“I guess if the worst thing I’m doomed to in life is mediocre sex, my life isn’t too bad.”
Self-starter and business analyst Zach Keller is living his dream life. He spends his days working from home in his favorite Tolkien t-shirts and pajamas while mothering his best friend-slash-roommate. The fact that his sex life is a bust and his love life is nonexistent? Unimportant. After his college boyfriend berated him for his unconventional desires, Zach doesn’t plan on sharing that part of himself ever again, anyway.
“I’m tired of feeling like I missed out on something by not going to college.”
Craig Pela isn’t lonely. He has tons of friends and weekends packed with activity. He hasn’t needed anyone since he left home at eighteen and never looked back. But everyone around him is moving forward in life, while he still works the same retail job at the same video game store, and it’s making him question his life choices. After all, he doesn’t want to be the loser still playing video games at fifty, does he?
As their relationship develops, Zach’s shy nature melts away to reveal an irrepressible geek that charms the pants off Craig. And Craig’s kind patience and ability to match him obscure quote for quote leaves Zach wondering if he’s finally met the man he can be his true self with. After all, how can someone else love you when you keep a part of yourself hidden?
Above is the blurb for Only With You, a book that sounded intriguing, but sadly, I had to DNF. I will explain why in a moment, but I’d like to tell you about the part I read before I get to that.
First of all, as I said, I was intrigued by the story and everything started out well. The main characters, Zach and Craig, were well written and three dimensional. Zach is shy, but he is a blossoming financial analyst, running a business out of his home. He has a best friend/roommate who cares a great deal for him (not romantically, though). His family sucks, but that added an extra layer to his personality.
Craig works in a video game store with Zach’s roommate. His life isn’t all bad. He’s got friends, a job he enjoys, and a full social schedule. He’s not averse to hookups and he is generally satisfied with his romantic life. When Craig meets Zach, he’s smitten, and is determined to get the other man to notice him.
Their relationship progresses rather quickly, but that’s not a problem. It felt natural. Their first date was adorable and made me smile. I liked their flirting and all that went with that. Their fledgling relationship was smoothly written and had a nice flow. There was some conflict between the men, but it’s a romance novel, so there has to be a little, right? It wasn’t all out angsty, and that was a real plus.
Now I’m going to explain to you why this was a DNF for me. It had absolutely nothing to do with the writing style or the editing. The characters were well fleshed out and the flow of the story felt natural. However, I couldn’t get past 70%. The blurb mentions Zach has some “unconventional desires.” I had no idea what those might be, but I’ve read some pretty unconventional stuff, so I figured I’d give this book a shot. There’s a prologue that takes place three years before the main story. In it, Zach and his then boyfriend are dancing in a club while flirting with another young man. Zach invites the man to come home with him and his boyfriend. Well, the boyfriend thought it was all a fantasy and freaks out when Zach actually meant it. Still, I didn’t quite grasp what I was getting into.
It turns out what I was getting into was Zach’s desire to be…I guess gangbanged would be the word. He wanted to be used sexually by several different men at one time, including his boyfriend. I guess I figured it was just Zach fantasizing and using it as dirty talk while having sex with Craig. I was wrong. I put the book down when Craig took Zach to a porn theater/bookstore and put Zach on his knees in front of a glory hole and proceeded to have sex with him while he gave a stranger a blowjob.
I am not trying to judge a particular lifestyle or fantasy. I subscribe to the “Your kink may not be my kink, but as long as it’s all safe, sane, and consensual, we’re good” philosophy. I realize that Zach and Craig weren’t hurting anyone with their actions. Upon saying that, however, I just didn’t feel personally comfortable with these scenes. Because I was uncomfortable, I didn’t feel like I could finish the book and write an objective review on its merits. The writing was good, the characters developed, and the relationship was believable, so it had nothing to do with that. I was concerned because I didn’t want to discount the author’s style and story in a review simply because I couldn’t hack the sex.
What I want to accomplish with this review is to inform readers more about the book and let them decide on their own whether this is the kind of story for them. Just because it wasn’t for me, doesn’t mean someone else won’t absolutely love it. That’s the glory of reading. So, I am leaving Only With You in your hands to decide if it’s a book that interests you. For those of you who choose to read it, I hope you enjoy it. I’m also going to say I’d be more than happy to read something else written by J.D. Chambers. This may not have been my cup of tea, but who knows? Next time, I might get tea and a cookie.