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REVIEW:  Driving into the Sun by Dev Bentham

REVIEW: Driving into the Sun by Dev Bentham

Bad choices. We all make them, some more than others. Dusty’s choices have left him unemployed, broke and practically homeless. Despite the major issues he has with his family, his only rational choice is to sell everything and move into his parents’ basement. At thirty. Looking for a ride west, he answers a phone ad. The voice at the other end of the line flows like dark, rich honey. Finally something to look forward to—listening to Joe’s voice all the way from Illinois to Idaho.

Rather than the hip crooner of Dusty’s fantasies, Joe turns out to look more like a panhandler. Is that because Joe dresses down, or are Dusty’s preconceptions about Native Americans clouding his vision? Joe is silent more often than not. He has a complicated past and still has amends to make. But he is ready to move on. Dusty feels trapped. Two damaged men, one small car driving two thousand miles into the sun—sometimes things need to break down before they can get fixed.

Driving into the Sun by Dev BenthamDear Dev Bentham,

I have read and liked several of your works, so when you wrote to DA asking us to review your new release, I was very interested. Unfortunately while I liked your writing style and mostly enjoyed the characters, I just did not buy that their extra fast connection is necessarily going to be the everlasting love the narrative wanted me to believe in.

Dusty and Joe connect to go on this road trip in order to share expenses and have company while they get to the places they need to go to. And, they both have plenty of demons to battle. Joe has tried (and so far succeeded) to stay sober for five years, while Dusty fell in love with his boss who was arrested for financial fraud. While Dusty was not charged, he was fired and pretty much almost homeless.

Their trip lasts a little bit over a week and the book asks me to buy that in this short time Dusty reevaluated his choices, realized what he wanted from life, and was ready to move on with the right person. Unfortunately I could not buy it at all. It is not that I did not like Dusty, I did, but within the first couple of days of their trip he is ready to trust the wrong person – again. There was a third guy in the car with them who was only going to be there for the part of their trip. Dusty decided to go to a party with him when they got to the place where they stopped for a day or so, despite his inner voice being in doubt, despite Joe saying don’t go. What could have happened, right? The party ended in disaster and if Joe had not helped him, it would have been an even bigger disaster. Then, just a few days later, Dusty is absolutely sure that Joe is the one for him. I am not even talking about Insta!Love per se here, though no matter how much I will stretch here, it was way too fast for me. It was not even “– let’s start dating,” no it is basically – “we belong with each other”. Maybe. I wish I could be convinced more than I was.

But I am not just talking about that, I am talking about the fact that nothing in the narrative convinced me that Dusty is capable of making good choices, of trusting people who are worthy of his trust. Of course I get that Joe is a good guy, but how the heck did Dusty figure it out so fast if his people barometer is so off?

I did like, though, that Dusty figured it out that he has other choices in his professional life rather than to move in with his parents, I appreciated that. I also thought that while Joe’s battle with addiction was a never- ending one, I did believe that he made some major changes with his life and was ready for a relationship if he wanted one. I liked their chemistry together; I just wish their move from point A to point B was not so fast. I know this happens in every other m/m book, and in some I can swallow it, but in this one it gave me a whiplash.
And of course we have the inevitable anal sex scene making an appearance again.

“Who was he kidding? He was already in too deep. Joe inside him would only make things worse. He should stop it now before Joe got back to bed. Joe would settle for a blowjob, a hand job, whatever. Except it was too late. Every cell in Dusty’s body wanted Joe buried deep inside him. And he was kidding himself to think anyone or anything would stop him from getting it now”

After few days of them meeting each other (three or four days that is) and without condoms too – why? Let me stress again – I have nothing against the appearance of anal sex in a romance story, it could be incredibly hot and if the couple loves it, the couple loves it. I am really tired though of anal sex being the most intimate and the most significant sex in the gay relationship. From what I have read it is just simply not true. The first sex they had been rubbing I guess. They seemed happy and satisfied, how is it less than anal sex? Why does a blowjob or hand job equal “settling” for something? Yet every other m/m book seems to repeat this axiom over and over – unless the couple has anal sex their relationship is somehow not complete, not fully blessed or something.

Moreover, I am perfectly okay in fiction with two people who just met having sex without condoms. I mean I personally feel it could be dangerous in real life, but people do impulsive things and I certainly do not need my m/m romances to be a sex education manual. However, in this book I get the impression that having sex without condoms is not used only to show that two men are so incredibly attracted to each other that they need to do it and they need to do it NOW and everything else be damned. No, I thought that it was used as extra – proof of their love, to emphasize how fast it sparked, and I just did not buy it.

“Joe pulled his fingers out. He picked up the condom. “You sure about this?”
“You wouldn’t lie to me.” Dusty took it from Joe and tossed it on the table. Joe held his gaze for a long moment. Was Dusty being foolish to trust Joe like this? Maybe. God knew he’d made bad mistakes before. But not this time. He was certain right down to his bones. Joe wouldn’t lie. And Dusty wanted to feel him, really feel him. Impatiently, he reached for the tube of slick and lathered Joe’s cock with lube”.

Once again, just how does Dusty know? Magic mirror?

Grade: C-/C

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REVIEW:  Hard Target by Kay Thomas

REVIEW: Hard Target by Kay Thomas

Hard Target: Elite Ops - Book One by Kay Thomas

Dear Ms. Thomas:

This book started out with so much promise that I wondered why it had been so long since I picked up a romantic suspense book. After about a third of the way through decisions and actions by the characters gave me a stark reminder of why I’d abandoned the genre. There’s a certain sense of fantasy that you have to be able to buy into when it comes to RS and the author has to do a very good job of setting up the world so that you can lose yourself within the fantasy. Here, I was jerked out of the book frequently by questioning the actions of the characters.

Anna Mercado is vacationing in Mexico with her ex husband and her son who is in desperate need of a heart transplant. Her handsome ex invites her upstairs for an afternoon of  “comfort sex” and old feelings and the need to be close to someone convinces her to meet her husband upstairs. At the door she hears that he is planning to do nefarious things to her and their son.

Anna’s situation is desperate. Her son needs a heart transplant and she is waiting for the call any day. Her wealthy husband is pursuing her and she has little recourse. The situation is tense and anxious.

Leland Hollis, a DEA agent, has just testified on behalf of a cartel member because the DEA royally screwed up an investigation resulting in the death of innocent people. He’s offered a position by a friend with a private security firm and is contemplating a job change when he hears a woman in a nearby hotel room being attacked. 

He rushes to her aid despite an injury to his foot which has him in a boot cast. Pain in his ankle is causing him to swallow pain killers like they are candy. Leland is able to save the woman but the son is kidnapped. Coincidentally, the same cartel that Leland testified for is involved in this kidnapping mess.

It’s at the introduction of Leland that the story goes south. He immediately involves himself in her rescue which includes obtaining $8 million and running down to a small town in Mexico owned by a drug cartel. Leland and Anna can trust no one but each other.

The romance story is awkwardly injected. I did not feel any chemistry between the two and I set the book aside for a few days when Anna and Leland take a break in cartel country to have sex. It made no sense to me how Anna, so devoted to her son and is eaten up with worry that he’ll miss his heart transplant appointment, would be interested in having sex with some stranger. Maybe in another book or another setting I would’ve bought into it but not in this story.

I had a hard time buying into Leland’s Bruce Willis act. His foot was in a cast but he was still able to run, shoot, and protect Anna. It was as if the injury didn’t even matter. At times, Leland’s growing addiction to pain killers was raised only to be discarded and ultimately was never addressed.

Despite Anna’s interesting start and her clear love for her son, as the book wore on, she became more like a mannequin dragged here and there by Leland and the cartel. While she didn’t have the skills to rescue herself, as Leland and his staff did, she also didn’t exert herself in any way. She was a passive reactor but for the first couple of scenes.

The story becomes more and more implausible, particularly in the Mexico setting. Leland himself said that no one could be trusted, yet he acts in direct opposition to his words and the results are unsurprisingly grim. A lot of his actions in Mexico rose to the Too Stupid To Love level and it was only by the grace of the pen that either of the two made it out alive.

What started out promising quickly devolved for me. Neither the action nor the romance worked.

C-

Best regards,

Jane

 

 

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