Hearts-and-FlourRating: 2.5 stars
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Length: Novel

Life was supposed to be smooth sailing for Micah; he has a successful business selling health food in perpetually health-conscious So-Cal and has a like-minded boyfriend to boot. Until it all comes crashing down when he finds his boyfriend cheating on him and his customers destroying their health-conscious diets with sugar bombs from a new bakery. To make matters worse, its almost Valentine’s day. The only thing that saves the occasion is the invite one of his friends gives him to a party of debauchery meant to celebrate being single on the holiday engineered for couples.

A monogamist at heart, Micah is worried about feeling awkward at the orgiastic party…until he lays eyes on the most beautiful person he’s ever seen. What’s more, they’re a woman—Micah knows she must be something super special if he, a dyed in the wool gay, gets butterflies in his stomach for a lady. But things are not all that they seem and he quickly finds out this lady named Queen is actually a cross-dressing man. Sparks fly along with their clothes as they take advantage of the debauchery around them and get busy.

Just when things seem to be on the up-and-up for Micah, bad news comes rolling around. First, when Micah finds out who is sabotaging his customers’ health regime and second, when his ex wants to roll back into Micah’s life. To make matters worse, his ex knows about Micah’s budding relationship with Queen and is willing to blackmail Micah with exposing Queen as a gay cross-dresser to force Micah to accept him. All Micah wanted was to be happy…but that means protecting Queen, even if it makes them both miserable.

At first, I was excited about this book. I visit Laguna Beach a couple times a year to see family and Glenneyre Street is a lifesaver if you want to avoid PCH, and both roads are mentioned in the book often. The author’s blurb explains Lain has an affinity for Laguna and seems to live in the general area…which is why I was so disappointed with her bloodless description. This vibrant town that prides itself on its artists is reduced to name dropping this street, a gay beach a good mile or two south of town, and a stereotype about Californians and dietary conscientiousness (I will admit, there are always people jogging, walking, running around, never mind who’s hitting the beach). So that was a huge disappointment for me.

The story started off well enough. I liked the introduction to Micah. We see him in his element in his health food juice stand and he feels like he’s well integrated into whatever health culture there is in Laguna. It was an opportunity to see him interact with a world he enjoys and see how he can be well-meaning, but still overbearing. He really tries to go the extra mile to convince people how easy, fun, and delicious cooking vegan/organic/raw/whatever can be.

I gotta give Micah props for kicking his cheating boyfriend to the curb ASAP and having the guts to attend his friend’s orgy. Even the party wasn’t too bad…it sort of lowered my expectations a little bit in terms of story development because Micah is literally attracted to someone a day after the guy he thought he was going to spend the rest of his life with cheated on him…but the heart wants what it wants, right? I’m up in the air about how Micah reacts to his attraction to Queen when she’s all dressed up—I just didn’t like how Lain frames Micah’s “I’m confused about my sexuality.” He gets over it quickly, though, once he realizes Queen’s a man. I wasn’t too impressed with Queen. The character is reduced to what Micah sees in him: hot cross-dressing dude and potential boyfriend. He’s got no real personality beyond feeling stifled by hiding his sexuality/cross-dressing from his family. Said family actually has more character than he does…so let’s hear it for the octogenarians.

Things kind of go downhill once Micah and Queen get together. The get together happening quickly was fine, but the rest of the relationship between Micah and Queen feels so rushed. One fuck and they’re both thinking they’re gonna walk down the aisle with each other. One hard truth and they’re both thinking there is no way they could ever be in a relationship. One day later, they both feel like they can’t live without each other…and of course, heavy handed plot devices (hello, manipulative ex-boyfriend and hang-ups about your sexuality) mean they have to suffer the cheesiest of angst before things can be righted.

Part of the issue for me was not just the breakneck pacing of all these divergent feelings. Part of it was the cheesy as fuck writing—postcoital conversations were stilted and perfunctory. The break up language was a cringeworthy dramabomb. Even the manipulative ex-boyfriend was, I felt, was poorly executed in that he managed to ruin Micah’s romance with Queen to get what he wanted…but Micah turns around days later [spoiler] and kicks the ex out again because Micah just can’t live without Queen, even if orchestrating their reunion means Micah’s going to be the one outing Queen. [/spoiler]

Personally, I thought this book got off to a pretty good start, but fell apart in terms of style and definitely lacked any character depth beyond their jobs/hobbies. If you’re looking for a vapid summer read that’s peppered with some sex, you might like this; otherwise, I’d pass.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

camille sig

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