curious sustenanceRating: 3.5 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | All Romance
Length: Novel

Ross Jenson has just made Lifetime at Weight Watchers after losing 98 pounds in eight months.  He is thrilled to finally have achieved his goal and excited to go home to celebrate with his boyfriend, Brad.  But Ross is shocked when Brad’s celebration turns out to be providing a fattening cake and the news that Brad was only attracted to Ross when he was heavy.  Brad is clear that things are over between them if Ross doesn’t gain back weight, so Ross ends up moving out and staying with his friend (and weight loss buddy) Janet.

After a few days mourning the end of the relationship and getting over the shock of Brad’s betrayal, Ross is surprised when Janet lets him know they are headed out for the night.  It turns out Janet is a member of a BDSM club and brings Ross along to have some fun and new experiences. At first Ross is sure he doesn’t want anything to do with the club, but when he is approached by a gorgeous man who asks if Ross will let him tie him up, Ross definitely is intrigued. The experience turns out to stir something inside Ross, leaving him dying for more with the man, but he isn’t sure if he will see him again.

When Ross unexpectedly runs into Miles at the bookstore, the guys strike up a conversation and a budding friendship.  Soon that begins to turn to more, as Miles and Ross share nights of passion and time getting to know one another.  Ross never thought he would be interested in bondage, but it turns out Miles is exactly what he wants and needs.

This story grabbed my attention from the blurb, as I loved the idea of a character dealing with weight loss and body issues.  It is so rare to find a character in gay romance who isn’t either a chiseled god with washboard abs, or perhaps a skinny (but adorable) twink. So to have a main character who struggled with weight and continues to face challenges with eating was a really interesting twist and something I enjoyed. I also think rope bondage can be so beautiful, so I was really excited to read a story with that as a key element.  However, while I enjoyed aspects of this story, I also felt like so much was left only partly developed and explored, leaving me feeling somewhat unsatisfied at the end.

The story opens with Ross at his Weight Watchers meeting when he learns he made Lifetime (he’s lost enough weight and maintained that loss long enough to become an official lifetime member).  We meet his friend Janet who has been his partner through this process and see the joy Ross feels at this huge accomplishment. I found this part really well done as I could see clearly how important this is to Ross and the thrill he feels knowing his work paid off.  Then this is contrasted by the pain at learning Brad is trying to sabotage him and doesn’t want Ross anymore if he is thin.

I thought this was a really interesting plot development that had the potential to really make a creative story.  But after this bright start, things sort of go nowhere here.  First off, Ross has lost a tremendous amount of weight after being heavy his entire life. By my calculations, he lost 37% of his body weight in eight short months. That is near miraculous to be honest, at over 12 pounds per month, especially since he said he plateau’d at some point and lost nothing for a period (in fact, this rate of loss is well above what Weight Watchers even recommends as healthy).  So this has to say something about Ross, or impact him in some way. Why after being heavy his whole life did he manage to succeed now? What motivated him and how has he changed? And how does his totally transformed body affect him after a lifetime of being fat?  There seemed to be so much potential here for some real insight into Ross and his character, but it is never explored.  Then as the book goes on, we learn that his clothes are starting to fit Ross a little tighter again, implying weight gain. But again, nothing happens here. We never learn why and it is never really addressed other than to be mentioned in passing with no context.

Things with Miles do develop a little more in depth.  But I will say the start threw me a bit.  Janet takes Ross to this BDSM club without telling him where they are going or giving him any guidance or background. She just brings him and then sort of lets him off on his own, which seemed hard to imagine.  But I loved that first scene with Miles and we really feel the intensity as Ross experiences rope bondage for the first time and the deep allure of Miles.  I found these guys likable together and they make a sweet couple.  But again, I feel like this fell a little flat.  The story ends with no real sense of what is happening between them. I guess I’d call it an HFN ending, but it almost implies more than that although it is not clear.  Given the sexual tension and intensity of their first meeting, I was expecting more chemistry and more passion from them throughout the rest of the book, but the remainder of their interaction didn’t quite live up to the promise of that early scene.  So likable guys and I enjoyed them together, but it could have used more spark.

In addition to these issues, there were other plot elements introduced that don’t go anywhere.  For example, we learn that Miles is being sued and may lose his house.  And that his grandparents had lost the house years before when they were sent to a Japanese internment camp.  So it had potential to be an interesting side plot, but instead it becomes all muddled.  We never get the story of how they lost the house and got it back again.  And honestly, I still don’t really understand what Miles was actually being sued for and what was really happening here. And then he fights with the guy who is suing him, and it is implied something is going to happen with that, and then nothing does.  And the lawyer says the judge is mad at the other side, but we never know why.  I have no idea what the purpose of this subplot was but it felt thrown in and very confusing.

Then there is a thread with Janet and how she is almost assaulted at work. Not that this isn’t serious and traumatic, but she recounts that it happened and then it is dropped. I was sure there was more to come from this, but it doesn’t go anywhere.  Also Janet starts dating Ross’ brother Rune, and there is the implication that something negative happened between them (she leaves for work early, he is sullen).  And I assumed we would learn what that was, but again, it is totally dropped without ever being addressed though later they still seem to be dating.  There were so many good ideas here and so many things that would have been interesting to explore in the story. But it just felt like everything was tossed out there and then never fully developed or really finished.

I did really enjoy Ross and Janet together, and actually found them to have the most chemistry of anyone. I loved their bond over Weight Watchers, the way they loved and supported one another, and their close friendship.  I also liked Rune and his interactions with Ross and Janet and found Rune to have an interesting backstory as a mixed martial arts fighter. So there were some nice side characters here that I enjoyed.

The last thing I will mention is that I found the POV odd here. Most of the story is told from Ross’ POV. Then in Chapter 5 we are suddenly in Miles’ head out of nowhere. Then back to Ross except for a few more small sections from Miles.  I have seen POV switches in lots of books, but not like this where almost the whole story is from one and then the other is thrown in now and then. It became distracting because the changes came out of nowhere. Honestly, it felt like the author couldn’t figure out how else to get Miles’ story out there so she gave him a POV so we could learn things and then switched back. I know this is a challenge in third person POV but I feel like it could have been handled better.

So I am of mixed feelings here. I liked the set up and the issues of weight loss and a hero with an imperfect body. And I like the rope bondage elements. I also liked both men and especially enjoyed Janet.  But I think this story never lived up to the potential of the blurb and the early parts of the book. There were so many possibilities here and nothing ever really materialized.  So a nice story but not one that I felt was fully satisfying.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

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