Brett is a 27-year-old closeted, gay, Mormon in Salt Lake City. He was raised by his maternal grandparents after his drug-using hippie mom couldn’t/wouldn’t take care of him. His aunt and uncle weren’t model Mormons and Brett felt he needed to live up to some superior standard, for his own personal reasons. Now that his grandparents have died, however, he’s beginning to verbally acknowledge his homosexuality and is being counseled by his lesbian aunt, her wife, and their long-time friend—who is a drag queen—to live his truth.
Brett has no idea how to be a gay man, as he’s virtually chaste, and he takes advice to go on a retreat where he can begin to explore the physical side of the sexual identity he’s virtually terrified to claim. Off to a “wild” retreat he goes, in a rural area of Massachusetts, to try out sensual massage, Drag 101, and meet other gay men in similar situations as his own.
So, the hook here practically screamed to me that Brett was going to get sexually wild out in Massachusetts. And, to my mind, that didn’t happen. At all. Brett does the hard work of self-realization and experiences his first physical closeness with another man, but this isn’t an erotic story. He meets Zach, a gay man on his flight, who’s interested in visiting when the retreat ends. That’s promising but vague. Then he makes a retreat friend, Karl, who could be more, and it’s complicated. Some kissing, a little touching, and it’s time to move on because…they aren’t on the same sexual page?
Brett meets several insightful individuals who help him on his journey toward realizing his gayness, but this story is more of an emotional journey than a sexual one. For me the pace lagged, and I felt like Brett considered and reconsidered and then had second and third thoughts about virtually everything. He is young and indecisive and not sure who might make a good partner on his journey. This isn’t a romance—it might be the start of one, but there is no romance arc within the text. Unfortunately, the book didn’t grab me. Part of this is the repetition and cadence of the book, and the rest was the lack of discernible plot arc. In the end, Brett’s finally worked up the gumption to make some experiences happen with a partner and…end of book. It never seem to me that Brett got even a little wild–though the hint was strong that he *might*. The “wild” in the title really reflected the wilderness location; that was unsatisfying.
A couple of highlights that I did enjoy: the retreat has men of all age and size, and there’s some cool body-positive and age-positive bits that were awesome. And, I really liked the sensuality discussions that focused on feelings and connection over attraction. Brett’s been so disconnected from his sexuality all his life, and I liked how his experiences at the retreat helped him to accept himself better.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.