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Mostly Cross Posts from my blog, Readings From the Dark Side

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Budding Love
Adara O’Hare
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Kaje Harper
The Lonely Drop
Vanessa North
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Charlie Cochet
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Fifteen Shades of Gay (For Pay) - T. Baggins Don't let the title throw you. This is a charming, witty, tender romance that manages to incorporate the "gay-for-pay" theme in a decidedly non-lame way. Baggins avoids a lot of the potential traps here: excessive fantasy--treating the job of gay-escort as a pretty woman/porn movie fantasy gig; as a sentimental rent-boy tragedy; or as a relationship complication that must be gotten out of the way for the real love story. Instead she treats it like a job, something to pay the bills. Andrew's choices do not come off as martyrdom, more like a less-than-desirable acting part--like a running gig playing Barney at children's parties (or voicing talking vegetables in a fundamentalist Christian TV show.) It feels realistic and thus refreshing.

It helps that Marie and Andrew are really believable as siblings; Marie is not treated like a victim or a saint; she's not excessively noble in her suffering. Cancer is shown for the messy, miserable long-haul struggle it is. Marie's fight is deeply moving without ever playing for disease-or-the-week type sentiment. The entire family dynamic was especially well done--the dad's railing against MSG and junk food, Hugh's attempts at peace-making, mom's matter-of-fact stoicism. In fact, all the secondary characters are excellent here, without stereotypes or villains.

Obviously, the story hinges on the central relationship, which was wonderful. I loved Cormac and the relationship with Andrew was full of delicate touches and unexpected moments, as well as some great sex, (special points for one of the great first dates, and some of the best phone sex I've read). Again, Baggins avoids the melodramatic or maudlin potential here, and takes Cormac as he is-flawed, usually well-intentioned, but burdened with some ugly baggage.

All in all, I found the book surprising in the best way, avoiding the expected cliches and any hint of cheap exploitation or luridness, focusing instead on strongly drawn characters and achingly realistic struggles and relationships.