Thursday, March 13, 2014

Intriguing New Author: Darien Cox

Challenge: New-To-You Author (an author you've never read before)

Title: Guys on Top
Author: Darien Cox
Grade: B+

My M.O. on Amazon to pick out books to read is to look at the suggestions listed below the books I've really enjoyed (A-list books) and sample them for new authors.  That's what I did in this case, but I can't remember which of my A-list books prompted this author and title.

I've found that I can't read the entire Amazon sample, but try to stop myself somewhere in the middle.  If I read the entire sample, I've been known to buy a book that sounds interesting, but don't have time to read, and then read it later.  But later I think I've already read the book because the beginning sounds so familiar even though the little Kindle indicator says I haven't finished the book yet.

All this brings me around to Guys on Top, a book that I read in one day, staying up at night to finish.

Two other things you need to know about me:  I've read so many gay romances in the past two years that I often can tell exactly what happens in the book having read the first two chapters.  In some ways the romance is gone from the romances I read.  The second thing you need to know is that I haven't stayed up in a long, long time to finish reading a book because I'm uneasy about where it could be heading like I was with this one.

The plot started fairly normally.  After breaking up with a longtime boyfriend who was cheating on him and subsequently getting involved in a lawsuit that bankrupt him, Doug Crandall is rebuilding his life and getting a new apartment out of his brother's house.  But the first week is a nightmare because the upper floor tenant in the house he's renting carries on parties nearly 24/7.

When Doug meets his new neighbors, two beautiful, hunky men, he's enamored with Stewart, a professional plumber and electrician, and repulsed by Corey, a masseur who's angry with Stewart because the landlady called Stewart and Corey about the noise.

At first I thought this might be a ménage romance and wondered why I hadn't filtered it out even though I've read ménage books (particularly memorable is SJD Peterson's Tag Team), too many of them have been silly excuses for excess sex with no substance.

But as I kept reading and Corey got weirder and weirder with seemingly level-headed Stewart becoming odder and odder for putting up with Corey, I started getting the Stephen King uneasiness about the story.  Would Doug, who has a history of anger issues, tear into Corey?  Would Stewart play love-'em-and-leave-'em with Doug, breaking down the fragile Doug even more?

As if that weren't enough, I started wondering about Doug, the point-of-view character.  Was he a reliable viewpoint character?  Or was I relying on the wrong character to get the facts of the case?

Doug and Stewart were having sex like hyper rabbits, and Corey was getting even more angry and schizoid.  Instead of building to a romantic finish for me, the whole story seemed to be building like a tornado about to run riot over a Midwestern community.  I could envision fallout not only from the main characters but also from the peripheral ones as well.

So I read into the night, trying to figure out where Cox was going.

As is reflected on the grade I've given it, the ending didn't quite meet my expectations--if so the book would have gotten an A+.  But explaining why I was disappointed and what didn't hang together for me would entail major spoilers, so it's better that I rest my case and let readers decide for themselves.

Suffice it to say that I'm now intrigued by Cox and his writing style.  He's definitely on my watch list.

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