Review: Boys Don’t Cry by J.K. Hogan

boys don't cryRating: 3.5 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Mackenzie Pratt is just about to graduate from college when he finds his apartment building is being torn down. He has no job and no place to live, and now he is on the verge of becoming homeless. When his best friend’s coworker offers to let Mackenzie stay with him, Mackenzie is happy for the place to live. Laurent Beaudry is kind of a reclusive, eccentric billionaire who mostly shuts himself in his rooms to work on computer programming. But the guys get along and Mackenzie doesn’t have many other options. So he moves in with Laurie and helps provide some cooking and cleaning in exchange for a place to live.

Although Laurie is kind of odd, the men get along well. Laurie makes it clear he is interested in Mackenzie, who has never really had time for romance or love. He has spent the last eight years focusing on school and never experienced an attraction to anyone, man or woman. Mackenzie definitely finds himself surprised by his attraction to Laurie as he has never imagined himself being with a man. But as the guys get to know each other better and their relationship progresses, Mackenzie realizes Laurie may be just what he is looking for.

I’ll admit, I am a big fan of the eccentric recluse trope. It appeals to me in the same way that the Beauty and the Beast trope does; I like the idea that someone who seems beyond love or companionship finds someone who can draw him out and really see him for the prize that he is. So I was really intrigued by this story and the set up here seemed right up my alley. But unfortunately, the plot didn’t quite hit the high points of this trope for me as Laurie isn’t all that reclusive or eccentric (he is uber-wealthy, though that is basically a non-factor in the story as his money is barely even mentioned other than he lives in a huge house). But the biggest problem for me is that I strongly disliked both this guys from the beginning, and even as things evened out, it was just too much to overcome for me.

So let me start with the positive and that is the set up here is interesting and I liked the kind of opposites attract vibe. I also liked seeing Mackenzie exploring a bit of his sexuality after having sort of buried down all interest in romantic or physical attraction for so many years. I enjoyed his relationship with his best friend and seeing his excitement for teaching young kids. I also think Hogan’s writing is generally smooth and well done. I didn’t love this story, but I think she is a good writer and I would be willing to try another book by the author as she seems to have an nice style.

Ok, so like I said, the characters here really didn’t work for me from the start, and this made it hard to ever get engaged in the book in general, or their romance in particular. As I said, I love the eccentric billionaire trope, but Laurie is less adorably quirky and weird, and more inappropriate and off putting in much of his behavior. When Mackenzie first arrives to move in, he goes in to wake a sleeping Laurie (more on that later) who reacts by grabbing Mackenzie, throwing him face down on the bed, dragging his arms over his head and holding him down, and then groping Mackenzie, saying “Is this what you need?” Laurie’s excuse is then “I get weird when I’m woken up after a marathon work session.” So weird like rapey? Because that is not ok. This kind of stuff continues throughout the book (including another time Mackenzie wakes Laurie up and he responds similarly). Mackenzie clearly has no idea what he wants in terms of this relationship and yet Laurie is a frequent sexual aggressor. When Mackenzie complains to him about visible hickeys he is leaving (Mackenzie is a preschool teacher remember), Laurie grabs him and pulls down his shorts to see and says “Looks like they’re fading. I’ll have to make some new ones.” This is all presented as just fine, which to me, it wasn’t at all. Mackenzie is confused and trying to understand his sexuality, so he just accepts this behavior with curiosity as he decides how he feels about Laurie, rather than running fast.

Laurie also declares his love for Mackenzie after they have known each other only a few weeks by again capturing his wrists and pinning him, saying “I don’t want anyone else to touch you. I don’t want you going home with anyone else. I have decided I’m in love with you.” He “decided” he is in love with him? It is not like deciding today I am going to wear a red shirt. It was just so strange and way to soon for declarations of love and so bizarrely put. So unfortunately, even the kind, endearing side of Laurie that we see at times was ruined by this other creepy, weird side. Even as I could begin to see the glimmers of something good between them, I couldn’t get past all the rest.

As I mentioned earlier, aside from this sexual behavior (which the book doesn’t present as inappropriate or problematic at all), Laurie isn’t actually all that eccentric. He is a computer guy who works from home and shuts himself away for long stretches working. But he seems perfectly capable of socializing with other people, even if he has to be drawn out to attend work happy hours and stuff. Laurie seems to function totally fine with people, including having prior romantic relationships. So the book and the blurb kind of set him up as this weird recluse when to me he doesn’t actually come across that way all that much.

Ok, so generally Mackenzie is better for me, if somewhat naive, as well as pearl clutching about the whole sex with men thing. Like Laurie, at times I found his behavior way inappropriate. When he arrives at Laurie’s house to move in, Laurie has been up for days and has gone to sleep. Rather than wait for Laurie to wake up, Mackenzie storms into his bedroom and starts shaking him awake because how dare he sleep when he knew Mackenzie was coming. Really? This man saves you from homelessness and you can’t wait patiently, if awkwardly, for him to wake up? You storm into his bedroom and start fuming at him? At this point I kind of thought both of them were nuts, honestly.

Mackenzie has never really made time for love, relationships, or figuring out his sexuality, so he comes to Laurie a virgin with no idea that he might be into men. It is never suggested or explored that Mackenzie is asexual or aromantic or anything else similar that might explain his lack of interest or attraction in anyone, purely that he is too busy. I’ll admit it took me a bit of suspension of disbelief here; while I get no time for relationships, dating, or even casual sex, no time to notice if you find someone hot, or who you are thinking about when you jerk off at night? But ok, so he is totally inexperienced and has no sense of where his interests might lie. As he begins to have sexual encounters with Laurie, Mackenzie can’t seem to handle that he is with a guy. Every time they get together, his immediate response is, but wait, I don’t like men that way. It got kind of tiresome, especially as these guys are hooking up over and over and each time Mackenzie responds with shock that he is into guys. Or worse, seeming confusion that is possible that two men could be into each other. At one point Laurie tells him, “That’s when I fell in love with you. It’s for real, so you might as well get used to it.” And Mackenzie responds “But we’re both guys!” as if he has never heard of someone being gay. It was just so off-putting to me. Not the trouble coming to terms with being gay in general, just something about the way he expresses it and handles the uncertainty. Ok, one more example. Most of the time, Laurie is the clear sexual instigator and most of their activities involve him giving while Mackenzie receives. So at one point, Mackenzie blows Laurie and then completely freaks out:

In doing so, the full force of how I’d acted hit me like a blow to the gut. I went from cold to blazing hot with a full-body blush. “Oh my god. I’m so embarrassed.” I rolled away from him, curling into the fetal position after discreetly stuffing myself back into my pants. God, I couldn’t even think about what I’d looked like doing that. On my knees. In front of a man.

Mind you, this is after multiple sexual encounters, including anal sex. So fetal position? He is that horrified, but he is fine when Laurie does all these things for him.

So yeah, these guys didn’t work for me. As the story progressed, there were definitely times when I thought to myself, I would really be enjoying this if I hadn’t had such a bad taste in my mouth about both of them. I don’t think the writing is bad, but these guys just didn’t work at all for me. I think if you liked them, you would really like this book. So I think this is definitely a story where your reaction to these characters, and whether you find them endearing or off-putting, will be what makes the difference in the book. If the set up and storyline here sounds intriguing, maybe give this one a shot. But for me, I just couldn’t get past my dislike for these guys to ever really enjoy them together.

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