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REVIEW: The Marrying Kind by Ken O’Neill

Dear Mr. O’Neill,

Recently I read a post on AOL about how The Abbey, twice voted the World’s Best Gay Bar, has decided not to host bachelorette parties anymore until marriage is legal for everyone. Gay owner David Cooley is quoted as saying he feels it’s a slap in the face to his regular patrons who, as of now in most states, can’t enjoy the same right to get married. So when I was perusing the offerings of Bold Strokes Publishing at netgalley and saw your title, it felt like fate for me to give it a try.

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In 2007, Steven Worth and Adam More have been a couple for almost six years. They have an apartment, two furry children, friends and jobs in NYC. Steven reports, when he feels like it, for The Gay nyt – a freebie boutique newspaper – while Adam runs himself ragged as one of the premier wedding planners in the city. But lately, Adam has been acting a touch depressed and having nightmares. It takes the men a while to put things together but when they receive an invitation to the wedding of one of Adam’s cousins and the envelop is addressed to “Adam More and Guest,” it’s the last straw and allows them to crystallize their feelings about what’s wrong.

See, Adam’s sister Amanda and Steven’s brother Peter have also been together as a couple for years and were also invited to the same wedding yet the invitation was addressed to them both. What, Steven wonders, makes his relationship with Adam any different? Why is he relegated to being “and Guest” when his brother is addressed as Peter Worth? Why did he and Adam just go to a commitment ceremony for a gay couple they know instead of it being a wedding ceremony? Why should they keep buying presents and going to weddings of hetero couples when they’re denied the same thing? And suddenly they decide – no more.

Steven’s article about their decision to boycott weddings takes the city’s gay community by storm. All over, florists, caterers, waiters, and name-that-needed-person-for-a-wedding-celebration decide to go on strike. The feeling of activism and empowerment is intoxicating for them. That is until Peter and Amanda announce their own wedding and suddenly what was abstract has become very concrete. Is family love and unity more important than their ideals. And will Steven and Adam’s relationship be able to stand up to the strain?

You tell the story from Steven’s first person POV and he’s a fun, witty story host. He’s also an honest one who readily admits his flaws and shortcomings. That can make a big difference for me with this style of narrative. I liked reading about him and about how much he loves Adam who loves Steven in return. The little details here showcase the fact that these two have been together a long time. They’re at ease together and in their relationship. They joke, they laugh, they take care of each other and some of Steven’s little mannerisms have even oozed over on Episcopalian WASP Adam such as the heart clutching in moments of high emotion. But as sturdy as their relationship is, it’s not a perfect Gay world they live in which adds one more realistic brick to the foundation of the story.

The conflict is built slowly. A little thing here, a tiny occurrence there. No one yells or screams “queer” at them. No one assaults them or spits at them. Still the shallow cuts and unthinking mental blows add up. The commitment ceremony is attended by foreign friends from countries which do allow same sex marriage and some of them comment on the lack in the U.S. Steven watches Adam’s mother fawn over Peter in a way she’s never demonstrated to Steven. And later when Adam ends up in the Emergency Room, Steven is faced with the fact that no one would ever question the right of Amanda and Peter to be together while facing what comes whereas he has to try and force his way past a security guard to be with the man he loves and has built a life with for six years.

Nobody in the book is perfect, no one sails through without making any mistakes and a lot of the characters second guess themselves as events progress. The conflicts are also palpable and nothing that a quick, 5 minute discussion will fix. As Steven and Adam discover, their decision and that of others who are inspired by the stand those two men have taken, will impact a lot of people. In some cases jobs are lost, Adam’s business – which has been the main source of income for them – suffers, hetero couples have to scramble to reorganize their big days, and of course several of the Worth and More clans are furious when Steven and Adam announce that not only will they not help organize Peter and Amanda’s wedding, they won’t even attend it.

Things take an even more serious turn when Steven begins to have doubts about his personal choice to boycott his brother’s wedding. They’re from a close knit Romanian family that has already weathered the split of their parents and there are other unrepaired family relationship cracks that have Steven petrified that if he lets this go too far, he’ll lose his only brother and antagonize his mother for good. But on the other hand, Adam is 100% determined to stand by his decision come what may – even if what comes is a rift between himself and Steven.

The decision Steven and Adam reach in the end does end up costing them emotionally yet the price is one both they and their families feel is acceptable in order to make their point. Perhaps the capitulation of the ones who had pressured them to change their minds is a bit of wishful plotting. Adam’s “on his knee” proposal is slightly Hollywood but then given Steven and Adam’s addiction to melodramatic movies, it’s perfectly in keeping with how you’ve written their characters. Okay the inclusion of the rainbow in the end is a touch happy happy but I had to smile at older the couple who congratulate Steven and Adam as they enter what for them would have turned out to be a long engagement before they finally got the right to officially and legally say “I do.” Let’s hope they got lots of Baccarat and Lalique as wedding gifts. B

~Jayne

 

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

20 Comments

  1. Sirius
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 06:32:47

    I had been looking at this book recently but since it is not cheap I wondered if I can find a nice detailed review first :). Thank you. Sold.

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  2. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 06:46:47

    @Sirius: Bold Stroke books don’t seem to be discounted much. I think you can get the ebooks a bit cheaper than the print but even those still seem to be priced at > $10 each. Since I’m not that familiar with many of their authors, I hesitate about which ones to try too.

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  3. Mandi
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 08:10:17

    I liked this one too. It was quite amusing and quirky and I really enjoyed how the whole conflict with not attending their siblings wedding turned out.

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  4. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 08:15:29

    @Mandi: I truly didn’t know what choice Adam and Steven were going to make. There were such strong motivators in either direction. But I’m glad that it worked out with their families still behind them and them together and united about it.

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  5. Anna
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 09:04:28

    My mum recently officiated a gay wedding. Gay marriage still isn’t legal in Australia, so instead of signing a marriage licence they signed their wills and other legal documents (which given they were forced to compromise was a pretty great solution!). Mum told me the day after that if her church found out it’s possible she would be chucked out. But then she looked at me and said, “But I think it’s worth it, don’t you?” I felt so insanely proud of her. This is an issue that’s worth standing up for, even when – maybe especially when – it really takes something.

    All of which is to say – I like the sound of this book! :-)

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  6. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 09:20:07

    @Anna: Wow, I don’t even know your mum and I feel insanely proud of her. I hope Bold Strokes doesn’t have geo restrictions and you can get your mitts on this book in Australia.

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  7. HelenMac
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 10:14:47

    I’ve been dithering over whether to buy this in ebook (price issue), but your review has sold me on this, Jayne. One of my concerns was how emotionally satisfying an ending there could be, with the plot being what it is, so I’m glad that it seems to be one that works.

    Your comment to Anna about georestrictions has me worried now – now that I’ve made up my mind to buy it, if I’m not able to (UK), I’ll be gutted! Will have to check when I get home tonight (at work at the mo).

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  8. Darlynne
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 10:16:57

    @Anna: I’m proud of her, too.

    Jayne, your review put me in mind of a thousand small cuts, all the things that become important when they’re withheld or missed or denied for no valid reason. Thank you for highlighting this book.

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  9. Ken O'Neill
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 10:32:35

    Hi
    I’m the author. Thanks for the kind words. @Anna I love your mom! Her action is exactly why I wrote my book. Though I am not really involved in the distribution of my book I am almost 100% sure my book is available in both UK and Australia. Thanks for your interest and hope you enjoy!
    Ken

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  10. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 11:43:29

    @HelenMac: Here’s a link to Bold Strokes’ website page where they talk about bookstores that carry their books. http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/pages.php?pageid=30

    I see ones in both the UK and Australia. Perhaps someone from the company could comment about ebook sales.

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  11. Mandi
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 11:44:53

    @Jayne:

    I didn’t know either! Which surprised me. I could have gone either way I think..but it all works out well. I hope he writes another book.

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  12. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 11:50:20

    @Mandi: And I liked that I didn’t know – should have been more specific about that. It’s rare for me to find a book that’s hard to predict which way the main conflict will go.

    I hope he writes another book too as I found his “voice” very enjoyable.

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  13. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 11:53:25

    @Ken O’Neill: Thanks for stopping by and for helping to clarify where readers can find your book. That can be an issue for international readers. I’m also glad to see lots of different ebook formats offered by Bold Strokes.

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  14. Pat Bane
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 13:49:39

    If you go to the Bold Strokes Web site they often have Discounts available for purchases over $25.00 U.S. They are running a sale on ebooks on some very good novels for 4.99. the ebooks come in a wide variety of formats

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  15. Sirius
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 14:08:23

    @Jayne: Yeah, they are not, from the couple of the books from them I tried, they seem to be better edited than a lot of the books from other publishers, so I was interested and as I said will definitely get this one.

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  16. Susan
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 17:23:23

    @Anna: Way to go, Anna’s Mom!

    Great review. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I was all ready to click. . . but the $10 price tag made me hesitate. It’s now on the wish list with a bunch of other $10 and up books. I need to stew about the more expensive purchases these days. (When I win Mega-Millions I’m buying everything on my Amazon wish lists!)

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  17. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 17:29:57

    @Pat Bane: Thanks for the heads up. I just bought 4 books – 3 discounted – and got the 10% off as well.

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  18. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 17:32:23

    @Susan: I’m with you on pricing. It’s what’s made me waver on buying some of their books before and why I took a chance on buying some discounted ones today. I can risk $4.50/book more easily than $10.00 on an author new to me.

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  19. HelenMac
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 17:38:27

    @Jayne: So, I tweeted them re georestriction for UK before going back to work, and they said “If you buy the books from our webstore, no restrictions whatsoever.” Which is excellent, and I shall be buying the book on payday.

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  20. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 18:03:10

    @HelenMac: Excellent! Thanks for following up on this.

    ReplyReply

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