innocence and then the protection against that innocence separate. Still, I understood it why it was there (and it is almost a purging of the terrible things Gordon has gone through).
This story is superbly written, the narration is so effective, though I'd imagine that the taste varies widely reader to reader. And though I found it difficult to read, I'm very glad that I did. Definitely Recommended....more
Isolation Play is the second novel in the chronicle of Dev and Lee, the tiger and the fox. We first read about them in Out of Position, the review ofIsolation Play is the second novel in the chronicle of Dev and Lee, the tiger and the fox. We first read about them in Out of Position, the review of which can be seen here. This second installation in the series begins directly after the first ends — with Dev coming out in a press conference. Having been blackmailed by Brian, Lee’s former best friend, Dev felt cornered, and he and Lee both knew that the speculation in the press around his sexuality was only going to get worse. So, in somewhat of a surprise move to Lee, Dev announces to the world that he is indeed gay, all during a press conference set up to dispute the charges of public opinion and fight the demands that Brian had made on him to reveal his sexuality and pave the way for future gay athletes to come out of the closet. The only problem, is that Brian doesn’t understand the world of professional sports in the way that Lee and Dev do. Though they hope it will help others in time, Dev and Lee are extremely skeptical that Brian’s idealism can stand up to the pressures that gay athletes face. And that is only if Dev survives. Will he be traded? Will he be targeted by other athletes on the field, open to physical attack to injure him and force him out of the small window he has gotten as a starting player? Is his career over already?
These are some of the questions that Dev faces as he does everything he can to remain the same, humble person he was — only now he is both hated and loved by many as the world’s first openly gay professional football player. There are new groupies and gay groups offering sponsorship and endorsements. At the same time, there are those on the field, in the stands, and in his own locker room that will do what they can to isolate him from playing the sport he loves. If all of this gets to him and he loses the focus he needs to play well, then his chance as a starting player is gone. More than anytime before, he is starting to understand the sport as a mental game — one that he will have to conquer in order to keep what he has worked so hard for.
On the other hand, Lee has found himself in the last place he ever expected — the one that Dev used to be in. Lee is a scout for another professional team, and having been forced back into the closet for his new job because of his relationship with Dev, he now finds himself stuck there. If the League finds out that Dev was drafted for the Dragons at the same time that Lee was working for the Dragons as a scout, Lee could be fired and Dev could lose the merit he has gained working his way up through the ranks. So they both find themselves in a strange situation — the out activist is back in the closet, and the closeted jock has just been forced out of the door. But, more than anything, what will this do to Dev and Lee’s families? Dev has not told his parents that he is gay, and they are forced to find out on national television. This will lead to an enormous hometown showdown, pitting Dev’s father against his own boyfriend in the battle to win Dev’s affections. And it seems that Dev will have to choose one over the other.
I actually liked Isolation Play better than I did Out of Position. I felt that because the things that Dev and Lee have gone through, they have been given a chance to do one of two things: turn on one another, or come together. And though in many ways they remained loyal to the characters that we got to know previously, they have both undergone a change because of those things they went through. They have started to realize that what they have with each other is special and important and worth dealing with the hate and bigotry of thousands. Because of this, both Dev and Lee mature a great deal between the end of the first book and the end of the second, and in their maturity, they put to rest many of the immature games that they played at the behest of one another. The title of this novel displays this overall progression well. The iso play is employed by the offensive line of another team and is described by Dev thusly:
Their O-line is different from Millenport’s. For one thing, it’s smaller and quicker, designed to push people out of the way rather than stop them cold. So they have a pair of Dall sheep on the line, blockers who’ll go low and use their horns to force our tackles to go a particular direction. Pike and Brick can handle them, I’ve no doubt, but then they have a pretty good fullback, an elk who uses his antlers to clear out running lanes. So they run the iso—isolation play—a lot, sending the elk to block me or Gerrard while Bixon lowers his head and sends his compact, muscled form through the lane.
The isolation play is a metaphor for the new direction that their relationship is taking — hunkering down, waiting for the attack, and when it comes being driven apart, isolated from one another. This theme crops up over and over during the novel, with family and the media, and it forces Dev and Lee to look forward instead of always watching their backs. This brings me to the writing, which I also thought had matured. Because Dev and Lee are now able to look towards their future, they have a direction in which to go. This streamlined the plot and characterizations as well, which ultimately gave me hope that their relationship would continue to grow and nourish, because any more directionless floundering in their lives and their relationship would have turned in upon itself and imploded from the force of two such strong personalities.
I’d like to say first, that Out of Position is the first anthropomorphic novel that I have ever read. For those of you who are not familiar, the literI’d like to say first, that Out of Position is the first anthropomorphic novel that I have ever read. For those of you who are not familiar, the literal meaning of anthropomorphism is the attribution of human qualities and characteristics onto animals or any non-living object. In M/M romance, this translates to the animation of animals in a human way — animals that walk, talk, act and have a society like humans, depending on the variance of the story. Many readers of M/M romance often read shapeshifter stories, but this is very different. In essence, these characters are always animals, yet they have human qualities. I think this is a largely unexplored area in M/M romance, and I was intrigued by Out of Position by Kyell Gold and the beautiful illustrations by Blotch within its pages (some of which you can see here, on the Sofawolf website) and I thought I should give this a try. I was elated to find a wonderful story with extremely real characters, and even more surprised to find that this story showed me a new way to understand American Football and its players — a sport, which I must admit, has often baffled me and only ever given me the pleasure of watching hunky men with tight butts ram each other in testosterone overload. In honor of tomorrow’s Superbowl, I have moved this review up a few days, so that those of you who are football fans can make a weekend out of this, and those of you who do not understand football, might just gain some insight about the game from reading this novel, just as I did.
Out of Position tells the story of two males: Dev the tiger, a football player and all-around jock at Forester University, and Lee the fox, a queer activist who has a score to settle with the football team. They are both juniors (though most of their time in college takes place as seniors) and while Dev is skating through school picking up a new vixen every week at the local bar after the game with his buddies and floating on the small amount of fame he gets at their small, liberal college, Lee is still reeling from the gay-bashing and beating of his best friend Brian the previous year. Brian and Lee were almost too much alike, feeding off of each others ideals of queer activism and leading their local chapter of FLAG, the queer activist group on campus. Then, one night, under circumstances that are still not completely known, Brian gets cornered after a verbal altercation with a few member of the football team, then beaten. Now Lee is all alone, Brian having moved away, and his anger at those football players has spread to all of the jocks, who he knows are one and the same. He comes up with a plan: he will dress in drag, as he makes a very convincing vixen, go out and bag a football player. Then, when they get back to his place, he will show one of them how they’d been attracted to another male — that they are at least a little bit queer themselves. What he doesn’t expect when he bags Dev and brings him home, is that after he convinces him to sleep with him that Dev will want to stay and get to know him. This is how their secret affair begins, already leading to an uneasy relationship between a tiger who has never felt this way for another male and cannot come out lest he ruin his reputation and playing career, and a fox who never expected this tryst to become a relationship, much less one that forces him back into the closet and completely turns his life in a new direction. However, those are not the only problems. These problems are compounded by Lee’s insitance that Dev has the talent to make the pros, and if that becomes a reality, if they will ever be able to have an open relationship. Even more, Brian has his own revenge to make, and his activist spirit has become maddeningly fueled by his renewed hatred of football players. No matter the collateral damage, even to his friend Lee, Brian will do anything to show the world that one out player will make it easier for gay sports players everywhere to come out. But can an out player even have a career in football, or will he become lost in the bureaucracy of pro football?
One of the most incredible things about this novel is its portrayal of the sport. We know that Dev is a player, but Lee is a very big fan also. So we get to see the sport from two, often very different, perspectives. The story shows us the art of football, how graceful and intelligent of a sport it can be. It also does this in a way that someone completely ignorant of the sport can understand. I knew only a small bit about how the game is played and though a large portion of the book deals with the sport and the games in which Dev plays, I never felt left behind in the action. Here is how Lee describes the sport in his small chapter “Lee’s Guide to Football”:
Even though I was still at that age where I wanted to be like my dad, I didn’t have much interest in football. But with the championship coming up, he thought it was the perfect time to get me started. Whatever else he’s done in his life—and I’ve run through the list more than once—he got me into football. So if you’re one of those kids who likes chess and books, listen up, because reading this story you’re in the middle of is like growing up in Nicholas Dempsey Middle School. You don’t have to like football to get through it, as my dad told me, but it helps.
See, what I always hated about football was that I was bad at it. I’d only played one football game up to then, at camp. I didn’t understand the rules. To me, it was just a stupid excuse for big kids to beat up little kids. What my dad told me is that football is actually like a chess game.
What Lee said is exactly true about this story: “You don’t have to like football to get through it…but it helps.” Football fans will certainly love this story, but there is so much more here than the sport — especially the navigation through the bureaucracy of the league later in the novel and the evolution of Dev and Lee’s relationship throughout their difficult journey to an HFN — that this story is not only for sports fans.