Dual Review: The Perfect Cover by Claire ThompsonWednesday, January 16, 2008 22:00
So what happens when an opinionated, Big City Gay Man with a deliciously wicked sense of humor teams up with an opinionated, pervy, suburban Ohio soccer Mom to dish about a Gay Romance written by a female author?
Bev(QB): Although I’m sure most authors will say they don’t write for a specific audience, the fact is that a large percentage of gay ROMANCES (as opposed to gay erotica) are written by women and read by straight women. But I’ve also heard that these same romances are gaining an audience within the gay community because a lot of gay men want to read romance, not just sex. So, Teddy, is that an Urban Legend?
Teddypig: Well Bev, I just read somewhere about this concept of “exploitive MM Romances” and how we Gay guys are getting used and abused by Straight women writers misrepresenting us to the general Straight women Romance reading populace as horny devils willing to have sex at a the drop of the soap. My response was… and? You have a problem with that? What gave you the first clue that maybe, because we are already rebelling against mainstream society’s view of sexuality, we might be kinda more likely to explore this brave new world of hot man on man action at any and every given opportunity provided us? Now I try not to over generalize but, um… yeah that is usually the way it works out.
Anyway, kidding aside, I think it is great women writers are exploring the members of another culture they have something in common with. Dating, putting up with, and unfortunately, sometimes even loving those primitive hard headed creatures known as MEN — also known as pigs or jerks on occasion. So here’s to more exploiting Ladies!
Bev(QB): Yeah, something in common– that makes sense. I don’t read lesbian fiction because I’m not attracted to other women, so I can’t relate to anyone in the story. With gay male romances, however, it’s hardly a stretch to identify with the attraction for the male characters. Plus, particularly in contemporary romance stories, gay relationships have a whole different dynamic than straight romances. The leads are usually friends and there is none of that alpha asshole angst that we get in so many male/female stories. Maybe I’m generalizing, but the gay romance stories often come closer to mirroring the dynamics in real life STRAIGHT relationships.
But what about The Perfect Cover? Did Claire Thompson nail it [hee] for you
Teddypig: I have to admit I really tried to hate this eBook. The damn thing starts with the lamest setup EVA. There is this Club Med style Gay resort out on some tropical island that all these gor-jesus Gay men all work at during the winter and swap spit. Sorta like Palm Springs but without all the wrinkles and with non-chlorinated water surrounding it.
First off we are introduced to Ryan Weston, perfectly long hair, perfectly muscled body, and perfectly STRAIGHT. Then we switch over and meet Sean Evans, perfectly… Oh here let me show you…
Sean had honey blond hair streaked with thick swaths of bleached gold from his hours in the sun. His eyes were a disarmingly pale blue, or so a lover had once told him, the contrast to his tan face making them look even bluer. He wasn’t especially tall, maybe five feet ten inches, but every bit of him was solid muscle. He didn’t think of himself in terms of being good-looking or not. It didn’t occur to him.
Yeah right, maybe it did not occur to him, but the reader just spent a whole paragraph reviewing how good looking he is in his own damn point of view. So, I started gearing up early for the snarkfest to come. Hey, it’s a dirty job, but since Mrs Giggles swore off snark, someone has to do it.
Bev(QB): Yeah, but ya gotta admit the “visuals” were stunning, right? Picture Travis Fimmel (in his Tarzan days) bumpin’ uglies with… well… Travis Fimmel.
For me, the “snark alert” moment came when Ryan tried on his work attire– a Speedo– and then walked into Sean’s bedroom and asked him how it looked. No straight man in the history of the world, would EVER ask another man that question! And to invite a *gasp* GAY MAN to peruse his nearly naked body?! Just wouldn’t happen. Ryan is comfortable being on an island of gay men hitting on him (no straight man’s homophobia?!), he’s had fantasies about being with another man, and he’s in effect asking a buddy “Do these make my ass look big?”, but he considers himself completely straight?! Yeah, by that point, I had visions of snark dancing in my head too, Teddy.
Teddypig: Well Bev, Sean gets the hots immediately for Ryan because it is the Tru Lurve. Then Ryan plays the old “I’m Straight” card. Despite his poor crushed Gay heart, Sean agrees to keep Ryan’s secret (baby) and they plan a deception to keep Ryan’s sweet virginal ass on Gay Sex Island by pretending to be a couple in Tru Lurve. HOW CONVENIENT! In real life Teddypig is sitting there cringing in his seat listing all of the reasons he would be running away from the confused Straight boy:
- Lack of Gay experience and knowing himself.
- Bad sex.
- Temptation to have sex with every Gay loser he meets.
- BAD sex.
- Inability to place value in a real relationship with another guy.
- BAD SEX!
Bev(QB): “I didn’t even know I was gay!” is one of my favorite themes in gay romances. However, I think in the back of my mind I always assumed it was just a fantasy dreamt up by female authors. But Thompson turned this into a completely believable story for me when she had Sean explain to Ryan how he could be gay or bisexual and not realize it. Then Ryan internalized what Sean said and starting putting the pieces together.
Teddypig: Bev my rule of thumb is, dump the genders and look at what is going on under the hood. In this case we’ve got a Straight guy and a Gay guy. That equates in Romance to the Barbara Cartland, wilting virgin with experienced horny suitor story. YAWN! [Bev(QB): Hey! I just said I LOVE those stories!]
I was pleasantly surprised though because after all those things I could quickly list as reasons for NOT getting involved with Straight guys who are learning they are Gay, Claire Thompson thought these through and actually addressed them one by one in the story.
Bev(QB): Exactly, Teddy. Another author would simply have used Ryan’s curiosity after watching all the gay men together at the resort to trigger his “switch.” But Thompson surprised me with her logical, intelligent arguments that sexuality is not black or white but rather shades of grey (or should that be described as the Colors of the Rainbow?).
Overall, I thought it was a sweet romance story with some flashes of intelligent insight that outweighed the snarktacular aspects. Odd that there were surprisingly few erotic scenes, though, when you consider this is the same Claire Thompson who writes all those BDSM stories.
Teddypig: I totally agree, it was sweet Bev. Maybe Scott & Scott, two Gay men who write The Gay Romance over at Loose-Id, should pick this book up to see how to do this type of Gay Romance without relying on their typical blah “Twinkies in Love” characters.
Don’t get me wrong though, these characters were too perfect. The place was too perfect. The Romance is too perfect. Everything is too, too perfect. If Claire wanted a perfect score from me she should have had them both fail in a couple of understandable ways that would show them being human and not Ken Dolls in Speedos. Intelligent and insightful does come to mind in thinking about this story and the cautious dance described. So that kicks this up a grade automatically for me despite the other flaws.
I will be reading your next Gay Romance, Claire, so dirty it up a bit, will you?
Exploit On Girl Friend!
Read the Ellora’s Cave summary.
Read an excerpt.
Read more from Teddypig at The Naughty Bits.
Read more from Bev(QB) at Cubie’s Confections.