“I don’t know. I have no idea what’s going on. Or why everything feels different when we’re together.”
In a word: Read the thing! I was so excited to read this when I first heard of it and OMG it did not disappoint! I so recommend this! The main couple is adorable and it’s so easy to root for them and their relationship. There’s a child character and he’s pretty fun without coming off as too precious or annoying. This isn’t a sexy book, the main couple are both asexual so their relationship doesn’t focus on the sexual aspect, but reading about the two of them getting together and deciding that they might just be more than friends was a joy to read. It was adorable, seriously. There’s some angst in there as well, but it’s done well and the author doesn’t go overboard with it and it all gets resolved without being dragged out. I seriously could not put this book down while I was reading it, it was that good. Read it.
(I know in my first post I said that I would be talking about book I’ve already read at first, but I was too excited for this one when I heard about it so I decided to break that rule. The next post will be about a book I’ve already read.)
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Series: Just a note that this book is the 14th installment in the Bluewater Bay series, but it’s also a standalone novel. I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, so I’m not really sure if I missed anything while reading this one. As far as I understand, the series is a bunch of unrelated stories that all take place in the same area (Bluewater Bay). I did pick out the name Ari Valentine that I recognized because I read a summary for one of the other books where he’s one of the leads. And there’s a lot of mentions of a TV show called Wolf’s Landing that I think is the focus of the first book in the series? I dunno. It doesn’t take away from the story of this book if you haven’t read the others, it’s just mostly Easter eggs I think. Anyway, this book made me interested in possibly starting this series from the beginning, so maybe I’ll have more fun with the name dropping when I’m more familiar with the other characters. And maybe if I’m lucky, Brennan and Zafir will show up in some of the other books.
The Couple: The first half of our romantic duo, the one we’re first introduced to, is Brennan Cross. Brennan is a 25-year-old semipro skateboarder who works in Bluewater Bay’s local skate shop. He’s a pretty average guy, one who’s spent his whole life thinking that he was straight. Three cheating girlfriends later he heads to a sex shop to see what he’s doing wrong and ends up learning that he may not be as straight as he thought. Brennan’s an easy-going guy who is dedicated to both his skating and his partners. Zafir Hamady is an asexual Lebanese-born Muslim who is working at Bluewater Bay’s only sex shop, and very confident in his sexual identity. He’s a single father and very dedicated to the care of his son, making him a borderline overprotective parent. He’s a very patient and hardworking man, and very excited to finally find another asexual in his small town.
The Kid: The only child character in this book is Tariq Hamady, Zafir’s nine-year-old son. Zafir lives for this boy, putting him above all else, so he does show up a lot in the story. Luckily, he’s a well-written character and not so cute that it makes you want to vomit. His only real purpose in the story is to be cute and to bond with Brennan, he does both very well so any scenes with him are still fun to read.
The Romance: So the romance in this book is a little different than what I’m used to because it kind of just sneaks up on you. And on Zafir and Brennan, as it turns out. Both Zafir and Brennan are asexual and that’s initially what brings them together as friends. Brennan has questions and Zafir has answers, the fact that they both find the other enjoyable to hang around with comes as a pleasant surprise. Neither man feels sexual attraction, so getting the point across that these two are head over heels for each other has to be written in a different way than one may be used to reading. I’m not even sure if I can even remember anything coming up about either of them finding the other attractive (though I do think they are physically attracted to each other). The romantic feelings mostly stem from how comfortable they are with each other and how much fun they have when they’re together and how they can’t wait to see the other again once they’ve parted for the day. It’s not exactly a slow burn, I don’t think, but their relationship progresses naturally from friends to lovers, and it doesn’t feel forced at any point.
The Religion: Zafir is Muslim. It’s very obvious and it’s stated both in the text and by Zafir himself. He was born in Lebanon and raised in America as a Muslim. He’s also raising his son in the same religion. The chapters from his point of view (it’s written in first person) contain some religious talk, like thanking Allah, and Allah’s will and such. I mostly found that annoying as I am not a religious person and don’t understand how it all works, but that’s just a personal peeve of mine. There isn’t too too much of it in there, so it doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the story overall, or interrupt the narrative, so it’s not too bad. On the flip side of that, he also mentions a few Muslim traditions (rites? I’m not quite sure what they are) that are briefly explained (to Brennan), so if that’s something that interests you there’s that. Brennan doesn’t mention being particularly religious at all, so he doesn’t bring it up, although he seems pretty interested whenever Zafir brings up something new. Religion itself isn’t really a big part of the overall story though, it’s just a part of Zafir’s character.
The Ex: It’s mentioned in the summary that every girlfriend that Brennan has ever had (three in total) have all cheated on him. We only meet one of these girlfriends in the book, the last one, Aimee. I hated Aimee, though Brennan doesn’t seem to for some reason. I sometimes think that Brennan’s just a bit too easy-going. Anyway. Hate. The book starts out with Brennan reeling from his breakup with Aimee after discovering her in their apartment, in their bed, fucking another guy. Jee-zus Christ. What a bitch. It’s this situation that drives Brennan to check out the sex shop. This is the third girlfriend to have cheated on him because ‘he can’t give them what they need’ (in bed, I’m assuming, since Brennan is only ace, not aro), so Brennan heads over to the sex shop to figure out what it is he’s been doing wrong (which just made me sad, really). Aimee shows up a few more times, she and Brennan have the same circle of friends which, awkward. She never managed to endear herself to me, like at all. Especially at one point where she gives Brennan a sort of speech that has him rethinking his new sexual orientation and relationship (which, although was something I expected to happen, still pissed me off). I still can’t figure out where she was coming from with that; if she was genuinely concerned for what she perceived as Brennan completely changing identities after a somewhat traumatic breakup, or bitter that Brennan seemed happier without her and her new beau is a complete fucktrumpet, or just all-around acephobia. Or maybe a combination of all three.
The Sex: None. Nada. Zilch. There are no sexytimes to be found anywhere in this book. Brennan and Zafir are both ace and although they’ve both had sexual relationships in the past they are not talked about in great detail during the story itself. Both men seem to have the attitude towards sex that they’ll participate if their partner wants it, and they’ll enjoy it, but they won’t initiate it and they won’t purposefully seek it out. Once they get together, sex is pretty much off the table for them, neither of them are too fussed about it. That’s not to say that they aren’t intimate with each other; they are, it’s just not sexual. They kiss and they cuddle and they share a bed, but it’s all very much SFW. Also their first kiss and their first time sharing a bed was SO MUCH YES!! These two don’t need to have sex to show their love for each other, their other actions get the point across well enough.
The Writing: I loved the writing. It was awesome. I was a bit hesitant when it turned out to be written in first person POV, but it soon became clear that I wasn’t going to have any issues with it. The writing here is great, it reads easy and there are no typos or weird grammar errors (that I noticed, anyway). Also it was pretty funny, Brennan’s parts especially. Just the way some things were worded made me laugh, both men have very entertaining voices and that adds a layer of fun over everything. Brennan and Zafir’s relationship isn’t sexual, so there isn’t any UST or anything, but the anticipation of being together still comes through in the writing, so that’s UIT? I guess? Unresolved Intimate Tension? I dunno, it worked is what I’m getting at.
[All the Wrong Places was published June 13, 2016 by Riptide Publishing, and is available both in print and as an ebook]