You know, when I signed up for Cannonball Read last December I had every plan of finally reading some of the reputably excellent books that are sitting in my library just waiting for me to finally read them. I also was planning to read some academic book that I should have read like five years ago (yes , I am looking at you Marshall McLuhan) and some really wonderful comics book I’ve bought over the years and have yet to read.
Instead I am mostly just reading gay romance novels on my phone
I am ok with this development (sorry Marshall McLuhan)
So, this is a series of four m/m romance books which (my guess) is used as some sort of a promotion for the publisher/press and a way to attract new readers to read some of their more popular authors. In a way it works, as I really enjoyed one of the books I read and decided to try and read some of the other books from that author.
While I will give a short review of each book (as the quality varied) I had a few notes that were common to all four books I read:
- Overall, while the books were limited in their premise (it is still very cis, still a bit too heteronormative), there was a lot of effort made to make the characters and their romance feel realistic and there was a lot of effort to make some very realistic sex scenes
- While enjoyable, the books were mostly kinda forgettable which is not an uncommon thing when reading romance literature, but I was a bit surprised to note that while writing this review I had to re-read the book descriptions just to remember what I was reading
- While it is a romance literature trope, I really wish (especially since it is m/m romance) to have less case of soldiers and cops as your romantic figures especially with the very murky history of those particular institutions and the queer community.
And now to the reviews:
Single Malt by Layla Reyne
Aidan Tally is an FBI agent who recently lost his husband and partner in a car accident, Jamie walker is a former basketball star and Aidan new (and much younger) partner. Jamie wanted Aidan for many years, Aidan is still in mourning over the person he loved, they are working together to find out if the car accident was really an accident while trying to stop a terrorist plot.
This book was kinda MEH and probably the weakest of the four, for one thing because it felt the least realistic of the books and I found myself not really caring that much about the characters. The terrorist plot line had potential, but everything felt a bit too easy and I also felt that it sorts of sprang out of nowhere in the third half part the book. I did like the May-December romance angle, and it was well written but overall rather forgettable and the only book in this collection that is part of a series (so it ends with a cliff-hanger)
Loose Cannon by Sidney Bell
Edgar-Allen Church (mostly just called Church) has just been released from jail (well from an institute for young delinquents) and is trying to get his life back together while staying with an old friend Miller Quinn (who he has a massive crush on) and working in a bakery which has some dubious connections. Miller Quinn is very deep in the closet and is trying to make everyone in his life happy while hiding who he really his and his attraction to Church.
This is the best book of the four, I immensely enjoyed it and actually bought some of the writer other books (who are also excellent). Part of it is simply the fact that the characters are really likeable- Church had a rough childhood and is struggling to deal with his anger issues, his relationship with Miller and his own self-worth. Millar is trying to do the right thing for his family, but he is drowning under everyone expectations (or what he thinks is everyone’s expectations) and his own needs and wants.
While parts of the plot are not the most realistic (the mafia is involved), it never felt like it was made in order to add interest to the book, but rather as part of Church and Millar story (and the surrounding characters).
Off Base by Annabeth Albert
Zack Nelson is a navy SEAL in training, and a closeted gay man, who decided to live off base due to some homophobic soldiers in his unit, unfortunately he also needs a roommate. In comes Pike Reynolds a friend of a friend, openly gay man who makes Zack very uncomfortable but it also in need of a place to live.
While I didn’t think it was the worst book of the lot, the longer I think about it the less I like it. While I overall liked the characters, and it was an enjoyable fluffy read, some of the situations there are so unrealistic that I was actually offended by it.
Specifically, everything that had to do with Pike’s job situation and some of the army stuff
While, I don’t want to spoil too much let’s say that I don’t think the author knows much about academia or the video game industry (two things I happen to know a lot about) and how academic hiring works. The parts about the army was somewhat better as she did try to address some of the army homophobia, the book never really delve into the issue and by the end of it both Zack and Pike situations seems to be solved quite easily without a lot of hassle to anyone involved and without it feeling like they really ever faced any difficulty.
Everyone is just too fucking nice, and by the end everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow and our characters have no worry left in the world.
2.5/5 stars (it was slightly less forgettable then the first one)
On Duty by A.R. Barley
Troy Barnes is a fire fighter (and former marine) who urgently needs a place to stay after is sort of boyfriend (a cop who is also a former marine) kicks him out so he can have his pregnant girlfriend move in. Alex Tate is a paramedic with a crush on Troy and a couch he can crash on while trying to find a new place.
There is also a series of fires and a possible arsonist, a trans runaway which is saved by Troy, and Alex large and very meddling family
This book was cute, and sweet and while it did fall into a lot of tropes was actually the least heteronormative of the group having the alpha male firefighter being the more submissive person in the relationship, and some dealing with issues of transphobia and the way the court system treats trans kids (it’s not much, but it exists)
The arsonist plotline was negligible, and some very obvious case of sexual harassment in Alex past that is not really addressed (like seriously, there should have been a lawsuit plotline instead), but overall It was an enjoyable read.
3/5 (enjoyable, yet slightly forgettable)
Next up: maybe I will finally read Marshall McLuhan but more likely it will just be another romance novel