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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.

Dear Ms. Sexton:

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.

Grade: B+

Best regards,
-Joan/Sarah F.

Amazon Buy Link

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!)

Sarah F. is a literary critic, a college professor, and an avid reader of romance -- and is thrilled that these are no longer mutually exclusive. Her academic specialization is Romantic-era British women novelists, especially Jane Austen, but she is contributing to the exciting re-visioning of academic criticism of popular romance fiction. Sarah is a contributor to the academic blog about romance, Teach Me Tonight, the winner of the 2008-2009 RWA Academic Research Grant, and the founder and President of the International Association of the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR). Sarah mainly reviews BDSM romance and gay male romance and hopes to be able to beat her TBR pile into submission when she has time to think. Sarah teaches at Fayetteville State University, NC.


  1. Sirius11214
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 10:09:11

    Please do not enter me for the chance to win digital copy of this book, I have it, I actually adore it because of Cole’s character, for all the reasons you described. It was so so lovely for me to see the effeminate gay man portrayed instead of as you said two “manly” men falling for each other. Not that I dislike those stories necessarily, but was nice to see something different. I also loved that Cole felt like a gay man to me instead of “chick with dick” annoyance if that makes sense. Gay men are different, all people are different, would be nice if more writers portrayed different character types in these romances. Thank you for the review. Oh as to what Cole did at the end, yes it felt manipulative and yes usually I dislike such manipulations, but I guess I was so sick of Jonathan being fixated on his career only that I felt he needed huge kick in the butt and I did not mind in the slightest that Cole delivered it.

  2. Jaye
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 10:37:32

    Oooooo, I wanna read this
    is what I said after reading the review.

  3. Tweets that mention GAY WRITES REVIEW: Strawberries for Dessert by Marie Sexton | Dear Author --
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 10:38:08

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andrea deSherbinin, Sarah Frantz and Milena Benini, dearauthor. dearauthor said: NewPost: GAY WRITES REVIEW: Strawberries for Dessert by Marie Sexton […]

  4. Carin
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 10:44:25

    This sounds good!

  5. angel Graham
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 14:00:50

    Sounds like a good book based on the review. I’ve been lucky in my life to meet different gay men and none were carbon copies of one another. Some more manly, some more flamboyant. I adore them all.

  6. jayhjay
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 14:54:07

    I just finished this series and ADORED it! I had never read this author and found them randomly searching Goodreads.

    I think this one is the easiest standalone of the four, but I would highly recommend the whole series (the Promise, A to Z, and the Letter Z). One of the great things about this book (and series) is the different relationships and types of characters. It is not all “gay alpha” men. And the relationships between the men vary, not all cookie cutter stories.

    My personal favorite was Promises but this was a close second. Definitely recommend.

    BTW, please don’t enter me in the drawing as I already own this book.

  7. Lee B.
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 15:05:03

    I’d love to read a copy of this! I have often thought that gay guys who don’t conform to the “straight-acting / straight appearing” stereotype are among the bravest of men.

  8. Ell
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 15:22:12

    Looks good.

  9. Kaetrin
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 16:27:49

    Pick me! Pick me! These 2 have been on my TBB since I read the cute little short by Heidi Cullinan. I’ve heard great things about these books.

  10. Lindsey
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 16:36:45

    This book sounds great. I love the concept of two effeminate gay men falling for one another. <3

  11. SarahM
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 17:52:02

  12. Mikou
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 17:53:25

    This sounds like a story I could really enjoy!

  13. May
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 18:23:05

    I did not realise this had been published. I’ve read the first 3 and will definitely buy this if I don’t win it. Thanks for the heads-up!

  14. Kelly Thrash
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 18:47:31

    This sounded interesting enough for me to want to read. :) I think I’d also like the fact that they weren’t instantly in love.


  15. Tae
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 18:48:18

    sounds intriguing, love the idea of an effeminate gay hero, please enter me in the drawing

  16. Sotheara
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 18:58:20

    This is sounds like a great story and would love to read it.

  17. Megaera
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 19:19:03

    I’d love to read this one.

  18. srs
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 20:36:10

    Sounds interesting. I’d definitely read it if I were to somehow win a copy.

  19. Sarah
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 20:36:52

    this sounds good! Great review. I think I’ll buy it since I probably won’t win, lol.

  20. Ridley
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 21:53:34

    I’ve just added this to my Goodreads list, so please toss my name in the hat. I love me some character-focused relationship drama.

  21. Jen Merry
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 22:28:43

    I don’t usually read much m/m romance, but the synopsis of this is interesting, so I’d like to enter the giveaway.

  22. Marie
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 23:17:19

    Adding it to my wishlist, but maybe I’ll get lucky and that will be unnecessary. :)

  23. TriciaB
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 00:21:40

    Sounds like something I would love to read.

  24. cories5
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 02:32:25

    Sound interesting enough for me!

  25. Rene
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 07:38:58

    I’d love to read this.

  26. Emilie
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 10:07:13

    Sounds good. I like different kinds of characters than the usual. Please enter me in the drawing.

  27. LaurieS
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 11:49:44

    Another one to add to the ever growing wishlist. Thanks for mentioning that this is part of a series but can easily be read alone.

  28. Jax
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 18:58:42

    Count me in. Cole sounds interesting.

  29. Joan/SarahF
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 20:34:18

    @Ridley is our winner for this giveaway! Congratulations. You’ll be getting an email from me. And everyone else, don’t forget to go to our main Gay Writes post and enter there for the chance to win many more books.

  30. Jacqueline
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 23:39:58

    I’ve read another review of this book, which also recommended it as being very good.

    I think I’m going to go ahead and purchase this one. Sounds like a sweet love story.

  31. ronjaraeuber
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 09:02:18

    This is great book! I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s such a great story and the sex parts really add to the plot. Read this book! But I wonder (*small spoiler*): having wine each night with your dinner might be considered alcoholism. Just sayin’ :-)

  32. REVIEW: Between Sinners and Saints by Marie Sexton - Dear Author
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 14:00:22

    […] enjoyed your writing before, but it was Kaetrin’s review of this one that made me pull it out of Mt. TBR. I was […]

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