Definitely, maybe, Yours; maybe, definitely, not mine
***This is the fifth time I revise this post. Before you read this, please accept my apologies if you feel hurt or offended. Trust me, this isn’t about you. To paraphrase the old adage: “It’s me, not you!”
Yes, I knew the day would come, and my apologies to Ms Reed that it was her novel that prompted me to finally take my final leave from romance stories. I also learned a valuable lesson (again?): Do not judge a book by its cover (alone.) Yes, I definitely bought this book because of the cover, the innuendo and the unforgettable wink of the InterludePress rep at last fall’s GRL who pointed my attention toward it. Definitely, maybe, Yours is classic M/M Romance, well executed and edited, strung according to the rules of the genre, it has everything your romance heart desires: two half-broken very good looking men (not boys, although they’re still very young, in their twenties), it has a bit of drama, though not too much for those angst-ridden and trigger worried readers out there, and it has the HEA you’ve come to expect from romance novels since the dawn of time.
Definitely, maybe, Yours is well crafted, the language flows well, and there are no errors I could point to. I am convinced this book will find its readers, and Ms Reed definitely has a future in the genre if she continues to pursue it. I wish she didn’t, because she’s an accomplished writer. If she does, this will be the last book of hers I read.
Please, by all means, if you like M/M Romance, add this book to your pile! Judging from the reviews I’ve read online (and from my experience), people certainly seem to like it. It is a good book, an interesting story and it will make your heart go boom.
Only, my heart didn’t go boom. I read how Alex and Craig meet at a pub [and knew how this would play out], one a boring Englishman (cliché), the other drunk (another male cliché), they go home, fuck like rabbits (great sex of course, two gay clichés for the price of one; although, truth be told, us guys actually do tick a bit like that, we tend to need the physical intimacy to fall in love), eat pancakes the next morning, and I’m immediately in meta mode, I’m analyzing the book, rather than enjoying it.
Not Ms Reed’s fault, but rather the genre’s? I know that we are about to hit that first turning point, as with every classically strung story, be it in Disney’s Hollywood or in books. It happened on a Saturday… Why do bad things always happen on a Saturday? Huh? I quote:
“It’s a Saturday when things start to get weird.”
I already know that the shit is about to hit the fan. Now, if you suffer from PTSD or have serious emotional triggers, you can read on, it’s quite safe, because this turning point is like a tiny wave quietly lapping ashore a calm tropical beach on a wind-still morning, just a bit of a mess at the bakery where our title hero Craig (the black guy on the cover) works. And the drama unfolds. The heroes get to know each other more, and I plow my way through chapter after chapter, faster and faster (I’m sure people were wondering what I was doing to my iPhone at the rate I was scrolling) to get to something that would emotionally challenge me. No. Lots of dialogue, cousins, naked torsos stirring emotions of jealousy and friends stepping up to keep things level-headed.
Comes the second turning point, and I’m like “what the fuck?” Yes, Jeff’s an asshole, but really? R.e.a.l.l.y? Yeah, I’ll let you read that for yourself. After that, and another chapter or two of our heroes being kept apart by their lone wolf crap attitudes (another male cliché?) they finally get together, in a heap on the floor (literally) and are swept off to their HEA.
I am tired of these stories. I am tired of knowing on page 1, 5 or 10 how the book is going to end. I am tired of it, and I’m not alone. Last fall, when discussing the “classic romance novel”, many authors who write them, or have written them, acknowledge being as tired of (writing) them, as I am reading them. Some of us crave more. So there’s hope. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter how (emotionally) crippled the men in these books are, or what tragedies befall them, not even if they’re human or not (re paranormal / sci-fi.) In the end, they always get each other and that is just so fucking boring. Pardon my French. It’s bad enough that LGBT literature is one of the fastest growing genres in the world only to realize that gay men are taking the place of eons of objectified women in literature, and that we’re now exploited for the benefit of people’s enjoyment, mainly women’s enjoyment. Typical, men are finally getting a taste of their own medicine and half the time we’re portrayed as being as weak and passive as women always have been [portrayed] in everything. If that is progress, count me out. And why gay men? Why not pick on someone stronger please? And as a feminist I go #facepalm realizing that my Lesbian sisters (women!) are once again stuck with the short straw. But that is another post entirely.
Why does it always have to be two turning points? Can someone shoot Disney already, so we can move on and craft stories that deviate from the almighty rules of the evil mouse? Sorry Micky, I actually quite like you… I understand that a story must capture a reader’s attention, that it has to grip you, but why not do that on page one? A good thriller does? Why not make me laugh on page one? Or cry? Make me feel fucking something? Pardon my French. Again.
I know that M/M Romance isn’t [primarily] written for happily married gay men with kids (that would be moi in case you don’t know me), but primarily for heterosexual women aiming straight for menopause (which is fine, of course, not like you have a choice, I’m sure you’ll feel dandy once you emerge on the other side), who oddly (not surprisingly, the reverse doesn’t work) believe that two men are better than one, men who’d most likely run screaming the other way if they ever came up close and personal (which means naked in bed) to any of said women in real life.
No offense, and it’s quite alright to fantasize about something you’ll never get or even want in real life, and I would be the last person standing on earth to ever even try to keep you from writing, reading or fantasizing about anything. I’m all for freedom of speech and expression. So, no, I’m not your typical reader of the genre. I know that. I just happen to be a gay man looking for great LGBT literature, and romance just happens to [still] be 90+% of it, which makes finding stories that fit me a bit like looking for needles in a haystack.
I also feel that even if you fall into the main target audience, wouldn’t it be great if the stories you read were more than 1 + 1 = <3? What if the love was already there? Or no love plot at all? There is more to being gay than falling in love. What if the story was about the great challenges our societies must tackle? I have absolutely nothing against love, or romance, quite the contrary. But romance to fill 471 iPhone pages of a book? No, that cannot be how I spend my free time. And as this is the fifth revision of this post, let me say this again: you’re more than welcome to. I’d never presume to judge anyone else’s preferences or choices!
I’m sure that Definitely, maybe, Yours will be very well received, as the reviews I’ve seen suggest. Every well crafted and well written story deserves to find its audience, its fans, and bring the author fame and glory. I wish Ms Reed nothing but the very best. Definitely, maybe, Yours was not for me, not as much for the book itself, but because it reminded me that I expect more from my literature, my entertainment, than just that basic romance formula.
Allow me to end with the one sentence that I highlighted in the book, to show you that there is nothing wrong with Ms Reed’s craft:
“It’s been several weeks. More than one month, less than four. Who’s counting? It’s the longest one night stand in recorded history, kept determinedly casual with a rigor that would make Casanova envious. They are not dating. They’re not.
Except, of course, they totally are.
I know this comes across as a really shitty review of the book, but really, it’s more a reflection on the state of affairs of the genre and I apologize to Ms Reed again for getting caught in the cross-fire. I just can’t read these kinds of stories any more.
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Have a wonderful hump day.