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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:  A Home for Her Heart by Janet Lee Barton

REVIEW: A Home for Her Heart by Janet Lee Barton

A-Home-for-Her-Heart

Love on Assignment

Magazine writer Elizabeth Anderson has sparred with newspaper reporter John Talbot for years. Though they cover similar stories, John thinks Elizabeth’s writing is trivial, and she finds him too boastful. So when they must work together to investigate New York City’s worst tenement houses, they’re surprised by the great team they make.

Despite their professional rivalry, John and Elizabeth begin to trust each other as they grow from competitors, to friends, to something more. But then John makes a startling discovery that would break the story—and Elizabeth’s heart—wide-open. John’s always been driven by his career—can he give up one dream for another?

Dear Ms. Barton,

I enjoy reading the Love Inspired Historicals mainly for the unusual times and settings which are featured in them. There are only so many Dukes I care to read about and even Western gunslingers/sheriffs get too familiar after a while. After watching the PBS series on NYC which mentioned Jacob Riis’s 1890 book “How the Other Half Lives,” it was the tenement investigation in the blurb that caught my attention and made me decide to give this one a try.

While I had hopes for some hard-hitting journalism, the center and focus of the book was mainly on the life at the boarding house where Elizabeth and John both live. It’s a loving, almost family environment with a kindly owner and several very nice but ultimately mainly forgettable tenants. Mrs. Heaton does have her rules and PDAs are mainly limited to engaged couples and exuberance at baseball games while female residents aren’t supposed to be out at night alone.

The details about life there, in NYC and in the tenements are numerous and obviously well researched but there is a lot of repetition. Meals are described in detail, the heat, trolley transport and dinner, and nattering conversation. Some of this was pertinent to the plot while some, alas, was mere filler that I often skimmed.

Elizabeth and John have both had bad past romantic experiences. John got fired from his newspaper job due to the boss’s daughter leading him on while Elizabeth’s fiancé turned out to only want her for her family’s money rather than herself. Both now shy away from romance and have vowed to never risk their hearts again. Lest we forget that, this is mentioned in almost every chapter.

Since this is the second book in this Boarding House Betrothal series, the characters of another of your books are secondary ones here. As such, I expected some background information which I think, for the most part, is sparingly done. Readers who are new to this world, as I was, can start here and not be lost.

The investigative reporting is much more low key than I was hoping for mainly consisting of Elizabeth and John wandering around some tenement buildings, taking some pictures, talking once or twice with people there and then telling each other about searching for information at City Hall. John has one short dust-up with a manager and that’s pretty much all. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed in this. It did serve as a contrast to Elizabeth’s life of wealth but since she’d ditched all that in order to live her life on her own terms, even this part of the plot was dulled instead of hard edged. Eventually the investigation touched closer to home but the brief flare up of emotion and tension soon fizzled out as well.

So mainly this story just sort of drifts along at a leisurely pace. Two perfectly nice people finally really notice each other, begin to get along, have their momentary doubts and then happily fall in love. Some of the tenements are cleaned up, true love is found and lots of good meals are eaten at the boarding house over pleasant conversation. There’s nothing really bad about the book but it’s one I think won’t stick in my mind for long. C

~Jayne

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