Dex, an exotic dancer, is terribly abused by his boyfriend, Ross. After an especially traumatic and painful incident, Dex sneaks away in the night and hits the road. He finds a job teaching exotic dancing (and occasionally dancing for guests) at a small vacation resort. He’s still terrified Ross will find him, but he enjoys the job, and it gets even better when he meets his new co-worker, Husker.
Husker is a recent college graduate. He didn’t have any jobs lined up, so he is working at his friend’s uncle’s resort teaching water aerobics to the guests. Husker spent his college years sleeping with nearly every woman in his class…and the school. He never cared for any of them; all he wanted was to get off and move along. This is why his feelings for his new friend, Dex, confuse him. Husker feels a pull and attraction to his gay co-worker, and begins to question his own sexuality.
As Dex and Husker embark on their new relationship, everything is great. Not only have they found their way to each other, they’ve made new friends at the resort and they’re enjoying their jobs and lives. It’s not all easy, however. When Dex’s abusive ex returns to the picture, everything may slip away before they get their happily ever after.
First of all, I would like to start out with a bit of a warning that The Freeing of Dexter Lanning involves domestic abuse. While there aren’t many scenes of it, the ones that are included are rather brutal. So, just a warning for those who may have issues with this particular subject.
I chose this book because I love a story where a character who’s experienced the lowest they could possibly be can find their wings and fly. I also liked the idea of the resort. I love Dirty Dancing and the idea of a relationship forming in that setting intrigued me. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the story at all. Let me say that it was a good idea. The setting, the plot, the MCs, and the background characters all had potential. However, the stilted, and sometimes strange, dialogue and character behavior, and scenes that occasionally made no sense took me completely out of the book. I didn’t connect with Dex or Husker. I felt sympathy and anger over Dex’s abuse, and I rooted for him. I just didn’t care for him much. With Husker, I straight up disliked him. He wasn’t mean or cruel. He was just a caricature of the (presumes himself) straight character. For example:
Husker stared at the ground for a second. All gay guys were limp wristed and obvious, right? Dex was nothing like the gay guys he remembered from the university campus. Husker cleared his throat. “Uh…no. Not at all. My best friend Jeremy is gay. But he does Betty Davis impressions and loves Cher and Barbara Streisand and says things like girlfriend and faaaabulous. I can’t picture you doing anything of those things. You don’t even look gay.
I may have even forgiven that, but this next example sort of blew my mind. Remember, Husker is a recent graduate from a university in Texas…not Siberia
Dex laughed through a mouthful of fritter. “We’re not married.”
“No? Well you should be.” Zane’ eyes flicked from one to the other.
Husker shook his head. He finished chewing his donut and washed it down with a swallow of coffee. “Guys can’t marry each other.”
Dex nodded. “Yeah, they can. Federal law allows same-sex couples to marry and receive full benefits.”
Stunned, Husker blurted, “Even in Texas?”
My jaw dropped. I wanted to laugh, because I’m sure that was the intention. Instead, I had to put the book down and walk away for an hour or so.
Ok. One more. Dex and Husker are about to be intimate for the first time, making this the first time Husker will be with another man.
Husker’s mind wandered back to his conversation with Jeremy, and Jeremy’s comment about finding places to stick it. “How is fucking possible between two men?” Husker asked, rubbing his palms up and down Dex’s back and over his ample ass cheeks. “No pussy.”
Done. I was done. I didn’t think I would be able to continue. I was invested in the storyline by then, though, and I wanted to see how the book turned out.
This book is very heavy on the dialogue. I do like that. I love dialogue when it’s done well. However, I did find a lot of the dialogue in this story to be stilted, maybe a little too formal, and over detailed. For instance, Dex is being shown the staff dorm by the owner’s assistant.
“Over here is the kitchen. We keep it stocked with the basics. Milk, eggs, bacon, juice, bread, sodas, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. If you want anything special, there are a couple of grocery stores in Kerrville, an one in Bandera.” She pointed to the area to the right. “This is the den, with a big flat-screen TV above the fireplace, four leather recliners, and a big leather couch. There is also a game table.”
To me, that doesn’t seem very conversational. It’s like…well…making a grocery list.
There’s some pretty serious action in this book. As the blurb reveals, Dex gets kidnapped by his abusive ex. By the time everyone figured out Dex was taken, they all bond together to save him…the other resort employees, the owner, both sets of parents, and a great police detective. Some of the scenes seem scattered and occasionally a little long. It didn’t keep me on the edge of my seat. Ross (the ex) is just so mean and violent. I was just uncomfortable. The climax, though, was pretty good. Once again, everyone came together, did their part, and saved Dex.
The end was as expected, no real surprises here. Still, I appreciated Dex and Husker getting their happily ever after. I felt like I was finally able to release a breath I’d been holding. I’m sorry I couldn’t connect with The Freeing of Dexter Lanning. I’m even sorrier I can’t recommend it.