Thursday, June 9, 2011

Five Umbrella Friday: Promises by Marie Sexton

My m/m week pick of the week is a book that touched my heart in a way that I find difficult to put into words, but I'm going to give it a shot. Let me know if you've enjoyed m/m week and would like to see more m/m romances reviewed or if I should stick with my usual contemporary/historical/sexy cowboys usual :)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the rare few books where five stars just isn't enough. Certain books stand out in my reading life as forever changing who I am as a reader and what I expect from books, what genres I read, and which authors I autobuy with rapid intensity. The rarest of the rare do all three--my first Suzanne Brockmann (The Unsung Hero), Julia Spencer Fleming (In the Bleak Midwinter), Julia Quinn (When He Was Wicked), Karen Marie Moning (Dark Fever), Lorelei James (Slow Ride) and now Marie Sexton. What is amazing is that all of these authors have come to me as gifts from the universe--free or dirt cheap used bookstore finds. I got Promises for free as a Dreamspinners Press anniversary giveaway that I saw advertised on Twitter. I loved the cover. I'm easy that way. I liked the blurb, and nothing else was holding my reading interest at the time.

Cut to six hours later. It's 3 a.m. and I. Must. Sleep. I have a baby who still wakes up at night. This is the definition of insanity, but still I'm reading till the last page. Then I wake up and immediately spend the next day re-reading it. I went to her webpage with the reverence of the newly converted, and when I saw that this was part of a series, I bought them ALL. Back-to-back. My bank account hated me by the end of the week, but I have rarely been so fulfilled as a reader.

Now what intangible set of elements so gripped me as a reader? This is first person, past tense (thank you, God, because I am so over the present tense thing) from Jared's POV (subsequent entries in the series play with multiple POV, showing Sexton's growing craft). Jared strikes up a friendship with the new guy in town, who happens to be straight. And a cop. Jared is openly gay, but stuck in a dead-end life running the family business in a tiny town. What follows isn't a romance as much as the best "bromance" ever. Imagine if Suz's SEALs had glimmers of attraction for each other on top of their deep and abiding friendships.

The first half of the book is all about two lonely souls finding each other, in the platonic sense. Jared has an immediate crush on Matt, but he buries it deeply in "never gonna happen" land. One of my favorite moments of the book is when Matt asks Jared what his "type" is. Jared has to scramble for an answer because, of course, Matt is exactly it. Slowly, ever so slowly, Matt begins to feel more than friendship. And it scares the hell out of him and nearly rips them both to shreds. It's what Inez Kelley managed to do with Sweet as Sin--totally destroy her characters in an emotionally gut wrenching climax that makes what happens after profound and deeply satisfying.

And yes, it gets sexy in the second half of the book. Very sexy. Not the most explicit, but certainly in the romantica level of heat and language--not quite Lorelei James level of explicit but certainly in Victoria Dahl and other super-sexy mainstream romance territory. But, because there is so much emotion swirling around, all the sexy serves as an emotional release--it doesn't have to be one's cup of tea to still be profound. And the build-up to the sexy is unrivaled. Not since Clare and Russ (Julia Spencer Fleming's lead characters) have I been so desperate for two characters to kiss. "Kisssssssssssssssssssssss himmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm," I chanted in my head. Clearly, this book cost me some sanity.

But. It. Was. Worth. It. If there is any book that will win converts to the m/m genre, this is it, at least for readers who need that emotional connection to their books and who share my connection to Jared and Matt. The opening sample available for nook/kindle et al is a pretty good showcase of the voice, and it would be a good way to see if it works for you. Try it. And don't blame me when you end up with the entire Coda series on your e-reader or keeper shelf.

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