Something Different

Something Different - S.A. Reid,  T. Baggins 3+ to 3.5 stars. Good to really good story about Michael Maguire, who begins the story as a sexually-repressed mid-30s suburban dad caught in a dissatisfying and unhappy marriage. His unlikely journey to self-discovery and realization begins when he's goaded by a coworker into finding a prostitute for the night. Little does he know the prostitute he's going to find is James Campbell, a beautiful early-20s rent boy.

Normally I'm adamant about avoiding books with cheating because I find it so distasteful. However, the cheating aspect worked for me in this story because it's pretty obvious how dissatisfying and unfulfilling Michael's marriage is and how indifferent his wife feels towards him. James, so grateful and appreciative of even the little things, is a breath of fresh air and a balm to Michael's battered and numbed senses. James has led a hard knock life, so he's shocked when this new client arrives on the scene and shows James courtesy, caring, and politeness.

I have no quibbles over why they would fall for each other because it seems like they fill the gaps in each other's lives (no pun intended, really) with thoughtful Michael going so many years feeling so unappreciated and with James not having had anyone to care for him or look out for him before. The story also doesn't ask us to believe that hard-living James falls straight away for Michael - we see James's inner narrative and his progression from thinking of Michael as a client to just...Michael. That was very sweet. However, one thing that I did find required a pretty heavy suspension of disbelief is Michael (heretofore identifying himself as heterosexual) and his sexytimes with James, particularly early on in the story. Specifically, I was really surprised at Michael's willingness to jump straight into penetration/sex with James on their first meeting (for scale, it's 12% into the story), when James had to coax Michael into letting James give him a blowjob because "what difference does it make between a man or woman's mouth, mate." Then, to go from James giving Michael a blowjob to James giving him a massage to James having sex with Michael (yes, James penetrating Michael), I just found that development shocking and...unrealistic(?). Not sure if that's prudish of me, but there ya go.

There were also some aspects where modern day realities intruded a bit too much into either the narrative or my thoughts. First is the first sex scene. Notwithstanding the above issues I had with the unlikely progression, Michael's description/narrative was rather off-putting for me. He talks about intestines, brown-stained members, feces, etc., all of which I'm sure are realistic issues that arise in anal, but none of which I really need to see in writing... Beyond that, the modern day reality of potential STDs in a relationship with a rent boy also came to light. I found it very surprising that Michael took such a casual approach to using condoms with James. I know that Michael explains he was aware of the risks and took them knowingly, but that seemed a drastic leap for someone who takes care of his body so meticulously (working out, etc.).

Overall, I thought this was a strong story with characters that I really came to care about and who really grew on me. The way that the story resolves Michael's marriage issues and shows a bit of foreshadowing for his relationship with his kids is believable and well done. The story could have been a bit longer to allow for development of Michael's back story a bit more (maybe to show why he'd be that open-minded about sexuality, etc., particularly given what we DO find out about his back story), but I enjoyed it very much in the end. Thanks to S.A. Reid for providing a copy for me to read. I liked her writing voice, and I'll be on the look out for more of her work.