GAY WRITES REVIEW: Strawberries for Dessert by Marie Sexton
This review is part of our Gay Writes celebration. Don’t forget to comment on the original post for a chance to win one of those prizes as well as commenting on this post for a chance to win a copy of this book.
Heidi Cullinan (whose books I dearly love) went to the extent of writing a vignette on her LiveJournal in which her characters read this book. I figured it was worth checking out. While I wouldn’t say that I adored it, the book took some amazing risks, has some fabulous characters, and is a really interesting, different love story.
Jonathan is frantically running the rat race but accepts a blind date introduction a former boyfriend sends his way. The first date with Cole is awful: Cole is very effeminate and Jonathan insists on answering business calls all through dinner. Cole leaves, but offers Jon a second chance, which he takes. The second date turns into an on-again, off-again sexual liaison when they’re both in town. Jon travels for his job and Cole travels because he’s independently wealthy and can’t stay in one place for very long, so they’re not together that often, but it becomes more and more often as their relationship grows and strengthens.
The story is told from Jonathan’s first person perspective, except for emails from Cole to the former boyfriend who set them up that start each chapter. I like the risk that you took in that experimentation. I also LOVE the fact that their first date didn’t work out and that they’re not superhot for each other right from the start. Their attraction for each other grows as their relationship deepens and you show this by only letting the readers into the bedroom after the sex starts to mean something to both of them. I also love the fact that Cole utterly fulfills every stereotype about flamboyant gay men. That in particular almost makes me adore this book. It’s not all just about two “manly” men falling for each other. The skill in this book and in Cole’s characterization show m/m romance spreading its wings a little bit and that’s just fabulous! (Pun totally intended.)
This story is just about two men falling in love and overcoming their issues to be together. And as in real life, their issues tend to change the further they get into the relationship, which is also refreshing to see. At first, Jon is embarrassed by Cole’s flamboyance. But he comes to accept it and enjoy it, even before he truly understands it. Jon has to learn to step out of the rat race, he has to learn what’s important in life, he has to learn whether his pride or his love is more important or whether he can compromise between them. And eventually, of course, he makes the right choice.
And Cole learns…well, that’s the main problem I had with the book. Cole learns he can’t live without Jonathan, but he’s right about everything else in the book. He learns, I guess, to accept affection, but it’s a little difficult to feel sympathy for him towards the end when he’s forcing the crisis between himself and Jonathan. I understand WHY he leaves Jonathan the way he does and I agree that it probably couldn’t have happened in any other way. But it felt…manipulative? And while I ached for him, I wanted to slap him around a bit for being a little bit cruel.
Overall, I love the risks this book took with Cole’s character, with the narrative construction, with the slow build of the relationship. And even when the characters frustrated me, they did it precisely because they felt so real.
The book is obviously the third in a series, with two other couples mentioned often — although it’s completely a stand-alone — and I’m looking forward to reading the other two earlier books.
We have a DIGITAL copy of this book to giveaway, bundled with a digital copy of the first in the series, Promises. Comment by 10am EST Tuesday to win! (One win per person for the day of our Gay Writes giveaways, but feel free to comment on all posts to increase your chances of winning!)