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REVIEW: The Happy Onion by Ally Blue

Dear Ms. Blue:

Cover of The Happy Onion by Ally BlueI was so excited to see a m/m author at the RWA Literacy signing (yes, July last year in DC) that I bought two of your books — your lightest and your darkest, at your suggestion. The Happy Onion was your light book and a lot of fun. It was a sweet, cute read and I closed the book with a happy sigh, despite a couple of issues.

Thom arrives in Ashville, NC to find that the job he’s been promised as a nightclub owner is on hold because the resort company opening it is in legal limbo. He has to find a job and a place to stay right away, which he does when he goes into a bar/restaurant and is hired as the bartender and rents the upstairs apartment. He celebrates by going out to the local gay bar and finding a guy to fuck. The encounter is one of the best he’s ever had…and of course, he’s shocked and stunned to find out ten days later — when the restaurant’s owner finally shows up at the restaurant after 2 weeks off — that his amazing fuck is, indeed, his boss, Phil. His earthy-crunchy, vegan, far-left liberal, hot as anything, best lay he’s ever had, boss.

I love these two men. Thom is small and blond and everyone assumes that he’d the twinky bottom, but he’s an assertive dominant top with a really bad temper that Phil finds especially hot. Phil, on the other hand, is above six feet, and a big, nelly, hungry bottom who is perfectly comfortable with who and what he is. They’re amazing together as a couple and wonderfully distinct as characters. I very much enjoyed watching them get to know each other.

“It’s fine,” Phil spoke before the silence could become seriously uncomfortable. “I’m the one who should be apologizing to you. For real this time.”

That made Thom look at him. “Are you saying you pissed me off on purpose?”

Those big eyes seemed to see right through Phil’s skull and into his innermost thoughts. Phil hunched his shoulders and forced himself to hold Thom’s gaze. “Um. Yeah.”

“Because I’m sexy when I’m mad.”

“Oh yeah.”

“You’ve been doing that all along, haven’t you?”

Phil swallowed. “Maybe.”

Sighing, Thom ran a hand through his heair. “What the hell’s wrong with you?”

He’s not yelling. That’s a good sign. Phil ignored the rebellious parts of him which disagreed and risked a cautious smile. “There’s just something about a hot little blond with a temper that turns my crank like nothing else.”

Thom eyes him with a calculating look. “Hm. Isn’t that interesting?”

The predatory way Thom was looking at him sent goose bumps racing up Phil’s arms. “So. Are you mad?” He sounded hopeful. Dammit.

Thom gave him an evil grin. “Do you want me to be?”

The EW factor: Jayne noticed something similar in her last review of one of your books. My “ew” wasn’t a body odor issue, it was a sexual practice issue: I’m really not that interested in reading about felching. I mean, really. Thanks but no thanks. Other than that one unfortunate incident, however, I also very much enjoyed the sex scenes. They were hot, interesting, distinct, and…oh yeah, very hot!

I also think there would have been more character growth and relationship conflict if the owners of Thom’s nightclub, which finally got off the ground, weren’t so irredeemably crooked. If Thom and Phil actually had to work out their political differences, to the same end, of course, I think it would have been a more interesting book. Of course, it’s not my story to write, but it seemed to me to be a cop-out to have a common enemy appear so obligingly just when Thom and Phil were figuring out how they fit together. And whatever Thom might think when he goes to a lawyer with his discrimination suit, yes, throughout most of the country, you CAN be fired for being gay. Sorry. And boy, he was pretty stupid when his boss called him into her office: hmm, I wonder what she wants me for? That seemed a little disingenuous to me, one instance of TSTL in an otherwise beautifully constructed character.

Overall, however, I really enjoyed this book. It was a strong romance between two great characters. Nothing brilliant, but a lot of fun, and a feel-good happy at the end when I closed the book (yes, OMG, a REAL book with pages and everything). Thanks for those happy hours I spent with Thom and Phil.

Grade: B

Best regards,
-Joan/Sarah F.

This book can be purchased at Samhain (non affiliate link) in ebook format.

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.

17 Comments

  1. Lily
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 11:15:13

    Ew thanks for teaching me a new word. Now I know to punch anyone who suggests that to me right in the face. :) Good review though.

  2. Joan/SarahF
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 11:16:18

    @Lily: Oh, you’re welcome! I aim to educate! :)

  3. Jayne
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 11:44:43

    Well…I won’t be doing either of the definitions of it.

  4. Lynette
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 12:01:57

    As I just posted on Twitter, I now learned a new word. I’m sorry, I have to buy this book now, just out of sheer morbid curiousity. LOL.

  5. TKF
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 13:50:06

    Am I the only one who can’t not “hear” the “h” in Thom?

  6. Lynette
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 14:43:31

    Forget the “h” in Thom. Which I agree with BTW, am I the only one who looks at the blond on the cover and am thinking it looks like a girl (including boobies)!

    BTW, have just downloaded this to my Kindle. Thanks Sarah.

  7. katiebabs
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 14:47:52

    The one major thing that stood out in your review was fletching. LOL O.o

    But otherwise I heard this was a pretty good read. But again fletching…

  8. Joan/SarahF
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 14:51:05

    @Lynette: I’ve got the actual paper book and the cover’s not that bad IRL, so I never noticed it. Looking at picture here, yes, OMG bad, but the actual cover’s fine. :)

  9. CourtneyLee
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 14:52:47

    I agree about the one moment of squick. I really enjoyed this book otherwise. I like that Ally Blue, the queen of angst, wrote something light and fun. I love ansgt, but sometimes you just need a break from the drama.

  10. Janine
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 15:07:14

    Felching is a new word for me too, and not something I am interested in reading about either. But… have you read the one she considers her darkest? I’m curious now that CourtneyLee has described this author as the queen of angst.

  11. Maili
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 16:45:36

    What’s the story behind the title? An onion is happy because it can and does make people cry?

  12. Joan/SarahF
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 16:54:42

    @Maili: It’s the name of Phil’s bar. Never really explained why.

  13. Tae
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 21:21:56

    I went looking for this book on Fictionwise, it has other books by the author, but not this one.

  14. KA Mitchell
    Feb 12, 2010 @ 12:33:19

    I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun read with a rich setting. I loved the characters and the author’s voice. It’s nice to see it here, Joan.

  15. Holly
    Feb 14, 2010 @ 02:06:48

    You wrote “I bought two of your books -‘ your lightest and your darkest, at your suggestion”

    What was Ally Blue’s dark book?

  16. Joan/SarahF
    Feb 14, 2010 @ 08:13:35

    @Holly: It was Untamed Heart which I have not read so make no recommendations, either for or against. :)

  17. February 16 Roundup « Anne Scott
    Feb 16, 2010 @ 07:04:58

    […] The Happy Onion by Ally Blue-‘Dear Author B […]

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