Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys – Review of My Hometown

20161030myhometownMy Hometown by SJD Peterson, narrated by Ronald Ray Strickland

The last SJD Peterson book I reviewed was Plan B way back in 2013. It was actually one of the first erotica reviews I ever wrote as a collection I put together for a friend, and I think that my tastes have matured since then.

Not that Plan B wasn’t good. It had some problems, but it’s better than My Hometown. At first I was taken aback by narrator Ronald Ray Strickland’s decision to narrate the whole thing in a thick southern accent that clearly wasn’t his, but as the book wore on, I realized that even the narration was in dialect and would probably have sounded weird if he hadn’t had an accent. Speaking of the narrator, I swear I’ve heard him before somewhere but this is the first audiobook of his I’ve ever had, apparently.

I like the setting, the whole country cowboy thing is awesome, but the characters are mostly blah. Both how they’re written and who they are. Main character Jimmy goes off to Chicago to be a doctor and comes home to the family ranch with boyfriend in tow to take over when his parents retire, while pulling double duty as a resident.

At first, the fact that the boyfriend is a fabulous flamboyant man was awesome to me, but the irrational hate Jimmy’s best friend Eric has for the guy and the fact that he’s a manipulative jerk turned me off right away. Which is the point, he’s supposed to be the villain, a gold digger who will do anything he can to get what he wants: a rich doctor husband. The problem with that is all written by someone. His bitchy, slutty ways and the fact that he’s the only effeminate character in the book as well as hated by everyone on sight before they even realize how horrible he is rubbed me the wrong way. Eric does have an internal monologue about how femmy doesnt mean bad, but that realization is pretty covered up by the fact that he’s head over heels in love with Jimmy and has been their whole lives.

Which is another issue I have with the book. The characters are so stiff and two-dimensional. They say and do things straight out of a bad comic book or an afterschool PSA. The physical comedy is practically cartoonish and half the time I felt like I was reading a play written by the entire theater club of a local high school. When they finally hook up, the awkwardness continues.

Eric is really nervous about bottoming with Jimmy, but there is absolutely no discussion about that despite the fact that Jimmy has claimed to be an exclusiclve top for the entire book until straight guy Eric fucks him. What could have been a tender and steamy scenario is completely skipped over so straight dude is never uncomfortable or even vulnerable.

There’s also the complete lack of character arc. Eric goes from not understanding his feelings for Jimmy to really totally understanding them, embracing them and being completely out and proud. I got whiplash. And the non-conversations he has with his family and friends are basically painful with no positive resolution.

The one saving grace of this book is narrator Ronald Ray Strickland. He delivered even the most wooden dialog with life-like enthusiasm and realness. He described ridiculous scenes with a seriousness that suspended my disbelief admirably. Terrible accent and all.

3 out of 5 stars for finding the right narrator.

Wherein Blue is Not Warm, But Sweet – Review of Blue Eyed Stranger

20150905blueeyedBlue-Eyed Stranger,Trowchester Blues Two by Alex Beecroft

First off, I want to say that I am really happy to be able to read a book with a black main character where he isn’t irrational and in need of the calming guidance of his white partner. You’d be surprised how many people of color, in romance novels especially, are portrayed that way. Even in the more lovingly written stories that were clearly made in order to include characters of color in a positive and accurate light, the white savior dynamic is so often hidden in places I’m sure the author didn’t even consider when they were writing it.

Alex Beecroft, you are a dream.

This second of the Trowchester Blues novels centers around Martin Deng and Billy Wright. Martin’s Somalian father doesn’t understand him. He certainly would understand him even less if he knew his son was gay. Maybe even disown him. Martin’s stuck-up British boss doesn’t understand how a history teacher would be so obsessed with history. She wants him to teach to the book and stop messing around with his historical reenactment society. Martin’s vikings understand his love for history, and would probably understand his being gay, but it’s not like he’s ever given them the chance to.

Billy understands all of this. If only he could understand his own depression. Dancing, music and melancholy are his constant companions until Martin Deng and his viking hoard come barreling into his dance troupe. Martin is sweet, he knows about depression, and he doesn’t ask for more than Billy can give. But does Billy ask for more than Martin can give when it comes to loving him openly?

Can Martin overcome his own insecurities in order to be the kind of partner Billy needs?

I genuinely liked Martin and Billy. Unlike other coming out will he/won’t he stories, I didn’t get frustrated with Martin, even though he really does do some pretty bone-headed things. I understood the pressure he felt, and I related to how difficult it can be to deal with the demands of the monoculture, the demands of your own family culture, and the demands of your heart. History wants to erase minority contributions and families tend to bulldoze individual members to the extent that a person can start to feel guilty taking up any space at all. More than exasperation, I felt elation and empowerment when Martin finally came out, both of his shell and of the closet.

For those reasons, I really enjoyed Blue Eyed Stranger.

However, this is definitely more a romance than a work of erotica. Those who read Trowchester Blues and hoped to spice things up in book two will not be especially stimulated by the direction this went. The sex is pleasant, affirming and sweet. Also rarely mentioned in detail. It’s lovely, but it’s not going to be keeping anybody up at night.

Oh, and if you were looking for an update on the orphan and bff from book one, you will not be getting one. The book one characters are hardly mentioned at all outside one small cameo by Fin.

4.5 stars for being the rare book with a solidly relatable black main character, despite a lack of steamy sexy bits.