Author Name & Publisher: Jacob Z. Flores (Dreamspinner Press)
Publication Date & Length: October 15, 2012 – 340 pgs
Justin Jimenez has loved his partner, Spencer Harrison, for ten years. He’ll do anything for him—including bury his feelings for a man he met while he and Spencer were separated last year. Justin never planned to fall in love, and he certainly never planned to tell Spencer about it—but when a phone call wakes them in the middle of the night to inform Justin that his former lover, Dutch Keller, has been in an accident, he doesn’t have a choice.
Justin’s revelation shatters the fragile relationship he and Spencer were trying to rebuild. The weight of his guilt—both for hurting Spencer and for leaving a heartbroken Dutch to find solace in a bottle—crushes him. But what Justin doesn’t know is that Spencer and Dutch guard an explosive secret of their own. All three men are tangled in a communal web of lies, and unless they find the events in their lives that ultimately led them to friendship, passion, and betrayal, they won’t see the love at the heart of the pain.
I found this a difficult, uncomfortably gritty dissection of a long-term relationship. I fell hard for all three men but I didn’t always like any of them.
At the ten year mark, Justin and Spencer’s relationship isn’t working very well. When Spencer leaves Justin for a semester in England, Justin turns to Dutch, a man he met online.
Anyone who has ever been in a long-term relationship will recognise the relationship’s slide towards self-destruction. Making the relationship healthy again is a complicated, ugly process. I’m not sure I enjoyed the drama and angst, but I couldn’t put the story down.
At times, this feels braver and more honest than much of the m/m writing by women. The lurid details of a bath house visit are offered unapologetically while hook-ups and unsafe sex aren’t shied away from. Most of the sex in this book is too ugly for romance writing and not glossy or sensational enough for erotica. There were some unbelievably sexy scenes, but also some scenes that left me feeling more than a little bit dirty for enjoying them. Ultimately, the author needs to be applauded for trying to paint a realistic relationship between three gay men without allowing himself to be constrained by the conventions of romance writing.
I have a few reservations about this story. I really didn’t enjoy the voices in Spencer’s head. His internal conversations just made him seem unbalanced and made it difficult to follow the story. I also query the ending. It seems too trite for such a complicated book and it makes me wonder if the author was pressured into a simple HEA to make the book more saleable.
So much of m/m romance is written by women for women and at times the author seems quite scathing about the genre he is being published in. Digs about “fag hags” and “straights” not understanding the more open nature of many gay men’s relationships don’t do much to endear the author to wider audiences.
Jacob Z. Flores lives a double life. During the day, he is a respected college English professor and mid-level administrator. At night and during his summer vacation, he loosens the tie and tosses aside the trendy sports coat to write man on man fiction, where the hard ass assessor of freshmen level composition turns his attention to the firm posteriors and other rigid appendages of the characters in his fictional world.
Summers in Provincetown, Massachusetts, provide Jacob with inspiration for his fiction. The abundance of barely clothed man flesh and daily debauchery stimulates his personal muse. When he isn’t stroking the keyboard, Jacob spends time with his daughter. They both represent a bright blue blip in an otherwise predominantly red swath in south Texas.