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Queeny cocktail waiter, Lionel, wakes up to find himself in bed with Dog, a straight-acting softball player and the two embark on a rocky road to romance. A journey that requires coming out of the closet, going into the closet, a pair of red high heels, many pairs of red high heels, a failed intervention, a couple of aborted dates, and homemade pom-poms. Mostly, Lionel and Dog learn what it means to be a man.
Reviews
Thornton’s opposites-attract contemporary romp perfectly threads the needle, addressing internalized homophobia and the heartbreak of self-denial without ever falling into cliché or forgetting to be fun. Lionel is barely scraping by as a waiter at a gay bar in Long Beach, Calif. After he enjoys a one-night stand with Dog, a “straight-acting” athlete who’s a regular customer at the bar, both men are confused to realize their mutual attraction goes beyond lust, though neither is the other’s usual type. Dog is a closet case; Lionel’s never been able to hide or lie about himself in that way. As they face the social pressure of the gay scene, needing to stay employed, and forced honesty with family members, each must navigate his disrupted world and minimize harm to his loved ones. Thornton (the Boystown Mysteries series) confronts the contradictions of modern homosexuality, addressing the pressure to conform to mainstream culture rather than embracing the more flamboyant aspects of gay identity. The instructive nature of the narrative is obvious, but the delightful characters and their struggles are engaging and realistic. The conclusion is satisfying without dismissing the painful aspects of the romantic journey, a delicate balancing act well executed by a talented writer who remains in control of the playful chaos he has created. (BookLife)
Divine Magazine

What a great story! I mean, I was expecting something fun and flirty, some good giggles and a sweet love story from the blurb and the cover. Both are cute as heck. But, to use Lionel's turn of phrase – Oh my Gawd! - this story was so much more than that!


First off, the writing was spectacular. We got just enough detail so that we knew what was going on, were centred in the locations and situations enough, without it being overbearing, but mostly it was character driven and I love that. It's been a very long time since I've read a 1st person POV in both character's POV (maybe even the first) but it was ideal for this story. We definitely needed to see things from both sides, but it also wouldn't have felt right in 3rd person, which has pretty much become the standard of late.


For me, the best part of this story was the undercurrent. There's a real message here, as the book tagline says - “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” - but also as it says in the blurb - “Mostly, Lionel and Dog learn what it means to be a man.” Yes, yes they really do. The growth of these two characters is so fantastic to read. From Lionel, we get the happy-go-lucky character, who tries his hardest to be himself, even in the face of diversity, even when everyone looks down on him for it. Through Dog, we see the closeted gay man, the man who is so naturally 'straight-acting' that he practically needs a sign on his forehead for people to believe he's really gay. It's not a matter of Butch vs Femme, though that's the obvious theory to take from the story. What's really the issue here is that both straight and gay men still look down on Femme men, just because they're not afraid to be themselves and, even when they are, they know that being true to themselves is more important than being accepted.


Really, although this story gave me more than a few good laughs, I also had my crying moments, my sad, feel sorry for Lionel and hating Dog and his insistence on being nice and naive, moments. I was on a total rollercoaster with this one, convinced of one thing one minute, only to be sure of something else the next.


The writing was great. In terms of editing, they were a few very minor mistakes, a missing word here or there, but nothing that impacted my reading. In terms of plot, there wasn't anything I would change. Ever. It was perfect just the way it was. Characterization – well, I figure I've kind of covered that with my fangirling above, but let's just reiterate that I loved both main characters, loved Carlos and Maddy too, and the chemistry was off the charts.


~


Favourite Quotes


NOTE: There were a lot of fun, hilarious quotes that I could have included, but I decided to pick the most important ones. The profound, really emotional parts that affected me the most. Because, really, those quotes are what the story was about in the first place.


“It amazes me that we're not all kinder. And when I saw we, I don't just mean gay men, I mean the whole big we. Humanity. If you think about it, there really isn't anyone, anywhere who isn't on the outside looking in at some point in their lives; at some point everyone is the wrong color, the wrong religious, the wrong weight, the wrong age, the wrong sexuality, the wrong gender, the wrong something. We have so many ways of judging each other that it's hard to imagine anyone getting through life without being some kind of wrong at least some of the time.”


“One of the hardest things in life is truly being yourself. Most of us are the person we think we should be, the person who pleases our parents, the person who pleases our friends. So few of us are truly who we are.”

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