Spare Parts - Scott Pomfret
This is one of a series of books written by two men who are in a relationship. The reckoned there was a gap in the market for gay romances along the lines of Mills and Boon. They wanted to appeal to men who want to read a fairytale, happy-ever-after type of story with just enough angst to make the happy endings really satisfying.
On the whole, I would have to say that they’ve succeeded with their aim. This was a romantic, almost slushy, story of two men, Dan and Trent, who meet, mistake each other’s intentions, fall in love, fall out, come back together with fireworks exploding and roses cascading down.
What I have more concern about is whether they are right about the market for this kind of book. I don’t deny that women like these kind of novels. But do men? It’s not the happy, romantic ending that I have a problem with: I love books that end happily. It’s that this book is full of the improbable, wildly romantic coincidences that make up the staple diet of Mills and Boon. You know the sort of thing: there’s a fairy Godmother who has a heart of gold and brings the boys together; Trent appears to be a young drifter, but he’s secretly a fabulous photographer…. It all seemed rather silly to me.
If it doesn’t appeal to men, then would it appeal to women (those of us who like gay novels, anyway)? I’d stick my neck out and say that it probably wouldn’t. The whole point of liking gay stories is that traditional romance isn’t what we are looking for. Again, it’s not the happy endings we don’t want… I wish there were more of them. It’s just that sometimes Trent and Dan, despite being physically manly, seemed to be more feminine than masculine in their emotional responses. They internalised everything; they kept little secrets from each other; they blew up over trivialities.
The writing didn’t grip me either. Instead of letting the characters speak for themselves, the authors were constantly telling me what I needed to “get” from certain dialogue, which I actually got quite easily for myself.
I do think gay fiction has a place for strong novels that end happily—romances, if you like. But for me the writing has to come first. I can accept any ending really if the characterisations and plot have captured me. This was just too fluffy for me, which is a shame as it had all the ingredients of being good: gorgeous men, oil, grime and sweat (Dan is a mechanic) and good sex.
If you can get this one from a library, give it a go and see how you find it. I wouldn’t shell out money for it, though.
This gay romance does exactly what it says on the tin, light, frothy and VERY sexy (more Black Lace than Mills & Boon). It’s formulaic, of course. Two very different men fall for each other. There are many obstacles on the path to true love, as hidden secrets and past hurts threaten their future together; but, after the twists & turns are resolved, there’s a happy ever after ending.
Dan is a successful garage owner in his late 30s. Trent a 26 year old graduate struggling with a dead end job that doesn’t pay the bills or satisfy his artistic ambitions. Dan thinks Trent is a hustler in need of reform, and doesn’t know the dark night he picked him up at the cruising grounds down by the river was his first time, a drunken spur of the moment act of desperation. They share a past Trent doesn’t know about. Neither is used to feelings of jealousy aroused by a love they can’t even admit.
I liked the characters, cared about them, though all that contrived conflict is rather frustrating. I wanted to give them both a good shake and tell them to stop being daft and talk to each other. At times their relationship was awfully like Angel & Spike, using sex as sticking plaster, afraid of real emotional closeness.
I couldn’t quite buy the hooker storyline. However I was prepared to suspend disbelief. Nathan says it’s in the Gay Handbook, if you’ve got the goods- and Trent has them in abundance- you’ve gotta sell ‘em. And it’s no more incredible than Richard Gere & Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman or Cinderella finding her Prince Charming!
Literary snobs may sneer- and they have done at Scott&Scott, very sniffily- but books like this satisfy a need for stories where there’s necessary conflict but no great angst over being gay or coping with HIV and romance always has a positive outcome, eventually. Perfect holiday reading, undemanding and deliciously steamy. The cover art is suggestive (quite yummy) so you might not want to take it on the bus.
I disagree with the writers’ claims there weren’t any gay romances available before their novels hit the bookshelves. My personal favourites, and they’re much better written with more depth and style, would have to be the Dakota Taylor books.
I do agree there are too many unhappy endings in gay fiction, something LadyM and I have complained about. Pre-Stonewall/Gay Lib/Pride this reflected homophobia, inequality and intolerance. Then there was AIDS, and the need to address issues to do with coming out and self-acceptance. Now, society is more accepting of gay relationships, with marriage or legal commitment ceremonies and gay parenthood, so why shouldn’t fiction reflect that? I bet the Scott&Scott novels have a high female readership, after all we have a lot in common with gay men! Though I’m thinking the explicit gay sex might scare off the uninitiated, but that’s not going to be a problem with LadyM’s readers.
The writing quality is fair to middling, so you might think it’s not worth paying good money when there’s free slash fiction available on the Net. Scott&Scott are obviously astute businessmen who know how to market their product and sell themselves. I do have concerns that books like this find publication deals and get coverage in the NYT while someone like Richard Stevenson has been told to get lost by his publisher. We need diversity and choice. I like champagne and smoked salmon but sometimes I want fish’n’chips and Irn Bru (Scotland’s other national drink). I would read another Scott& Scott book though. And they do give good sex!
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