Narrator: Greg Boudreaux
Length: 8 hours, 35 minutes
Rory Delaplaines has driven across the country from his home in rural St. Antoine’s Parish, Louisiana to meet his crush and idol, artist Ran Yamane. Yamane is the creator of Rory’s favorite comic, the Sacred Princess Celendrianna. Yamane is quite reclusive, and this is one of the few public appearances by the artist, but Rory has fantasies of sweeping Yamane off her feet to a happily ever after. When Rory arrives at the Anime Expo in California, however, he is shocked to find that Yamane is not the princess he imagined, but is in fact a man.
Yamane is used to fans who expect him to be a woman. Not to mention that his long hair and somewhat feminine style of dress make some guys willing to ignore the fact that he is a man. So Yamane isn’t too surprised when Rory comes to him ready to declare his undying love, only to be disappointed. Yamane is ready to give an autograph and move on, but something about Rory’s story captures Yamane’s attention enough that he invites Rory to dinner, and allows the stranded man to share his room for the night.
The men hit it off more than either one expects; although Rory makes it clear that he is not interested in men, the guys are becoming friends. But suddenly things are turned upside down when a stalker from Yamane’s past resurfaces. Yamane has no choice but to go on the run, and Rory is determined to stick with him despite the danger. As the men try desperately to escape Amelia’s clutches, they also grow closer, and soon Rory realizes that he is attracted to Yamane after all. As they cross the country trying to keep ahead of the stalker, Rory and Yamane begin to fall in love. But with Amelia determined to make Yamane her own, the guys know that they may not survive long enough to explore their future together.
Drawn Together is one of the first m/m romance books I read when I first started the genre and it has always been a favorite. So I was really excited to see that Maxfield has re-released the book and published it in audio with one of my favorite narrators. I have re-read this regularly over the years, but listening to it in audio definitely gave me a fresh take that I really enjoyed.
I love this story because it has that feel of an epic quest, of the hero who rescues the princess, but also turns it on its head. Yamane is clear he is not a princess, he doesn’t need saving, and he is all man. But at the same time, we have Rory as the dashing hero determined to protect his man and the two undertaking this big journey as they try to stay ahead of Amelia. There is also a nice opposites attract vibe here. Rory is young, confident, and determined to be a protector. He is kind of out of his element with Yamane, being a rural guy from a small town. And Yamane is older, more worldly, and a totally different kind of man, one with a bit of a feminine side. While Rory does take care of Yamane quite a lot, and definitely is the one leading their escape plans, there is a nice balance as Rory is experiencing being with a man for the first time. These are guys who don’t seem like they should work together; everything about them is different. But somehow they make such a great couple and the love they have for one another shows through.
The story takes on a suspense feel fairly early on as they encounter Amelia and realize that she will not rest until she has Yamane under her control. Much of the book is spent with the guys in various states of fleeing, trying to find safety and figuring out how to stay away from Amelia until the authorities can catch her. There is also a nice road trip vibe here as the men travel across the country in search of safety. And the ending brings a more intense suspense feel as things all come to crisis. So I enjoyed this part of the story as well, and appreciated that Maxfield manages to weave the romance and the action together.
I have a couple of small issues here. First off, there is a scene early on when Yamane has already made clear he is interested in Rory, but they have not acted on it as Rory has still not fully come to his terms with his feelings for a guy. Yamane is passed out drunk in the bed, and Rory rubs off on him while he is unconscious. This scene has always bothered me because although Yamane would have undoubtably consented had he been aware, you don’t have sex with an unconscious man, even just getting off by touching him. What bothered me more than the dubious consent here is the fact that Rory never seems to realize what he has done is wrong. If we had seen some remorse or awareness from him it would have been fine, but while Rory is embarrassed, it is more for the “I just humped a guy like a dog” than “I just sexually assaulted someone.” Given how heroically Rory is painted, this seemed so out of character and I definitely wanted to see him recognize why what he did was wrong.
My other issue is that Rory can’t quite stop treating Yamane like a damsel in distress, despite the fact that Yamane is clear that he is capable of taking care of himself. Now Maxfield does show how this behavior is completely within Rory’s character, and he has a hero thing going on that extends past Yamane. And I really don’t get the vibe that Rory thinks of Yamane as a girl or someone weak, it is more that he loves Yamane and is determined to see him protected. But at the same time Rory is super protective of Yamane. There are several small events, and one quite large one that is so egregious as to be almost unforgivable, where Rory takes over and assumes control without taking into account Yamane’s desires or his need for his own agency. Given Yamane’s issues with trust, this seems even more problematic. And again, Rory never seems to recognize his behavior is wrong, even when directly confronted about it.
As I mentioned, I really enjoyed listening to this book in audio. Greg Boudreaux (a pen name of narrator Greg Tremblay) is one of my favorite narrators and I think he does an excellent job here. Rory is from Louisiana and has a rural Cajun accent that is handled really well, at least to my untrained ear. To maintain such a strong accent in a character who is in the vast majority of the book can’t be easy, and Boudreaux never wavers on it throughout. There are a variety of other side characters, also with Cajun accents, and I was impressed that Boudreaux was able to not only maintain their accents as well, but still make them all sound like distinct characters. The women are also voiced well, another skill that can be tough with a male narrator, but I could easily hear them as women, versus man in falsetto. The pacing is good and the tone fits the story well. So I found this to be an excellent audio and I would totally recommend it.
I really enjoyed revisiting this story, especially getting the chance to hear it in a different format. The story really holds up to my memories and definitely continues to hold a place in my heart as one of my early favorite books in the genre.