by Jules Jones, contemporary (2007)
Loose Id, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-59632-410-7
Our hero Mark No-Last-Name is an "industry sponsored PhD student", which is to say he gets to work on a particular research program for Some Company and work on his thesis at the same. However, he is given a tip by his superior Sanjay - the company may be laying off some staff soon so Mark really should consider applying for the position of the personal assistant of Dr Steven Frost, a 44-year old chemical engineer and CEO in Some Other Company. So what do you get when you put two guys who can't wait to jump each other's bones in the same office room?
As I read Lord And Master (which, by the way, is not a BDSM story), which is published at a time when an early renaissance of gay romance seems to be taking place, I find myself wondering whether I am the correct person to assess this book.
You see, as a doddering heterosexual woman, I actually don't find Lord And Master too particularly exciting because after the two guys get down to business for the first time, what little of the plot dissipates and for the rest of the story it's all about the wonderful sex those two guys are having and all those trivial little insecurities they have between them that are solved neatly by the end of the day. Sometimes, literally, by the end of the same day when these issues are brought up. This story's lack of conflict makes me feel bored and even impatient for something - anything! - to happen. Alas, there is no conflict to be had, just a long happy choo-choo train to Blissville that takes a hundred pages too many to get there. Some potentially interesting conflicts, such as the possibility of Steven having anger issues, are brought up and then solved within one to three pages. As a result, Lord And Master feels like a padded story that doesn't have enough plot or conflict to sustain its length.
I also wish there is a little bit more detail in the story to add a bit of color to it. What exactly are these guys doing at work, for example? Nobody in this story voices any kind of significant disagreement with the main characters. There's nothing wrong with this, of course, but when the story is already lacking a strong element of conflict, this only adds to ho-hum nature of the story. Ms Jones solves the conflicts of his main characters too quickly. No conflict or secondary character truly challenges the main characters so it's nothing but pages after pages of how Mark and Steven spend their time together.
Still, I can't help thinking that perhaps a gay reader would appreciate such lack of conflict in this story better than I do. There have to be some guys out there, I'm sure, who wish that there is a more pleasant middle ground between queer lit books, where every other relationship crashes down to pieces, and queer romantic movies, where everyone's a promiscuous loser trying to channel their inner Brian Kinney or a pathetic spineless milquetoast pining after and becoming a doormat for unattainable straight men. Lord And Master may be what they are looking for since both main characters are openly gay, there is a happy ending, and there is a reassuring sense of fidelity, stability, monogamy, and permanence absent in many elements of queer lit and cinema.
Therefore, there is a part of me that wants me to be more forgiving of the fact that Lord And Master nearly puts me to sleep because for all I know, this story could be exactly what Ms Jones' readers are looking for and want more of. I am torn here. This book could use a conflict, external or internal, to spice things up. A conflict could show me how these characters deal with each other in times of stress. After all, it's easy to say "I love you!" when life is all about roses and chocolates. Put the characters under some test, such as having to deal with a significant conflict of opinion when it comes to some aspect of their lives together, and perhaps I will find their romance more compelling to read about.
Well, I've stated how I feel about this book. If someone slash the word count of this story by half so that there are less chapters that feel like mere padding, I may find this story less drawn-out and hence more enjoyable. The die is in your hand, so to speak. If you want to read about two gay guys in love in a story that has minimal conflict for 148 pages, this may just be your lucky day.
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