Aaron Hall has never been able to remain faithful to a single woman, and for most of his life, he’s dated two women at once. Recently his girlfriend tracked him down and knocked on his door—and his live-in girlfriend answered. Now he has no girlfriend and a mortgage he can’t pay by himself.
Vinnie Rosello needs to change his life—get a better job, stop drinking all his money away, find himself a serious boyfriend… and move out of his parents’ house. Aaron needs help with his expenses, so they become housemates.
Even though Aaron harbors some misconceptions about gay men and Vinnie misses his large Italian family, both men find comfort in their friendship. It’s a good arrangement until everything between them changes
Vinnie falls in love with Aaron, and Aaron is shocked to realize he feels the same. There’s only one problem—he’s still straight. He’ll have to overcome his fear of labels in order to love the man who’s captured his heart.
(Spoilers included because I can’t talk about this without giving away some key points. Sorry 🙁 )
Before I start, I’d recommend reading several reviews before deciding one way or another about this because there are a lot of different ways this story can be taken.
Renae Kaye is a gifted writer and her MCs are really three-dimensional as are her secondary characters. This is the third book in the series that started with Loving Jay, where Liam essentially “turned gay” to be with Jay. Their friends Kee and Tate are in this as well, though not as much (from Don’t Twunk with my Heart). Aaron is best friends with Liam and he’s as straight as can be. He’s adapted to having more gay men in his life, but he’s never considered being gay (and all the way to the end of the story, denies that he’s remotely gay himself.)
Vinnie is a “gold star gay”, meaning he’s never even been with a woman at all, and he is also a bit femme, so he’s been “out” all his life because of his mannerisms.
I’m not sure if this book is really well-timed or very, very poorly timed. Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about “bi-erasure” and this book both adds to the argument for and against that issue.
As I see it, there are several things of importance to discuss about this book – hot topics – if you will.
First, I believe that the author was trying to show that labeling someone gay, straight, bisexual, etcetera, does not help in every situation. She uses Liam as an example of a person who falls in love with a man but who, in general, does not find men sexually attractive, but that he is labeled “gay” because he’s in a permanent relationship with a man – though that’s not very accurate in describing his sexuality. I can see that being “straight” but falling in love with a man and seemingly not feeling attraction toward other men might make this difficult, but if we are trying to pin down a label – then at least consider bi-sexual or demi-sexual or something other than straight has to apply because straight people don’t fall for members of the same sex. I think that in an effort to show how inaccurate labels can be, the fact that Aaron, far more than Liam, protested WAY too much that he wasn’t gay, especially when he kept saying “that it’s okay to be gay, but I’m not”. You kinda have to pick. If labels aren’t important, then why keep harping on it, and if they are important, then take some time and think about ALL the choices and pick one that fits.
Second, in the pursuit of Aaron, Vinnie did several things that made me really uncomfortable. I kept saying to myself, if Aaron was a woman, would Vinnie’s actions be seen as “cute and charming and romantic” or “skeezy and manipulative and kinda rapey”. Aaron kept protesting he wasn’t gay and wasn’t interested in pursuing a romantic/sexual relationship and Vinnie kept putting him in situations that pushed Aaron into sexual/romantic positions. I’m sure Aaron could have stopped things at any point in time, but Vinnie wasn’t giving Aaron’s words the respect they should hold. No means no, male or female.
Third, Aaron’s issue with monogamy/cheating. I think this got conflated with his concerns about being gay when it really should have been it’s own separate issue. Who he loves has no bearing on his ability to commit. Somehow it got wrapped up in the issue that he loved a man and so therefore things had to be different. No. If he’d decided to date a woman he’d have had to eventually figure this out. What made him stray? I still don’t know. Maybe he hadn’t found the right PERSON – man or woman – and therefore kept trying to find him/her. Having found someone to love in Vinnie and deciding to be faithful to him should NOT hinge on the fact that he is or isn’t gay, bi, demi, straight, etc. The MCs needed to really take this out of the “am I gay” equation and simply address it for what it was: cheating is cheating no matter who you date (if the parties involved agree to be monogamous). This bothered me the most because it seemed to suggest that he might be more willing to cheat simply because he was with a guy and he might “crave a woman” and wouldn’t that be horrible. Well, if he was with another woman he might “crave” a different woman – and in fact he had, many times, done this – so being with a guy is NO DIFFERENT. And, hell, who knows?, he might “crave” a guy at some point. Just because he hadn’t felt attraction to a man before doesn’t mean he might not in the future. Before Vinnie he hadn’t felt attraction to a man, but he definitely desires Vinnie so why is it so impossible to think that he might find ANOTHER man attractive in the future? I just didn’t understand this “hurdle”.
Fourth, Vinnie’s poly family. Boy. On one hand I wanted to applaud them for taking a stand and doing something “abnormal” because it felt good and up until the point where Vinnie’s mom gives him her “I’m so proud of you speech” – I felt like that’s what it was. But after listening to her describe what happened, I kinda felt like she ended up railroaded into it because her family disowned her when her sister – who got pregnant by her husband and he couldn’t decide between the two sisters – and her husband decided to make the three of them a family basically because it was the best thing for the husband and she didn’t want to lose him. I didn’t see what she got from it other than NOT losing the husband. It sounded like she’d rather he didn’t have the relationship with the sister so… that wasn’t a great relationship to model things from.
Fifth, Vinnie – up until the end – was way too willing to be Aaron’s secret. That bugged me. He was even considering having an open relationship when that is NOT what he wanted. Aaron continued to say things to him that made me really wonder just what was going on between them – he didn’t really find gay porn hot, he didn’t really want to do anal but since Vinnie did he’d do it for him, he wasn’t sure he wanted to admit he was with Vinnie in a romantic relationship – and still Vinnie was all okay with this.
I didn’t get that Vinnie’s self-esteem was so low that he’d just let Aaron keep saying things that demeaned him and continue to motivate him towards deepening the relationship. It just didn’t jive.
Finally, and this is just a personal pet peeve, but why the discussion about Vinnie’s dick size? What was that even about? It’s like Aaron thought, well – since Vinnie’s dick is smaller than mine it’s ok to have feelings for him? It was strange, at best, and borderline offensive.
I guess, for me, though there were a few moments where Aaron was sweet to Vinnie and by the end he’d somewhat worked out some of his issues, so much of the story left me cringing and wishing Vinnie had better taste in men, that I can’t really say I liked this story. It confused me and made me scratch my head and sometimes I laughed, but for the most part it just seemed to lack a clear direction. I don’t know exactly what point was trying to be made regarding sexual identity and as far as the romance goes, it didn’t feel super healthy nor was it terribly romantic. The smexy times kinda made me uncomfortable because Aaron’s involvement constantly felt a bit forced.
I’m not going to give this a rating because I’m just too conflicted about the story to pick a number – it definitely got me thinking and there were some cute parts but there was just so many other things that didn’t work for me.
Copy Generously Provided by Publisher for Honest Review