Saturday, December 29, 2018

Kissing Behind the Bathhouse

David Holly
Completed 12/26/2018, Reviewed 12/26/2018
3 stars

This was a fun little book.  It’s quick read and I finished it in a day.  It’s a gay romantic romp with some serious statements about homophobia and religious persecution.  The writing is good and the dialogue believable.  There’s a little suspense which kept me on my toes and dark secrets that kept me guessing.

The plot centers around Dave Ankeny, heir to the Ankeny lumber fortune and a college student majoring in English Lit working on his senior thesis.  Everyone around him thinks he works too hard, including his super-supportive dad who buys him a year’s membership to a local bathhouse.  Aghast and embarrassed but intrigued, Dave goes to the bathhouse and immediately falls head over heels for Chris, one of the employees.  Although it goes against company policy, Dave gets in a relationship with Chris.  But Chris comes with his own baggage.  His parents are born-again Christians and specifically, his evil step-mother is on the City Council and runs the police department.  Dave is determined to make it work, despite a sinister plot to end the relationship.

I have to admit I had problems with Dave’s character in the beginning.  He was too much of a golden boy: a rich, good looking, super smart, overly fashion-conscious bicycle enthusiast who had only basically dated one man by the time he was twenty-two years old.  I found him a little too good to be true.  But eventually, I warmed up to him and was rooting for him despite making a bad choice, that being falling in love at first sight.  He basically wants to save Chris from himself.  I found myself identifying more with Chris, who’s sort of a tortured soul because of his upbringing, and with one of Dave’s friend’s Alex, who has an unrequited love for Dave.

I also liked Dave’s dad.  Granted, he’s a little too good to be true.  The patriarch of the rich family, he’s a widower trekkie who’s also head of the local PFLAG chapter.  Fortunately, he has a dark streak himself.  He’s carrying on with the neighbor’s wife.  This makes him a little more human and less of a superman.  But he supports his son at any cost and that is quite refreshing.  It also adds a counterpoint to the deplorable situation that Chris is in with his family.

The story takes place in Portland, Oregon.  To me, it’s always fun to have a story take place in a city that you know, even if some of the specifics are fictional.  I’m not a bicyclist, but I could easily imagine paths of some of the rides Dave and his friend Becky take.

The one thing I didn’t like about the book was the Dave a little shallow.  He knows all the designer brands, falls in love with the most gorgeous guy in the bathhouse, has a serious distaste for older gay men, and despises facial hair.  When his friend Alex grows a mustache, he’s disgusted.  He always notices Alex’s bargain store clothing, as well as comments on everyone’s clothing, including his professors’.  I found this to be a little disheartening and stereotypical.  Not everyone can afford expensive labels, especially college professors and students paying through the nose for their college education.  And some people like facial hair.  There are some things that are more important than outward choices.

Aside from this rant, I really did like the book.  I was very engrossed in it and loved the fact that I was able to read it in one sitting on a day off from work.  I give the book three stars out of five.  To remind my readers, that’s a good rating and quite a typical score for a good romantic comedy.  It was a refreshing book after reading so many Ursula Le Guin novels in a row. 

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