Story Rating: 3.5 stars
Audio Rating: 3.75 stars
Narrator: Gomez Pugh
Length: 7 hours, 18 minutes
Quent and Jace have been friends for years. From the moment Jace saw Quent that first day of college, he wanted him. Quent has followed Jace right through college and into a business partnership and their friendship and their steady poker game is solid. Jace has gone through his share of men and women, all the while quietly sabotaging Quent’s relationships until one day, Jace finally makes his move and lays his cards on the table.
For Jace, poker is a metaphor for life and love. He is confident and cunning and he always knows what he wants and what he wants is Quent. He wants Quent in his bed and in his home –permanently. But Jace doesn’t know how to ask for what he wants; he’s used to just taking, and talking, well that’s off the table, and Quent has to navigate their new relationship without a rule book.
Quent is used to following Jace and he’s happy to continue to do so. Even though Quent has never had a relationship with a man, he always knew that Jace would be the only man worth coming out for. In private, Jace gives Quent everything he needs and just like every other time Jace has had an idea, Quent is all in.
When Gambling Men opens, Jace and Quent have been friends for eight years. They were college roommates, went into business together, and have been inseparable ever since. That was one of the issues I had with this book is that we are dropped into their current lives and it takes a while to learn of their friendship. We see that all of a sudden one day, after a workout, Jace sees an opening and makes a move on Quent, which read as if it was coming out of nowhere since we don’t know their story yet.
I had a difficult time with both of these guys even as their story unfolded. Jace always had a different hookup throughout the years, but was also incredibly possessive of his friendship with Quent. Jace would then subtlety sabotage all of Quent’s relationships so Quent would be home alone just waiting for Jace and I found him to be manipulative and cunning. Quent, for his part, just followed along with whatever Jace wanted in every area of their lives.
This is a character-driven novel, which usually works for me, but there was no additional plot here. The focus of the story was on the shifting relationship between the men with the main focus on them becoming intimate. They spend many scenes making up for lost time and I needed there to be more to it.
Poker is a metaphor for everything here because for Jace poker is life. The constant metaphors lost their meaning after a while and became overdone. Jace’s upbringing is the reason behind the focus of poker in his life and there are several flashbacks to his earlier days. Perhaps because I listened to the audio version of this book, but the flashbacks seemed to be extended tangents placed in the middle of the current scene and it all lost the flow for me. There were also a few odd descriptors, such as a character being referred to as having eyes as, “blue as vodka,” which then further pulled me out of the story.
The relationship between the men was incredibly co-dependent and it wasn’t until well into the book that their relationship even started to grow on me, but it really wasn’t enough to win me over.
Gomez Pugh was the narrator here and he had a tone that was easy to listen to. There was more narrative than dialogue here and his delivery was wry and cunning, which matched the overall atmosphere. The voices of Jace and Quent were not particularly distinct, yet I could tell them apart as their characters and thoughts were so different. The voices of the secondary characters as well did not add much to the performance. Where Pugh excelled was the intimate scenes where he went all out in his delivery of each climactic moment.
If you enjoy Lane’s lighter works this could be one to try, or if this ebook worked for you originally, then the audio would be a new way to experience Gambling Men.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.