Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-61922-992-1
Historical Romance, 2015
One of the more annoying nonsense often parroted by female authors of gay romance stories is how their stories are apparently different from straight romances – often with the implication that it’s a superior kind of difference – in that we can all avoid straight romance tropes in such stories. Well, here’s one story you can use to debunk that line of thought the next time you need examples to counter those people. Straight, gay, whatever – sometimes, the tropes are the same, and in this particular instance, the tropes are just as similarly eye-rolling.
George Johnson is the cute guy that has moved into a boardinghouse in which Matthew McConaughey… wait, that’s not right, let me check me again. Oh yes, Matthew Connaught, a cheerful bloke who likes animals and buggery, although not necessarily in that order and not necessarily in a linked manner either. Matthew certainly would like to get to know George better, but little does he know that George has a secret. George is actually Roger Cottingham, a former code-breaker with the British government during World War 1. Now basically unemployable, the poor guy goes for one more hurrah by posing as George and getting to know Matthew, who may be a spy that is responsible for the death of Roger’s brother. Can Roger pull a dodger on Matthew, or will he end up fodder for the bodger?
Despite the initial premise, George – let’s just call him that in this review – doesn’t do must investigating here, unless we are talking about investigating Matthew’s tonsils and plumbing, that is. In fact, our sweet little sensitive darling spends more time whining, moaning, groaning, and wringing his hands like the stereotype of the British fop. From the moment when he is sickened and horrified at the idea of arming himself with a weapon just in case, to all those moments when he is blinking, stammering and what not, this guy looks more suited for a nice quiet stay in a sanitarium. The guy comes off as a walking bag of nerves. I suspect that all his constant second-guessing, self-flagellation, and such is to make him seem sympathetic, but I find that George is just a trying character to follow. Show him a ready-for-action peen and he immediately gets distracted, sigh. Whose idea is it again to send this fellow on a mission of subterfuge? This story ends with George experiencing a “pressing need to blink”, mind you, so that fellow remains a stereotype of the ineffectual, overly-emotional, and melodramatic gay protagonist from start to end.
“There’s a tin of Vaseline in the drawer. We’ll need lots of that. And a towel to save the sheets.”
George blushed as he realised what they’d be saving them from. “And I won’t hurt you?”
“Not if you go slow. Use your fingers on me first.”
George’s blush grew ever deeper as he followed Matthew’s directions – he’d never touched another man there. He couldn’t believe how much it increased his desire as he did so – and how much Matthew seemed to enjoy being touched, which sent his arousal spiralling even higher. “Oh God. I shan’t last, you know,” he said as he lined himself up, ready to take the momentous final step. “I want you too much.”
Matthew, on his knees with his arm braced on the headboard, looked back over his shoulder. “I don’t care. As long as you’re inside me, I don’t care.”
Please stop, the whole “I DON’T WANT TO HURT YOU SENPAI BUT I… I HAVE TO STICK IT IN AAAAH AAAAH! AAAAH!” thing is creeping me out.
And anyone who says that he or she doesn’t care if someone gets off too soon, leaving him or her high and dry, is a liar.
I usually have few issues with JL Merrow’s stories, but To Love a Traitor is an overwrought mess that prioritizes fanfiction/bara-style tropes over everything else. I get goosebumps of the wrong kind while reading this story, and if I have to spend a second trapped in an elevator with George, I’d happily rip out his ribs and stab his eyes with them, Mortal Kombat-style. What? Why are you looking at me like that?