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REVIEW:  Waiting for Ty by Samantha Ann King

REVIEW: Waiting for Ty by Samantha Ann King

Dear Samantha Ann King:

I knew this book was a companion novel going in, and it did a solid job of standing alone – at least when it came to referencing the previous story. A friends-to-lovers premise and a Texan setting made this story sound like it could be something different for me; both contributed to some unique parts of the story, yet I found myself getting tired of some of the things you were trying to do. Stories about men finding their sexualities are relevant, but I honestly am too worn out by coming out plots to care about reading it again in an m/m novel, even if it’s done pretty well. That was my biggest problem with Waiting for Ty.

Waiting for TyA political reporter known for his talents in the field, Tyler Coil has one secret that he’s kept under wraps for the last few years: he’s in love with his best friend, Landon. Landon works as a cancer researcher in Texas, and he frequently entertains Ty in his bachelor-pad style apartment with a few rounds of beer. They watch sports together and Ty talks; Landon listens and adds in his two cents every now and again. Landon and Ty feel comfortable with each other. Ty just thinks that it would be impossible for Landon to love him as a lover, not just as a friend.

One night changes everything when Landon, who harbors his own secret affections, and Ty take a leap of faith and kiss. Kissing leads to sex, sex leads to the morning after, and the morning after leads to the two best friends admitting that their feelings run deep for each other. Ty and Landon are irrevocably in love with one another. Acknowledging that should be the end of it, shouldn’t it?

Both men harbor worries about what it could mean to come out. They technically identify as bisexual, but their attraction to one another is just far stronger than their physical attraction to women in general. Ty fears that being bisexual could lead to less reporting jobs with Texas being as conservative as it is; Ty’s family also presents an issue, the general group a little too traditional and closed-minded to accept something like being bisexual. Landon has his professional worries, too, but he’s just as concerned about Ty and the distance created by Ty’s concerns. Their relationship may not be able to stand so much worry, especially when the men are faced with the chances to take jobs that would separate them for a long period of time. Their love might not be strong enough to withstand the pressure of revealing who they really are to the rest of the world.

From the get-go, I felt like the story was disjointed. The characters have sex very early on, presumably because both harbor feelings for each other and have major man horny-ness upon realizing that those feelings are reciprocated. I felt like this happened a little too early considering that said men were dealing with a four-year friendship and were both paralyzed to so much as hint at their affections, yet immediately dove in physically after the ice was broken. I could see where you were coming from with the building of the sexual tension prior to the novella’s opening, so that was something I could at least logically understand even if I felt it was overly impulsive. The downside? The entire book read this way – like the characters were ready to be together, proved it to the reader, and then backtracked the relationship later on.

A lot of this is because of the way the coming out plotlines are handled. Ty’s family is very ‘traditional’ and prejudiced, but I think you did that well and showed just how painful it is to be from a family like that. I could see members of my family doing that, or families that live in my area, and the characterization rang true on a human level because of that. It made Ty’s worries about coming out more believable because his family was indeed a major problem that would stick with his character even after he fell in love with Landon. If that had been the main point of the coming out story and another conflict was more of the focus, I think the novella would have been much better, but that sadly wasn’t the case.

Ty and Landon both frequently cite professional worries for coming out. Maybe this is just a Texas thing, maybe LGBTQ people have an extremely hard time with professionalism there compared to some other states, but neither of these men hold jobs that, to me, felt jeopardized by their sexualities. Landon does scientific research; Ty is a reporter. They constantly say that it would be a major problem, yet it feels like a recycled excuse in order to add in extra conflict to the story. There are many successful LGBTQ reporters and scientists – and print reporters usually don’t have as much personal exposure with their pieces because of the veil of the printed word. As worrisome as it is to be LGBTQ in a professional setting, always facing the potential of a homophobic higher-up or coworker, it’s not something that would kill either of those careers, especially with established professionals, and I don’t think the author made the reasoning behind the worry clear enough to be as deep of a conflict as it was.

I think the characters themselves had good chemistry. The sex was hot, if occasionally awkward in the vocabulary used, and their dialogue worked well for me. Landon’s sisters were amusing, meddlesome types that accepted him quickly, and one of Landon’s neighbors also won me over with her protectiveness. That kind of trope is always cute to me, and each of the girls had a different personality. Your characters are endearing and make the story pop when it would otherwise feel like a boring re-tread of countless other contemporary m/m romances. Your characters clearly belonged together. I believed the HEA whole-heartedly, and I think the fact that these two had such history made that easy to stomach despite the short length of the story. The occasional bits of humor also helped to keep the tone from being too serious with all of the angst.

While Waiting for Ty had good writing and a fair shot at being a great novella, the romance just lacked conflict that felt organic to the relationship at hand. Landon and Ty needed more than worry about their sexuality in a professional setting for me to sympathize with them, if only because they never seemed to think about it or the reality of how relevant them being bisexual would be to a job that has nothing to do with the practitioner’s sexuality. It’s just something that’s been done before and done with more motivation behind all of the coming out angst. My final grade is a C-.

All my best,

John

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REVIEW:  The Nature of Cruelty by L H. Cosway

REVIEW: The Nature of Cruelty by L H. Cosway

The Nature of Cruelty by L.H. Cosway

Dear L H. Cosway:

After the refreshing Painted Faces, I was eager to try another Cosway book and this one had an intriguing premise. Could you forgive the person who tormented you and fall in love with him? Lana and Sasha are best friends and at first this is not a problem but as the two grow closer, Robert, Sasha’s twin, begins to treat Lana cruelly. He called her names, made fun of her appearance and once, knowing she had a crush on him, pretended that he liked her only to whisper “You, Lana, are the ugliest girl I have ever laid my eyes on.” He did other, crueler things to her. And then Sasha and Robert moved away.

Robert and Lana reconnect when she is a grad student and he is working at his father’s PR firm. Lana is staying at Sasha’s flat and Robert has been kicked out of his own apartment by his girlfriend. (This detail didn’t ring true as it was his apartment but nonetheless the two have to be brought together).  Probably the best part of the book was the rehabilitation of Robert’s character and the steamy love scenes.

After his breakup with the cheating Kara, Robert begins to pursue Lana earnestly (often invading her privacy like taking pictures of her constantly including while she is sleeping), apologizing for his past misdeeds, and offering a romantic olive branch in return. Robert was Lana’s first crush and she hadn’t ever really gotten over him. There’s a cute use of Facebook as Robert friends Lana and she rejects him initially. Later they converse and he says “Are you going to accept my friendship?” and we know he’s talking about more than the social network.  Robert is an intense young man; he hates and loves in equal powerful measure.

The scenes in which Robert mistreats Lana are narrated as backstory by Lana and thus have less effect than the real time events of the characters so when the tables turn and Lana begins to treat Robert cruelly.  Early in the story Lana was a sympathetic creature but her passivity throughout the story became frustrating. I wanted her to take agency and either pursue her own happiness or at least take control of the relationship she was in but she allows herself to be influenced by others around her all too often. The last third of the book features Lana having a difficult time managing an illness that I felt was within her control if she acted more responsibly.  Worse, Lana blames Robert for being too addictive and doesn’t take ownership of her own behavior. Ending the story so close on the heels of Lana’s stupidity was utterly frustrating.

Sasha, the sister, who was struggling with her own sexuality  was a really intriguing character in the story and I liked her the most but maybe that’s because I only got her in small dosages.

This was another book in which I didn’t quite grasp what the author was trying to do. Robert was cruel and that cruelty eventually begat more cruelty. In the blurb, it says “When fear takes over, we use cruelty as a mask. Robert and Lana’s story will see their masks slip away as the love they felt on the inside shows its true face.”  But Robert’s cruelty came from a place of thwarted want and Lana’s cruelty came from the desire to offload the repercussions of her own bad actions on someone else. Probably up to the 60% mark, this book was a C+ but Lana’s behavior in the last third tipped it into the C- region.

I do enjoy the authorial voice and would definitely try another Cosway. This one just didn’t work for me. C-

Best regards,

Jane

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