Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Comic book artist Trip Spector spends his days drawing an inane, neutered comic book about teenage superheroes, pining away for his straight boss who keeps stringing Trip along. Trip knows the comic is lame, but it pays the bills and is steady and reliable. And his editor Cliff has enough charm and charisma to keep Trip hooked, even though the rational part of his brain knows nothing will ever come between them. Cliff is the “unboyfriend” as Trip’s friends call him, but it is enough to keep Trip stuck in the boring safety of the comic and the false promise of a better future.
When Trip meets Silas Goolsby at a charity event, it is like a light goes on in his life. Silas is a special effects makeup artist, a fellow geek hidden inside a huge and gorgeous Alabama farm boy body. Silas has spent years sleeping around with no interest in anything more. But there is a spark between these guys that goes off instantly when they meet and there is a virtually instant connection. Yet it is not easy to move forward from that first encounter. First off, the men must find each other again after that chance meeting. And then both need to get out of their own ways, as they each nervously navigate having a real relationship. It is not always easy and both men bumble their way along until finally they begin to find their way into something real.
Trip and Silas are both such creative, artistic people, and being together somehow is that perfect combination that makes their juices flow. Trip begins to conceive of a new comic, one that fuels his soul and lets him pour out everything inside of him. It is new and creative and brings him to life like nothing he has ever worked on before. And Silas is his inspiration, both for his hero, the sex demon Scratch, but also the person who keeps Trip believing that he can do it, that he has the strength and confidence to create and launch this new comic. And with that support, Trip begins to bloom and their creation stands ready to unveil on the world. But Trip’s internal demons aren’t kept at bay easily, and his anxieties begin to take over his confidence. He is poised to have everything he wants, but he needs to be brave enough to take a chance or it may ruin everything he and Silas have tried to build together.
Wow, I don’t even know where to start with this review as there is so much to say and think about. Suede has built a story with such depth and complexity, so many pieces all working together, that it really just sings. There are so many elements that are dropped like little puzzle pieces along the way, and then by the end of the book get drawn back together to bring you the full story. It is a book that made me think the whole time, without ever drowning in its own weightiness.
Ok, so here goes. First off, Trip and Silas are such amazing, well developed characters. Kindred spirits who are similar in some ways but in others so different. Both men are artists with a geeky center, loving comics and monsters and the world of magic and make believe. Trip is shy and reclusive, stuck in this life he has made for himself, hoping for more but not really willing or able to break out of his shell to have it. He is good at his job, and it pays well, but it saps the life out of him. Trip doesn’t date much or interact socially beyond his close circle of friends. His need for control and to write the script for how things should go in his life means that he is afraid of taking chances and stepping outside of his comfort zone.
Silas is really just the opposite. He is all about life and the thrill of living it. He has a big personality, enjoys the heck out of everything, and thinks Trip should do the same. He is the voice in Trip’s ear that encourages him to believe that he can do anything. That there are chances worth taking and risking and failing is better than never trying. The two men have such a different outlook on life, that they somehow balance each other out perfectly. But it also leads to their conflict, as each man handles fear and challenge so differently, that when things get crazy with the launch of Scratch, they have trouble meeting in the middle.
Somehow though, it is so clear that they are right for each other. When Trip and Silas are happy together it is like magic. There is just a fabulous connection between them, that I couldn’t help but want to see them succeed. As a pair they are fun and lively and so incredibly sexy (Suede doesn’t skimp on the heat in this one). I appreciated the way that Suede so carefully builds these characters so that we can completely understand what is driving them, what causes their flaws, and how they ultimately are able to grow and move past them to be together.
I also loved the side characters in Bad Idea, and if you are one of those readers fed up with nothing but airless or bitchy females in your m/m romance, this is the book for you. Trip’s best friends Rina and Jillian are just amazing. I want to be friends with them. They are both strong and no nonsense and call Trip on his bullshit. But at the same time, their love and support for him are so steady. These are tough love kind of women, and they push Trip to recognize he is going nowhere with Cliff and the Might Mites comic, that he can be so much more if he would just let himself. Silas doesn’t have quite the same best friend posse, but we see his interactions with the women in the show he works on, and the bond and respect between them. Again, these are strong, confident, normal women who are friends and support systems for these guys.
Interestingly, it is the men who cause most of the trouble for Trip and Silas. First there is Trip’s editor Cliff. He oozes charm and a sexuality that he works to his advantage, manipulating Trip and stringing him along. He has a vested interest in keeping Trip working for him and not branching out to work on Scratch (even though he has no interest in publishing Scratch himself), and so he uses Trip’s feelings to his advantage. We also meet Silas’ best friend Kurt, the owner of a hot video gaming company. He is rich and arrogant and buys sex and attention when he wants it. Trip hates him instantly before they even meet, jealous of his relationship with Silas and uncertain about Kurt’s motivation. And I enjoyed that actually for both Cliff and Kurt, we never really quite know how they will end up. Are they bad guys or good? Will they come around, or be the root of the problems between Silas and Trip? I loved that it keep me guessing throughout the story.
One of the best parts of this book is how it is a mix of all these incredibly creative people. We are dealing with artists of all sorts – authors and actresses and illustrators and make up artists. They all have such as spirit of imagination and creativity, a way of looking at the world in new and different ways that make them so fascinating. We also get lots of great detail into the inner workings of these creative worlds. I loved learning about Silas’ job creating special effect makeup, how he makes the monster molds and bloody wounds, and the inside look into movie and tv making. And we also get a great look inside the comic book world, how Trip designs and creates, how the process of making a new comic start to finish really works. And of course, tons of geek references to superheroes and movies and TV shows. If you have a bit of geek inside you like I do, this story has lots of little elements that will thrill that part of you. And for regular romance readers, there are plenty of nuggets for you as well (I won’t spoil anything but I’ll just mention that cover artist Anne Cain makes an appearance).
I probably should have started here, but I’ll back up now and mention that Bad Idea is part of a larger world Suede has created. The saga starts with Horn Gate, an urban fantasy featuring the characters that Trip creates in his new comic. Horn Gate is the story within this story, as it features Scratch and Isaac as the main characters, essentially a novella form of the comic Trip creates here in Bad Idea. So in this book that follows, we go back to real life Trip and Silas and watch as Scratch is being born, as they conceive of who this character is, who he fights against, and who he loves. And how they create this totally new and amazing character that inspires them both. It was an interesting tack to release Horn Gate first, then follow up with what is in many ways the origin story for that book. The two books are totally different in style though, and Bad Idea definitely stands alone. I didn’t read Horn Gate and had no problem following along here. But it was still really engrossing to watch as Trip and Silas build Scratch and create that world, knowing the other book is out there. Very cleverly done.
Ok, so really my only real issue here is that this story is quite long. There were times when I felt like we reached major resolution points, but yet there was still so much to go. I think there are scenes and details that could have been cut to keep the story more streamlined and moving forward, especially toward the middle after Silas and Trip manage to get together into something serious, but before the more major conflict develops. Just needed some tightening. That said, Suede does a wonderful job of tying all these pieces together. Scenes that seem to be little afterthoughts somehow come back around to connect into something meaningful later in the book. There is a lot to juggle here and many elements to manage, and Suede does it very successfully despite the length of the book.
So I really loved this one. There is just so much depth here, to the characters, to the story, to the ideas Suede presents. All the elements are put together with such attention to detail and as the story develops we see them slowly come together, building these characters and making the book come to life. I loved Silas and Trip, and found them fascinating and frustrating and inspiring. This was a wonderful story and one I highly recommend.
Note: Bad Idea will be released on October 21st from Dreamspinner Press. And Damon will be here then to talk to us more about it!