Liquid Silver Books, $6.10, ISBN 978-1-59578-952-5
Contemporary Romance, 2012
The underlying premise of Cameron Dane’s A Younger Man is a familiar one. Our older gay man, 42-year old Noah Maitland, wants the much younger man, Zane Halliday, and the attraction is reciprocated. There is some drama about Zane being the sole breadwinner but he is failing miserably at it so his two siblings will starve, be thrown onto the streets, et cetera, unless he gets a cash infusion from a loan shark. Of course, Noah has the money, so there’s not much suspense here as to how that subplot will be resolved. What is present in abundance is here is prolonged and excruciatingly tedious angst.
The thing is, there is no good excuse why the angst has to keep going for so long. Zane and Noah are already attracted to each other from the get go, so the author resorts to contrived reasons to keep the story going. Therefore, every single thing that happens here becomes an excuse for Noah to behave like a chronically depressed Eeyore. First, he divorced his wife to come out of the closet for some dude, who found love with another guy instead, so Noah starts off whining and moping about he can’t bring himself to start dating again. And then, it’s why he shouldn’t go after Zane, and the reasons just keep coming, one after the other. First, Zane’s too young. Then, he’s too innocent. Then, he’s… ugh, it’s always one reason or the other, to the point that even the idea of Noah happily feeding Zane his big banana sends Noah into a downward spiral of guilt. Noah is a stereotypical character in a gay romps: the emotionally needy and desperate guy obsessively chasing after the object of his desire, only this time, Noah brings on so much angst and bruised feelings over minor things that he comes off like the second most special snowflake ever.
The most special snowflake award goes to Zane. Like many younger guys in romance stories, he is given a ridiculous surfeit of one-dimensional wholesomeness, perhaps to compensate for any guilt or disquiet a reader may harbor for enjoying a story with an age gap of about twenty years between the main characters. Zane is noble, virtuous, selfless, blah blah blah, and he comes with needy siblings as accessories. But the author then ramps up the creep factor by making Zane into some kind of innocent child in a porn star’s body. Zane has only kissed two girls before, he is chaste, and Noah spends a lot of time in dramatic mental flailing over the fact that his penis would be the first one that Noah has seen this close to his face. Like Noah, Zane is no slouch when it comes to creating excuses and reasons as to why never their body parts should meet, at least until the author had spent thousands and thousands of words bombarding me with these characters’ tedious moping until I am practically numbed from the boredom.
Cameron Dane likes her characters to speak in florid and purple prose, and here, Zane and Noah are no different. They speak as if they are reciting out loud the worst excerpts from the author’s previous efforts.
“I was going to tell you something like that a minute ago,” Zane chuckled, and new pink bloomed under the afterglow still making his skin glisten, “but when you started coming so powerfully, I lost myself, and all I could do was fall into the pleasure you were feeling and willfully let it suck me into the abyss too.”
I’m sure Zane’s abyss is really great, but it had been an excruciating journey from constant moping into pleasurable falling into a carrot-stuffed abyss. Oh yes, there is a scene here that involves a carrot being shoved into where the sun doesn’t shine, and the scene is more comical than erotic. Maybe it’s because I personally feel by the last page that someone had shoved a big carrot of stupefying boredom into my own abyss and I can only feel so much relief when this overlong and boring story is finally over.
Oh, and I’m also deducting a few more points from the final score of this book out of principle. A story with carrot sex should never be this lifeless.