Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-539-9
Contemporary Romance, 2009
You Can Leave Your Hat On sees Sawyer Addison, a professor of Something That Is Probably Not Important in the University of Somewhere, and his TA, Harlan Sheppard, having the hots for each other. Of course, Sawyer doesn’t want to sleep with his hot TA who also happens to moonlight as a stripper in a club called Tricky Dix (seriously). But the moment Harlan graduates, he sends Sawyer an invitation to put his choo-choo train into Harlan’s “tunnel” (don’t look at me, I’m just lifting the word as used by the author) – one that Sawyer can’t resist. What happens now?
Now, I’m all for sexy strippers with hearts of gold reaching out and gripping hold of the man they want with both hands, but I have to wonder what it is that Harlan sees in Sawyer. He describes Sawyer as “kind, funny, and a straight shooter”, but Sawyer comes off instead like a self-absorbed jackass who embraces the stereotype of an academician: rude, socially inept, and insufferable. To Sawyer, Harlan being a stripper means that Harlan is also a cheap whore, which makes his own attraction to Harlan more than a little hypocritical. Poor Harlan is a stereotype as well – he’s the stripper who is only in it for the money and the author compensates hard for Harlan’s occupation by making Harlan an almost unnaturally older-sounding lovelorn young man. What does he see in Sawyer? Sawyer treats him like a dog good for only one thing for so long; I end up suspecting that Harlan must have self-esteem issues to want a man like that.
The author also often crosses the fine line that separates naughty wit from crass and tasteless humor in this story. I can do without those “jokes” regaled by Harlan’s brother to him about their parents’ sexual marathon in a hotel room, for example.
Harlan is a sweet stereotype. The rest of the story, however, is a pretty bewildering showcase of the poor man’s dysfunctional adoration of an older man who doesn’t treat him well for most of the story, complete with scenes that end up more awkward than the author intended them to be.