Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-030-9
Historical Romance, 2015
The pairing of a masc jock and a sensitive lovelorn dude continues in Joanna Chambers’s Unnatural. Not that this should be a surprise, as much of the gay romance genre has been basically a “masc u b 2, no black/Asian/fat/femme” Grindr profile long before the existence of Grindr.
James Hart is into nature, biology, and other sensitive, intellectual stuff, and he is definitely into the biology of Iain Hart, who acted as his bodyguard of sorts when they were younger (James is in the water, oh no, the fragile but masc dude may drown so masc jock Iain must swim out to save him!).
He’d suspected as soon as he’d caught that first glimpse of them emerging from the trees, heard the soft, intimate music of their voices. James might have no experience himself, but he’d heard about men who indulged in… unnatural desires. Men who did the very things that he spent hours in his bed at night trying to imagine while he stroked his aching prick.
Naturally, the sensitive dude is the “Oh my god, dudes do that?” wide-eyed virgin furiously choking his own chicken, while the masc jock is the more sexually experienced one. That’s the way the universe should be. Manly man on top; sensitive guys are like women, so they play the wife, just like straight people do, isn’t that cute?
Unnatural alternates between one chapter in the past and one chapter in the present, which actually makes me feel a bit seasick after a while. I don’t know why the author has to resort to this gimmick, but the gimmick is no distraction from the fact that this is an utterly clichéd story that resembles every gay story that features this pairing ever since thirteen-year old girls from the dawn of Star Trek‘s launch into space were first empowered to write slash fanfiction.
Oh, Iain may be a more sexually experienced person in the duo, but he can’t, because of their friendship! But James is really hungry for that peen, so he is upset by the rejection. James is predictably melodramatic – by hurting James’s feelings, Iain has destroyed – DESTROYED! – him! But it’s okay, because Iain finally gets over his issues and whips out that big thing, only to tremble like a sensitive senpai because he doesn’t want to hurt James by sticking that big destroyer of anuses of tenderly sensitive intellectual but still masc dudes everywhere into that man. James will go, oh no, senpai, it’s okay, like every deliriously happy kōhai who is about to be penetrated with love, he has magical wide, saucer-sized, starry eyes and a wonderfully stretchable chocolate chute that can accommodate girth and length of any dimension. And all the powerful spurts of magic boo-boo juice into his darling true love finally allow Iain to find inner peace at last.
Seriously, nothing is surprising here, right down to who tops and who bottoms. From the first page, each character is defined by gay romance tropes, and the scenes and plot developments are all straight from “Senpai, notice me!” central. There is nothing Unnatural here for people who are familiar with all these tropes – this is one story that can be missing huge chunks of words and those readers can still catch up because they can fill in the blanks with their trope knowledge.
Can’t the author at least have the sensitive dude top, just to make things feel a little less like it’s in autopilot mode?