It’s a Dual Review
Review by Gloria Lakritz
Sr Reviewer and Review Chair for the Paranormal Romance Guild
I was glad a member of our guild decided to take a stand and cry out about the bullying of author Renae Kaye. This book has received more talk, furor and anger, not having even been released yet !
I read all genres, and as a straight 75 year old Grandmother (My Label) I chose to read this book and review it along with my younger, gay male friend (His Label). I am the Review Chair of a Book Guild, and have been at that position for 7 years. This book would be classified as a Contemporary Gay Romance until you begin reading the book. Our author begins with a beautiful Dedication:
This story is for any person who’s ever had to “come out” and have to explain their sexual orientation as something other than straight. I’m sorry you had to do that. I wish for a society that is embracing and welcoming, where that is no longer necessary.
We begin with Vinnie Rosello, lying in his bunk bed, thinking about his life, the big Italian Family he comes from, and hearing his thoughts as years go by about how his house hold is perceived. He has brothers and sisters and cousins all living under one roof with a Mom and Dad and an Aunt as adults. The three bedroom house has the boys in one room, the girls in another and the adults in another; then he wonders why that still is, since they moved to a four bedroom house. All is good, he is brought up with love, support and lots of hugs and noise. He has come out to his family and they accept him lovingly. Now in his 20’s he spends everything he makes on the weekends clubbing with friends, wants to save, find a better job and at 25 move out from his crowded home living with the family.
Aaron Hall has a bad boy reputation. From what we read, he cannot stay true to any one woman. Seemed to me he didn’t meet Miss Right who pushed all the right buttons. His last relationship was him losing interest with the girl he was dating and started dating a second girl. He was a happy camper having 2 girls meet his relationship needs. Then the roof caved in when they both found out and both left him holding the bag and a full mortgage payment since he had purchased a house with one of them! Now he needed someone to help with the expenses. A roommate was needed.
So here they were, Straight Aaron hanging out with his best friend Liam whose boyfriend is gay; in a group of gay friends every weekend. So here is where the author puts the reader to task on “labels”!!! We have in the first couple of chapters learned of the Label of the life style Polyamorus by which Vinnie didn’t quite get as a child. The Gay label, that makes a man less of a man, the freak of nature burning in hell label. Aaron Straight which is supposed to be the ‘best label’ to be and Liam who is straight but loves a gay man. What is he called…? To me he is called Liam, but the world needs a Label. So is he Bi? Or what?
Aaron and Vinnie begin with an intro, then some tentative conversation, and Vinnie asks Aaron to let him move in, and share the bills. Aaron learns from Vinnie about what he believed and now learns what he really didn’t know about being gay and gay sex.
Vinnie feeling so alone, not having his large family, needs touch and comfort that Aaron is willing to give him with the understanding ‘no one will know’ as Vinnie sleeps with Aaron. Over months they slowly go from friends, to friends with some benefits, to finally admitting they are in love. Aaron still tries to work out how he will be perceived, will he have to say he is gay, having a gay boyfriend and what will that do to his persona?
This is a very interesting formula, this ‘gay for you’ trope. If this is what all the fuss was about, I truly believe the author wins!!!
Review by FE Feeley Jr
Member of the Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team
I’ve had issues with the m/m genre before. As a gay man, I’ve had moments where I would read a book and sit back and think, “Is that how you really see me?” I find myself and have found myself, furious in the past over it, because sometimes the books can be insulting. If you and the preacher down the road agree on how many times a day I have sex, something’s wrong. That being said, often times I run into sweet books, like this one.
GFY (gay-for-you) is a trope that I don’t mind reading. Mostly, because I can’t think of a single gay man who hadn’t fucked up and fell in love with his straight buddy; who wished, ‘Dear LORD IF HE COULD ONLY SEEE HOW MUCH I LOOOVE HIM”, and everything would be alright. And I can understand how this trope found its way to Romance because, like most romance, it’s a fantasy. Otherwise, I want to be a woman and go back to my sister’s romance novels she and my mother used to read and go back in time to be the fiery lover of some Laird in a Castle on an Irish Coast. For real? Sign my ass up for that. I am a sucker for accents. You could read the phone book and I’d be all about it. But I digress.
This is a story about a gay man who moves into a house with a straight guy, and slowly, over time, they start to realize they have feelings for each other. GFY TROPE. But here’s where it isn’t. Kaye really messes with people’s perceptions of labels. She asks some hard questions, questions that someone who understands people, understands. In the very beginning labels are thrown out. Because in the very beginning we meet Vinny, the oldest son in a huge Italian family whose parents were polyamorous. So she tackles one big societal issue right here and does it well.
Vinny is a very effeminate ‘gold star gay’. Meaning he’s never had sex with a woman.
Then we meet Aaron who’s from a more traditional family but has sort of put himself in a bad way because he was a serial philanderer. A STRAIGHT SERIAL PHILANDERER.
When Aaron’s low down dirty shaming ways puts him in a bad way, he needs a roommate to help him with the mortgage his girlfriend left him.
Slowly we start watching a friendship form that was standoffish at first, to where Aaron and Vinny become really close.
It’s a great read – it’s a cute and funny story about two guys who fall in love with each other, and there are a lot of questions asked. There is a lot of self-discovery that you will just have to read to understand. This book asks some big questions. What’s in a label? Are we gay because we have sex with men? Is that what makes us gay? Or is gay or bi something more than just what we put our dicks in? If I know I have sex with men, but no one else knows, to them I am a straight guy. The problems come when I tell them that I have sex with men and suddenly I am emasculated, even to some women. Because with labels, there come the stereotypes of a lifestyle; certain expectations. And when you decide to come out we have to be willing to accept everything that comes with those labels and those expectations, and the fight begins.
And all throughout this book you see Aaron fighting with himself trying to figure out who and what he is in relation to Vinny, and the world around them as a whole. Should he have said he was bisexual? If we’re honest with each other, wouldn’t that have been up to Aaron to decide that? Don’t we have the right to self-identify? Isn’t self-determination a factor in our lives, or do we just use that as window dressing to hide our TRUE feelings about the way people live?
In reading this, and watching all of the bluster over this lo these past few days, I’ve come to one conclusion. You’re not mad at the author, or the book, or the subject matter of said book; you’re mad at the fantasy. You’re mad at the market. Your’e mad at the readers for wanting these books. In short, you’re angry at m/m as a whole, but you live in reality, and oftentimes this genre falls short of that.
This book was a little more forward thinking than people give it credit for. It tackles some issues that I’m sure will cause heated debate, but at the end of the day, as a writer, Renae did her job, because you’re talking about it. And in the marketplace, there is no such thing as bad publicity.