Ricky Talbot is a summer lawn boy. He’s home from the first year at university, where he is also a member of the swim team. Part of his summer routine, besides his daily swim practice, is to take care of the yard of Jack Corson. Jack is an author, has a reputation as a cantankerous old recluse, and Ricky has been in love with him for years. Ricky’s agreed to this summer job because it will mean spending more time with Jack, who at the moment doesn’t know he exists. That changes the moment the lawnmower breaks down and instead of fixing it, Ricky ends up offering Jack a blowjob in his kitchen.
Jack has a sordid past. He’s closing in on 49 years old and has years of experience under his belt. He’s shut himself away in the suburbs since he’s become uncomfortable with the life he once led. We don’t get much information about his past, but it’s clear that he was a Master who at one point lived with and loved two Submissives. He’s done a lot and seen a lot, and also wrote about it. The last thing he expects is for an 18 year old to catch his attention, especially when one blowjob turns into an entire summer of exploration.
For Ricky, Jack is a dream come true. Ricky’s had a few sexual experiences, but even those haven’t been so great. He’s enjoying the summer with the man he’s been dreaming about since he’s known he was gay. When the summer comes to a close, he thinks the relationship will end with it. Instead, their feelings continue to grow and they find more reasons and opportunities to spend time together. They know they will face challenges, including what Ricky’s parents and society will think about their relationship, but the longer they’re together, the more they feel that it just might be worth it.
Conflicted. This is the word I would use to describe my feelings about Slow Bloom. There are some elements of this book that hit all the right buttons. Some things it did better than most of the books of the genre. But other things I could not see beyond. By the end, I wanted to scream. This book had so much potential. It just never managed to live up to it. But let’s talk about the good things first.
This book is kinky in all the right ways. First of all, you have the ginormous age difference. I’m a big fan of the older man/younger man dynamic, and this had one of the largest differences in age of any book I have read. And it totally worked. Jack was dominant and experienced and so damn hot. Ricky is a gorgeous, sweet, eager to please young man. Together, they’re perfection.
Ricky likes to mix it up a bit. He realizes early on that Jack has a thing for cross-dressing, and Ricky is happy to please his man. This leads to a few sexy as all get out scenes involving lingerie and dresses. There are few things hotter than a good-looking man in women’s lacy lingerie, so I enjoyed this element of the novel tremendously. It is a bit of a kink, though, so if you’re not into it, you may not enjoy this book. It also explores elements of BDSM, though it is definitely on the mild side. There is very little exchange of power, and it mostly involves using BDSM toys.
There are some really interesting elements of the plot of this novel that I found intriguing. Jack lived a whole life before he met Ricky, and I found this time of his life to be fascinating. Unfortunately, we learn little about it. He spent time as a Master, had a life with submissives, and lived the lifestyle full-time. We come to find out that his best friend, Amanda, was also his lover whom he supported through a sex change operation before she left him for a straight man. He wrote books about his experiences and lifestyle, both good and bad, that seem to haunt him even as he tries to leave that life behind. We just barely skim the surface of the parts of the novel that I find the most fascinating — that would’ve made this mediocre novel truly great if it would’ve been explored.
Herein lies my disappointment. The potential for a great novel is here. The framework for a fascinating plot is laid. The characters are well-developed and their chemistry together is incredible. It was just poorly executed. For one thing, the book is long. Which can be a good thing. More bang for your buck. And my word, there was a lot of bang. A whole lot of banging, in fact. While those scenes were often times incredibly erotic and sexy, it got to the point where the incessant, repetitive nature of it overrode any excitement you would feel from reading it. And speaking of repetitive, if I had to hear the sweet nothings between the pair uttered one more time, I was going to pull out my hair. Jack and Ricky were adorable, but they expressed their enjoyment and love for one another ad nauseam, and then some.
It is so frustrating to me when I see a really excellent novel buried beneath a lot of verbosity and repetition. This is when I get annoyed that an editor did not cut out 1/3 of the novel and make it the excellent book that it could’ve been. This book had so much going for it, not the least of which was some of the most intense sex scenes I’ve read. It just had too much fluff and not enough substance. If you want an excellent piece of erotica, this is the book to read. I just wish it would’ve lived up to its potential to become so much more than that.