The Janitor by Jan Irving

The Janitor by Jan Irving


I’m a naturally optimistic type of person, you know? Yeah, I think good things will happen, only they usually don’t. Take Noel: even though he’s educated and rich and he don’t think he’s even gay, I want to belong to him. I want him to take me completely—Dane Connelly

Dane Connelly is a gay janitor and boxer with a soft heart and a simple outlook–he wants to meet the right man, someone who will look past his macho sport and put him in the place of a submissive. He wants to fall in love and belong to his partner.

On the surface, Noel Atherton, an intellectual, shy, and sexually repressed university graduate student with a crippled leg, could not be the dominant lover that Dane longs for. But after their first meeting, when Dane disables the fire alarm in the library and lights a cigarette, Noel is drawn from his shell. Soon, Noel needs to touch Dane, exploring his sexuality for the first time. And both learn that looks can be deceiving.

However, Noel’s controlling father is appalled by the relationship and quietly arranges to get Dane out of the way and punish him for daring to love a man so far above his station.




At first glance, it would be rather easy to pass this off as a bad book. Without a doubt, The Janitor is not a stellar piece of quality fiction. However, the plot and characters ideas are intriguing and could have been crafted in such a way to deliver a complex and emotional journey as these two men find love.  Yet the author commits several glaring and amateurish mistakes, which turn this novel from something with potential to an exaggerated stereotype, filled with homophobic dialogue and one-dimensional characters. Seeing as this is the debut novel for the author, one hopes future novels will grow from these mistakes into a fully realized and developed plot with complicated and involved characters. None of which was present here, but lurking under the bad writing is a hint of possible potential.

The plot revolves around Dane, the actual janitor, who befriends Noah and the two embark on a pseudo-BDSM sexual relationship complete with role-playing, fantasy fulfillment and the evil, controlling father with more money than God manipulating it all. The exaggerated tropes and obvious plot devices did the story no favors and created a predictable course of action down to the final resolution, which was incredibly unbelievable and unrealistic even considering the outrageous artificial world the author created. The story attempted to infuse emotion in its prose but failed due to poor writing, inconsistent pacing, and empty stereotypical characters.

The third person POV writing was a big mistake. The writing was third person alternating between Noel and Dane’s perspective yet written with such prose and phrasing as if the story was first person point of view from Dane, therefore creating a low level of quality writing. While this could be acceptable if the story had actually been written from Dane’s POV, but the choice to use third person simply resulted in a badly written piece of fiction that jars the pace and flow of the story. From word choice and phrasing to exaggerated emphasis, the story reads from Dane’s perspective as an uneducated, simple, yet sensitive man. This could have been handled many different ways instead of giving the impression the author is a poor writer.

The characters are often flat and stereotypical using a variety of almost insulting themes for gay men and clearly a woman’s idea of gay men and relationships. While this wouldn’t even be cause for mentioning but the over use of slang, and gay tropes is glaring. From the use of the word “date” for any sex Dane has to the comment from a random hookup about not wanting to hear talking during sex or he wouldn’t be gay, these glaring stereotypes are distracting. For example:

“Who you talkin’ to, queer boy?” his trainer asked him.
“Someone very nice, who I hope to impress. I’m just tryin’ to memorize some things, you know?”
“I thought you boys just fucked each other’s asses? What’s there to talk about?”

None of this is helped by the author’s portrayal of Dane. He’s supposed to be a sweet, sensitive, big-hearted man who’s not dumb but just uneducated. Yet throughout the book Dane constantly tells himself and others how stupid he is and rarely, if ever, is he contradicted. Even his friends make excuses for his mental inadequacies to the point that it is surprising Dane can function at all. His sweet and trusting nature is shown time and time again as is his misguided notions about love, trust, pride, and being a man. Dane claims he likes to be told what to do and this is clear as his decision-making processes and ability to understand even the most simplistic concepts seems to elude him. Whether Dane truly enjoyed being dominated sexually or just knew he needed someone to help him survive the various pitfalls of life is debatable. The character is somewhat likeable but more pitiable as the author repeatedly makes him more stupid than believable.

Which brings up Noel, Dane’s sexual dominant and a man in need of serious therapy. Noel is a sheltered cripple living with the typical overbearing and evil father. Noel can’t seem to stand up to his father and going so far as to belittle Dane repeatedly both in front of Noel’s father and even in later arguments referring to Dane as “stupid” and a “moron”. This kind of abusive relationship they have in no way supports a healthy BDSM relationship not to mention the creepy way Noel calls himself “Daddy” considering the numerous father issues he has. Noel claims to own Dane early on in the story yet fails Dane repeatedly throughout the book with no consequences since Dane forgives Noel easily and without much thought. This uneven and ultimately unhealthy relationship supposedly ends happily with Noel in some much needed therapy.

There are additional characters such as the overbearing, evil father who has money and power to manipulate everything from Dane’s job to his apartment with the requisite and predictable physical violence. The man is of course in the closet about his own sexuality and has anger management problems, going so far as to urinate on his son’s bed at one point. Because of course a rich, successful doctor who is a cardboard cut out for evil would do something like that. The father as well has a totally unbelievable and melodramatic ending, which actually fits in well with the over the top and overdone ridiculous final fight scene. Why call the police on a potential murderer when you can instead agree to a boxing match and prove your manliness? This plot twist made absolutely no sense and just capped off a poorly written story.

From beginning to the end the author uses the easiest and most obvious choices instead of imbuing subtly, complexity, and interest into her story. The attempt to make the reader emotionally connect with Dane fell flat because while he certainly is portrayed as an innocent, sweet man he is also close to being completely helpless with his lack of mental ability. Thus it is painful to watch the repeated betrayals he’s subjected to on every level. Add in the poor phrasing with homophobic overtures and unrealistic behaviors littering the pages and this is an unfortunate failure. For those readers of the m/m genre that prefer their romance well written, well crafted, with three-dimensional characters – pass this one by. I was lured by the gorgeous cover and should have read the excerpt. 

Listed HERE! 


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2 thoughts on “The Janitor by Jan Irving

    • I got sucked in by the cover and I think I’d already bought it when you were sporking it. Or I didn’t realize it was this book..or I just like punishment – any of those could be the reason.
      But yanno, I’ve read worse. Not many or by much but I have…

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