by Jaye Valentine and Reno MacLeod, contemporary (2009)
Noble Romance Publishing, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-60592-067-2
Baseball, academia, and sodomy come together in A Perfect Game, a story reminiscent of those trashy teen movies starring Rob Lowe in a jockstrap, only with a gay bent.
We have Christopher Pennington, a 20-year old baseball wunderkind, whose problem is that he prefers baseball to homework. Alas, he can't just play baseball to pass his Visual Communications Studies course in Calvert Christian College in Providence, Rhode Island. Kit is also of the working class, so he doesn't feel that he fits in with the rest of his peers. All we need is a soundtrack playing New Romantics tunes in constant rotation and we are set as Kit broods and walks down the hallway of his college.
Instead of an ingenue played by Molly Ringwald, the love interest comes in the form of blond, tall, and hunky Professor Liam Dalton. As Kit puts it: Jesus, the guy looked hot, hot with a capital Fuck Me. Liam takes over from Kit's usual lecturer when the woman goes off on maternity leave, and Kit finds that communicating visually with Professor Dalton is actually very fun after all.
A part of me who enjoys those silly teen movies of the 1980s reacts positively to A Perfect Game. Kit is a quintessential Angry Young Man, a Rebel Without A Clue, and under any other circumstances, I'd say that at 20, he should probably start trying to act grown up instead of a surly teen with a chip on his shoulders. Still, the authors manage to make him a pretty believable character with some charms despite his perpetual brooding.
But I'm a bit thrown off by the BDSM elements in this story. It is one thing to have a relationship between a younger man and his professor, but having this younger man picking up a flogger and mastering that fellow because Kit is apparently a super Dom requires too much of a suspension of disbelief on my part. Also, I find it perplexing that Liam eventually talks about feeling safe in Kit's arms. Kit is an angry 20-year old kid who shows very little interest in anything other than baseball. I can only wonder about Liam's issues if he feels safe in the arms of this whiny little brat. Then again, Liam shows this need to serve his Masters by cooking, cleaning, and such for them. I can only wonder whether it's all about love here or conditioned behavior.
Of course, there is a chance that I am just being stereotypical here as I associate Doms with masterful folks with very good sense of control, a character trait which I don't feel is portrayed convincingly in Kit. I will admit here to having poor grasp of the psychological aspects of a BDSM relationship, so perhaps the problem is on my part. Still, the story doesn't work for me, and unfortunately, since I am the reader here, that is what ultimately matters where I am concerned. The authors can't sell me the fantasy.
It's not that this is a badly written book. The authors have an engaging narrative technique and they even made me like Kit, someone who would usually give me the heebie-jeebies on a good day. The first few chapters and the last chapter are pretty good, reminiscent of those cheesy movies where the jock proves the world wrong, gets the girl, and gives the establishment who now adores him the middle finger. I'm afraid I just don't get the BDSM and the Master-sub dynamic in this story.
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