(Published by Amber Quill Press)
I’m always on the side of an artist who steps out and tries something different. That kind of experimentation refreshes both the artist and his audence, whether or not the attempt is totally successful. But in his first go at erotic romance, M4M, horror author Rick R. Reed doesn’t have to worry about his success rate.
M4M is comprised of two novellas previously published in electronic form – “VGL Male Seeks Same” and “NEG UB2” – both featuring Dorito-chomping theatre publicist Ethan Schwartz and his newly-found boyfriend Brian. In the first installment, Ethan snags Brian after a bumpy Internet interlude where he uses a much handsomer pic to sell himself. Craigslist anyone? I wouldn’t be spoiling the read to say it all comes out fine in the end.
It’s the second piece that stands the book on its head. Ethan, not exactly a sexual adventurer, finds himself diagnosed HIV-positive with only one possible way he could have caught the disease – new boyfriend Brian. Or is it? Can Ethan and Brian overcome this breach of trust to continue their relationship or will their new love go out with Monday’s trash? If I told you, that would be the spoiler.
I particularly liked the parallelism between the two novellas, plot-wise (both plots turn on Internet twists) and stylistically. They even start out with the same sentence pattern – “Ethan White was alone.” and “Ethan White was stunned.” with both plots serving to remedy those conditions. And Reed is a powerful writer, creating two multi-faceted characters you’ll be happy to meet.
The tone, however, is different in the second novella. The first is light and breezy, but the second is much darker as befits the subject. Ethan is still the same 1940’s-movie-loving romantic, but his sense of romance has been injured by Brian’s perceived betrayal. This shift in tone is what lifts M4M from standard – albeit well-done – romance fare into a realm where the characters are allowed to grow and change.
M4M isn’t the roller-coaster ride Rick R. Reed fans are used to, but instead turns out to be a refreshing change of pace that shows his versatility and his talent for making us cry as well as scream.