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All Alone in a Sea of Romance
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Contemporary Romance Discussions > B.G. Thomas, Alone in a Sea of Romance

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Ulysses Dietz | 1648 comments All Alone in a Sea of Romance
By B.G. Thomas
Dreamspinner Press, 2012
Cover by Paul Richmond
ISBN: 978-1-62380-005-5
Four stars

I almost gave this five stars. Almost. I read a bunch of reviews of it, and realized that my own reactions, good and less good, were echoed therein. So I decided I need to praise the book for everything that’s good about it. That fifth star—it’s all on me. My issues. The fifth star is rare for me; it’s for books that I embrace without hesitation or any unhappiness. So, it’s me, it’s not him. On the other hand, we are the sum of what we bring to the books we read. There are many NY Times best-sellers I’ve hated, so please know that this is a book I think you should read.

“All Alone in a Sea of Romance” is fast-paced, cleverly written, amusing, and filled with people who jump off the page. This is an insider’s book. It is to the M/M romance world what the TV series “Silicon Valley” is to the computer industry (my husband’s 40-year- career). Both the author and the protagonist, Jude Parks, are m/m romance novelists. The action happens at a huge romance writers’ convention called Romantic Voyages in Kansas City (where the author lives). There, as in real life, the gay romances are a tiny minority, awash in a sea of heterosexual romance.

Jude Parks is 41 and not skinny. His younger, gorgeous, Ambercrombie-model-worthy roomie, Lionel makes that perfectly clear. Although Jude writes about love, he has never found love. Both his roommate, and his best friend Jeannie, tell him that gay men can never really find love because they think with their little heads rather than their hearts or brains.

This is where my discomfort radar began to ping. There is much said in this substantial book about gay men and the joy of sex. It is a message that I heard as soon as I came out—in 1975—and a message that has survived the horror of AIDS and the targeted hated of the world in general. But there is also a lot said here about the idea that monogamy and fidelity are just not possible—or possibly desirable—for gay guys. Indeed Jude, and Lionel, and the wonderfully written and disarmingly complex Tommy Smith, who meets Jude the first afternoon of the convention, all seem to buy into this. I know lots of guys who believe this—particularly the under-40 generation. And yet, this whole mindset goes against my own core beliefs, beliefs have that guided my path through life. Jude says in the prologue: “I would rather regret what I have done over what I haven’t.” It sounds good, but it’s a little pat and, ultimately, an aphorism I can’t quite embrace.

And yet, as the story unfolds, all of these little disquieting pings begin to take on a pattern. It dawned on me that Thomas was deliberately salting his narrative with less-than-positive ideas of what being gay means—ranging from notions of masculinity to body image and the obsession with youth. All of this discomfort I was feeling was coalescing into Jude’s central dilemma: why is a nice, attractive guy who cherishes romance and writes it for a living still alone? Jude, whom I didn’t much like at first, gradually began to appeal to me greatly. He is a gay man struggling to find the happiness that so much of society, including our own subculture (whatever that might mean for any one of us), makes so difficult to find.

So, for a book that has a substantial bit of farce, a strong dash of anti-gay zealotry, and a savory stew of rich, interesting characters, it is also a surprisingly profound study of love and romance for people who are not fantasies, but just people.

message 2: by Sofia (new) - added it

Sofia | 7 comments Thanks for this Ulysses it captured my attention. From what you write it appears to be a kind of exploration I like.

message 3: by Michael (new)

Michael Great review. I will have to check this out.

message 4: by Ajax1978 (new) - added it

Ajax1978 | 4 comments Nice. I started this last night after reading your review.

message 5: by Ajax1978 (new) - added it

Ajax1978 | 4 comments This was not a BAD book but it just wasn't for me. I'm not a fan of characters who are trying so damn hard to be funny the entire way through the book. It just wears me out after a while. And the phrase you mentioned about regretting what you have done vs. haven't is repeated so many times, by different characters, I was just like alright already - I get it. *sigh*

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