Author: Andrew Grey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 11/23/2015
Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance
For years, Clayton Potter’s been friends and workout partners with Ronnie. Though Clay is attracted, he’s never come on to Ronnie because, let’s face it, Ronnie only dates women.
When Clay’s father suffers a heart attack, Ronnie, having recently lost his dad, springs into action, driving Clay to the hospital over a hundred miles away. To stay close to Clay’s father, the men share a hotel room near the hospital, but after an emotional day, one thing leads to another, and straight-as-an-arrow Ronnie make a proposal that knocks Clay’s socks off! Just a little something to take the edge off.
Clay responds in a way he’s never considered. After an amazing night together, Clay expects Ronnie to ignore what happened between them and go back to his old life. Ronnie surprises him and seems interested in additional exploration. Though they’re friends, Clay suddenly finds it hard to accept the new Ronnie and suspects that Ronnie will return to his old ways. Maybe they both have a thing or two to learn.
Andrew Grey is an author who never takes his eye off his audience. The parameters of m/m fiction are always in sight. Thus it’s an exciting moment when he pushes the boundaries of the genre and offers us something substantial to ponder.
“Eyes Only for Me” veers dangerously close to the “gay for you” trope that raises my blood-pressure; but Grey turns that old-school m/m fantasy into a thoughtful, emotionally complex case study of what bisexuality and fluid sexual orientation really mean.
Clay and Ronnie are good friends and have been for a long time. Clay is gay, and still hurting after the ugly collapse of a long-time relationship. At forty, he knows the clock is ticking. Ronnie is also forty, and after a disastrous brief marriage and having been left by his girlfriend of several years, seems to be happy in the role of bachelor playboy, using his money, his Lamborghini and his looks to lure a willing stream of younger women into (and out of) his bed. Everybody loves Ronnie, including Clay.
At a moment of deep emotional crisis for Clay, Ronnie steps in as a caring friend. But a taunting frat-boy provocation from Ronnie sparks Clay into pushing an unprecedented intimacy between the two men, leaving both of them confused and in fear for their friendship.
What does it mean when a presumably content straight man suddenly sees a side of himself he previously kept so deeply buried that he didn’t know it existed? What follows, carefully laid out and handsomely embroidered with emotional insights into both protagonists, is a textbook presentation of the complexities of the Klein Sexuality Grid.
As a Kinsey 6 (totally gay, never kissed a woman or wanted to), I had to smile when Clay’s friend Phillip says to him: “You and I are gay so that makes things easier…Sexual identity isn’t black-and-white. We’d all like to think it is—even gay people.” The Kinsey scale is very linear, ranging from Zero (totally straight, like my brother) to my own position at the top of the scale. The Klein Grid, however, is multidirectional, taking into account emotional inclinations, sexual attraction, self-identity, and every possible nuance of sexual orientation. Needless to say, the Klein Grid makes Kinsey 6’s anxious, myself included.
Andrew Grey manages to take an emotional rollercoaster of a love story and turn it into a teaching moment. Both Ronnie’s and Clay’s personalities and back-stories are studied and compared, as each man grapples with the changed reality of their friendship and the sometimes frightening possibilities of that friendship’s future. Ronnie’s mother and Clay’s father are important as secondary players in this drama (which could as easily have been written as a farce), because they are catalysts for their sons’ emotional lives. The men’s shared group of friends, gay and straight, also provide a soundboard for the social context in which these guys are set. They create sort of a Greek chorus, whose reactions and opinions to a situation they don’t fully understand helps the reader grasp that same situation.
Most romances, of whatever subset, don’t really try to explain what love really is. “Eyes Only for Me” tackles that thorny question, and mostly succeeds in the attempt. Oddly, I found the closing epilogue something of a let-down. Maybe it’s because Grey decided to set it only six months in the future, and maybe it’s because the sexual dynamic between the men seems frozen in Clay’s initial fantasy mode. My chief criticism of the book is that the sex, which starts out surprising and catalytic in its power, ends up feeling predictable and driven by a gay fantasy of sexual prowess rather than emotional connection.
That said, I liked this book a great deal, and was grateful for Grey’s care and thoughtfulness. Romance is always better when it’s rooted in reality, because then the reader can feel it more deeply.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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