Wednesday, June 24, 2009

NEG UB2 by Rick R. Reed

AUTHOR: Rick R. Reed
PUBLISHER: Amber Allure
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 21k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary romance
COST: $5.00

Six months into what he thinks is the relationship he’ll have for the rest of his life, Ethan Schwartz gets bad news. He’s HIV positive. Since he’s been monogamous for the duration of his relationship, and had next to no love life beforehand, there’s only one way he could have been infected. His shock and anger at his diagnosis bleeds into the rest of his daily life, and the only way for him to vent any of it is to start an anonymous blog. The question remains, though, is it enough?

Though it’s labeled romantic comedy on the publisher site, this sequel to VGL Male Seeks Same veers in a markedly more serious direction than its predecessor. The author bites off a heavy, important topic, and drops it smack in the middle of the sweet, romantic relationship he built in the first book. The repercussions reverberate into every aspect of Ethan’s life, changing his entire perspective from the very first sentence. It’s handled intelligently, eloquently, and most importantly, empathetically, as the reader glides through this smooth, swift read, hand in hand with the main character.

While Ethan is a self-professed queen and can sometimes be a tad too melodramatic for my tastes, I found myself hurting for him almost from the start. I’d had difficulty truly immersing myself in his perspective in the first book, and while there were glimmers of that in this – his issues with Brian more than once made me want to snap at him to talk to the man already – they were fewer and far between. Instead, I got wrapped up in his fear and anger, enough so that when he starts getting support from his blog, I teared up as well. There. I admitted it. I don’t tear up easily in books. That usually requires an immersion I find it difficult to achieve without visual stimulus (translation: I can cry at a movie far more easily, and do), but his pain in this is so utterly real, it was impossible to dissociate from it. This is the short novella’s single greatest strength.

The cast is minimal. There’s the new secretary at his work, who provides a nice, colorful, feminine balance to the scenes she’s in. Then, there’s Brian. Before, I had issues with Brian being too good to be true, and while he does still ring of perfection in this, he’s so utterly sweet and good to Ethan, even in the face of Ethan’s bad behavior, I liked him more. I’m still not sold on how fully fleshed he is, but I’m content with what I got from him in this story.

I’m finding it hard to go wrong with this author. Each one just gets better than the last.


8/10 – Some minor editorial issues, but otherwise a smooth, swift read

Hero #1

8/10 – Self-professed queen, but his angst hit me hard

Hero #2

6/10 – I still think he’s a little too perfect, but the fact that he never gave up makes me like him more

Entertainment value

9/10 – It takes a lot to move me to despair/sadness in a story; this did it

World building

8/10 – Authentic and hard-hitting



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