A Cordial Agreement by Ryan Loveless explores how two men can build a lasting and loving relationship between a bisexual and an asexual man. Being asexual doesn’t mean Jim wants to avoid the emotional satisfaction of relationships, just the physical aspect that leaves him feeling overwhelmed and very uneasy. When things go a bit too far with Grant and he invades Jim’s personal space, both men must really communicate their needs to each other in order for them to stand a chance as a couple. The author carefully illustrates this by having us watch poor Grant fumble and make mistakes before realizing that if he is going to convince Jim to give them a chance, he must learn all he can about what being asexual means. In turn, Jim must learn to trust and to let Grant in—first by telling him what happened in the past that has left Jim so emotionally crippled and guilt-ridden and secondly, by recognizing that Grant is entering the relationship with his eyes wide open.
I so wish the author had taken more time with this story. So often it skimmed the surface and seemed to carry us from one crisis to another without either sufficient build up or resolution. This was a good novella, one that had all the bones to become a great novel. Grant was just incredibly sweet and caring and Jim was so confused and misguided as to his part in what actually happened to his roommate and best friend—something that he really had no responsibility for or hand in whatsoever. I wanted to see more of how their relationship developed and instead I got a quick happy ever after that left me wondering, much like Jim questioned initially, if these two really knew what they were getting into together.
The other issue I had with this story was some confusion with regard to Jim’s chosen profession. At several points, Jim expresses that he does not want to be touched; he feels his space is invaded with much more than a handshake. Even cuddling with his best friend Shannon has limits and on one occasion Jim wishes Shannon would move away from him. Now given the story seems to make clear that Jim really does not enjoy even casual touch, I was confused about his job as a male stripper who does private sessions that include lap dances and allowing people to push money down the inside of his G-string. I wish the story addressed how someone who actively dislikes most casual physical contact would be comfortable being touched in this way nearly every night.
A Cordial Agreement had so much potential. The story had fascinating and relatable characters who sought to comfort each other and explore a new relationship that would benefit them both emotionally and physically. Given a bit more development and a bit of untangling plot-wise, I think this could have been a really lovely novel.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.