Narrator: TJ Jamesin
Length: 7 hours, 55 minutes
It is Bear Week in Provincetown, the time of year model Nino Santos usually chooses to go into hibernation. Nino is gorgeous, smooth, and perfectly fit, and there is nothing he hates more than all the big, sloppy bears invading town. So when Nino wakes up to find one of those bears in his bed, he is not happy. Especially since Nino has no memory of the night before or how he ended up sleeping with this furry little bear.
Teddy Miller isn’t so thrilled to find himself in Nino’s bed either. He too has no memory of what happened at the party the night before. He is not attracted to “plastics” like Nino and has no interest in the man, especially since Nino makes his displeasure at Teddy’s appearance totally clear. Teddy is perfectly happy to get out of the apartment and never see Nino again.
Of course, it is not quite that easy. As it turns out, the guys find themselves crossing paths over and over due to mutual friends and a series of parties that make it impossible for them to avoid one another. At first the men can barely tolerate being in each other’s presence. Slowly they find themselves becoming friends and are shocked to find there is an attraction between them. Nino is just about ready to admit he may have been wrong about bears after all, but Teddy is still stuck on his ex and doesn’t seem to share Nino’s feelings. Both of these men have had painful pasts and have found a common bond of understanding with one another. But they still must be strong enough to move forward if they hope to one day be together.
When Love Gets Hairy is the third book in Jacob Z. Flores’ Provincetown series and I will say I really liked the set up here. I love the idea that the physically perfect Nino somehow ends up in bed with a guy who is the total opposite of what he physically desires and somehow ends up falling for him after all. We meet Nino in the first book, When Love Takes Over, as Van’s best friend. Nino is a model and looks perfect in every way, but is definitely somewhat of an arrogant jerk at times. So I was looking forward to not only seeing his softer side in this book, but also watching him deal with falling for a man who is not traditionally attractive by his own standards. I also really enjoy a good enemies to lovers story so I was eager to see how these guys go from hating each other to falling in love over the course of the book.
So I think in some respects this story delivered on what I wanted and on others it feel short for me. I think the early scenes when Nino and Teddy confront one another are great and really set things up well. I loved the added element that neither man remembers the party, so not only were they so drunk they slept together, they don’t even remember meeting. I also appreciated that Teddy wasn’t interested in Nino either, so we have a two sided dislike versus just the “hot” guy not interested. I also think Flores really captures Provincetown beautifully. Every detail is so well crafted, from the atmosphere, to the parties, to the layout of the town. I really felt like I was there and could picture exactly where these guys were going and what they were doing. The town is almost another character and really just handled so nicely.
I think my biggest issue here was that I didn’t get the redemption I wanted for Nino. Basically the guy is a total jerk as the story starts. He is obsessed with his appearance and only cares about what others look like. He hates bears and thinks they are fat, sweaty, slovenly pigs who don’t care about their appearance and who are so disgusting he can barely be around them. I do not exaggerate. We hear this over and over (and over). These men are so repulsive to Nino because they do not strive for (or at least do not succeed in obtaining) the perfect appearance Nino has. It is so extreme I could barely tolerate him and found all this hatred so nasty, as well as repetitive to read. So I get that Nino’s attitude is what sets up the conflict, but for this to really work, I needed to see Nino come to recognize the error of his ways and we never quite see that. Yes, he falls for Tedddy, but we never really see him address his incredible nastiness to these men or how narrow minded he has been all along. I guess I wanted that “mea culpa” moment and, although his attitude clearly softens throughout the book, there is never that moment of reckoning where he comes out and acknowledges his behavior, even to himself.
The other main issue I had is that Nino’s change in attitude and the men falling in love happens just way too fast for me. As far as I can tell, the timeline for this book is just a few days. So for the first 2 days at least, the guys have no memory of even meeting. They run into each other multiple times, but they hate one another and do nothing but fight. Then they have this moment where they connect, and suddenly they are falling for one another and are basically in love by the next day. Not just that, but when they finally remember their first night together, they admit they actually feel in love that first night. I mean, they were so drunk neither man remembered even meeting each other. How much of a connection could they possibly have in this kind of drunken stupor? So while I loved the idea that these guys go from hatred to love, I needed to see them interacting more with one another before they are ready to commit for good.
Along the same lines, I found Nino’s change in attitude shocking quick. While he is still fighting with Teddy that first day, he does befriend another bear named Jay. Nino finds himself shocked that he is actually being civil to a bear like Jay because normally he wouldn’t even talk to him. In fact, all day Nino surprises himself that he is polite to people, that he expresses an interest in what other people are all saying, all things that apparently he has never done before (see, not such a nice guy, right?). So he starts off finding bears so repulsive he does nothing but comment on how gross they are and typically hides away for the week, as well as being unwilling to socialize or even deal with anyone he deems unworthy. Then within a day or two he basically has this personality transplant where he is friendly, social, kind, and pleasant, not to mention in love with a bear himself. I just found this such a rapid reversal in everything about the man in a very quick time.
And last thing, Teddy’s friend Irene. This woman drove me crazy. I found absolutely nothing likable about her at all. What is strange was I wasn’t quite clear what I was supposed to think of her. Every description of how she behaves is just awful. She is whiny and meddling and just completely unlikable. And everyone who meets her hates her. I mean all of Teddy’s friends dislike her and are clear about that. But she is Teddy’s best friend and saw him through some rough times in college. So while on one hand, she is universally hated, on the other we see that she is someone Teddy counts on as a real friend. So I am not clear what our takeaway was supposed to be for Irene, but personally I found her so irritating and whiny, and learning about something she did in Teddy’s past bothered me so much I just totally couldn’t deal.
I listened to this book in audio format and had some mixed feelings here too. The narrator, TJ Jamesin, has a pleasant voice and I found his pacing and tone pretty good. He tends to draw his words out so it sounds kind of slow and languid, but it is something I got used to pretty quickly and it didn’t really bother me. The issue is that almost no one has a consistent voice and they pretty much are all the same. For most of the time, the characters all sound almost exactly like the narrator with virtually no unique voice at all. And the rest of the time, they are whiny, nasal, and campy. So every once in a while, Nino would have this high pitched, cliched camp to his voice, and then the rest of the time, he spoke just like the narrator. And this is repeated with almost all the characters except Teddy. I found myself frustrated with the lack of consistency and it was incredibly distracting. One or the other would have been better than the voices coming and going. Not to mention that not every gay man speaks in a sing song, whiny tone and I think the narrator should have found more variety in his voices.
So as I said, I was of mixed feelings on this book. I really loved the premise and the setup was nice. I liked Teddy and I was happy to see him find the love that had eluded him. But I found Nino hard to like and I needed more time for his journey from arrogant jerk to loving partner for me to really believe it in. FWIW, I think that I would have enjoyed this more reading the book rather than listening to the audio, because I found the constantly changing voices bothersome. So if you are interested in this story, I would suggest reading it rather than listening. If you are a fan of this series, I would still consider giving it a try, as this book has a lot of the same flavor as the other stories. But if you are just jumping in, you may want to start at book one, as that is my favorite so far.
Cover Review: I am kind of torn on this cover because Michael Breyette is a genius and I love his work. I especially appreciate how this scene is recreated in the book. But these cover men are two buff, 8-pack abs guys and Teddy is so clearly not. So it is kind of frustrating to see two chiseled men on the cover when one of the key elements of the book is that Teddy does not look like this and how Nino loves him anyway.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.