Cultivating Love by Addison Albright
A man of few words, Joe is a hard-working farmhand who likes his simple, uncomplicated life. Ed is satisfied with his existence as an auto mechanic, but thrilled when an unexpected development in his life allows him to help Joe realize a dream.
It forces them, however, to reevaluate the casual, undefined nature of their relationship. They’re too macho to speak of love, and neither would ever dream of acknowledging he doesn’t really mind when it’s his turn to bottom. When life throws them a curve ball, and the rules of their game get old, Ed makes an effort to take every aspect of their relationship up a notch. Will Joe be able to adapt to the open sentimentality Ed’s injecting into their relationship, let alone the new spice in their bedroom activities?
I’ve read several shorter stories from this author and although they did tend to be sweet and sappy, sometimes edging into too much, the thread of humor and romance woven into the writing attracted me. Unfortunately this book feels like a huge step backward for the author and I wouldn’t recommend it. The writing was nowhere near what I’m used to from Albright and the storyline itself has huge holes. This reads like an early work resurrected, but if you’re new to the author, begin with another book. Perhaps skip this one entirely.
This book had a lot of problems for me from beginning to end. From recycled plots to inconsistent characterization to ridiculous plot turns, this is a poorly written, poorly conceived book that failed to deliver the emotional height it was aiming. I personally found so many problems that I couldn’t suspend my disbelief long enough to go with the fantasy of the relationship presented. This for me is a poor quality book that readers accept because they like emotional men and ultimately the author. Well, I like emo men as well but I prefer it in a well-crafted setting that I know the author is capable of, or has been in the past.
To start with the most obvious problem, the relationship and characterization of the leading men is very inconsistent and unattractive. Joe and Ed are in their mid-20s, have been together for two and a half years and still kept their relationship very casual and loose. There were unspoken rules about keeping emotions away, not expressing feelings, offering no commitment to each other even though they live together and have for years. Their sex life was also jarring and odd considering comments such as they go several days without sex even though they’re in their early 20s. The only sex they would indulge in with each other was anal sex since giving blowjobs and rubbing off on each other was considered too emotional. This felt awkward and unnatural to the relationship. Young, virile, gay men not giving blowjobs? Not that I’m an expert but it doesn’t make sense that younger men in their early to mid-20s would sexually limit themselves this way, especially with a long term partner. This is explained: “In all their time together, Joe had never made any moves to give him a blowjob, and so he’d never initiated one either.”
Apparently equality in the relationship is paramount as it extends to everything, especially their sexual relationship. Both men are very vocal about taking turns on who gets to “top” when they do actually have anal sex. Then all of a sudden with the inheritance of a farm, both men seem to change completely from remote and isolated men into emotional, sharing, and sexually adventurous (for them). Even though the impetus for change is clearly there with the change in their life, the sudden and abrupt departure from their behavior is ill fitting. There wasn’t enough context and action to adequately shift from never willing to express their feelings to crying several times and bringing an unprecedented level of emotion and feeling into their relationship. These two go so far as to have numerous emotional discussions about their relationship when a mere 2 weeks before, this would have been unthinkable. Furthermore they take the surprising step of willing to participate in blowjobs and the dreaded frottage. This weird emotional and physical distance in their relationship, which persisted for over two years but no longer exists, is shown partly in this quote:
They’d always held themselves in check, neither wanting to act like he actually enjoyed bottoming or willing to come forward and admit he’d be willing to suck cock. They’d even held back just plain making out, not wanting to show too much actual emotion toward the other. Ed knew what they’d been missing now and was determined that it would be different going forward.
There are other strangeness to their sex life, such as rubbing off on another man is apparently bad, but now since they can cry in front of each other exposing this aspect to their sex life is acceptable.
In the back of his mind, a small piece of his brain told him that getting his jollies rubbing on another man’s leg while sucking him off was not something he wanted to live down. His cock didn’t give a flying fuck, though.
Beyond the awkward and unbelievable sexual relationship, there are overwhelming family elements woven into the story. There is Joe’s 17 y/o sister who hasn’t spoken to Joe in 8 years but decides to runaway from a restrictive home life. This young lady manages to find Joe’s new address at the farm – where he’s been for just over a week and the farm isn’t in his name yet. The post office likely hasn’t processed change of address let alone how this girl out of nowhere found the address and managed to get there. So this entire aside is a stretch to begin with but then said sister is able to articulate with intelligence and wisdom well beyond her age about the conflict between Joe and his father. Not only has neither man bothered to close that rift but for “an hour’s worth of arguments in 18 years of loving memories”, Joe cuts off his entire family for 8 years until his sister shows him the way, out of the blue, leading to a tearful reconciliation with his father.
Then to cap that wholly unrealistic and conceptually flawed scene, a week’s vacation and a festival for the daughter who’s responsible enough to runaway to the brother she hasn’t spoken to in eight years and should have no way of finding him. I fail to see where she was responsible or how it was even possible, but then she’s rewarded for running away from home and worrying her parents. The stretch of believability has snapped at this point unfortunately. Furthermore, this entire element to the plot was totally unnecessary and added little to nothing in the way of plot development or character progression. It added more plot holes and problems for a little emotion and tears on Joe’s part. The emotional advancement to Joe and Ed’s relationship, which I think is rather weak and anemic anyway as the presence of tears does not constitute emotion on its own, could have been achieved by Joe simply talking about his family past with Ed instead of including an unrealistic and distracting excursion with the sister.
The book does pick up some after Joe is injured mostly because of the reality of the situation is finally believable and interesting. The injury is understandable as is the entirety of actions surrounding it up to the final chapter and the epilogue. There was absolutely no reason to add in that final part and why the author chose to do that is not only a mystery but topped off the ridiculous quotient on the book, which was already rather high. The resolution to the violence presented could have been achieved another way and why this way was chosen, I’m not entirely sure nor was it even fitting with the book. The epilogue was emotional and yes, sappy, but for romantics it’s satisfying. I can’t harp on the sweet ending but the journey there was simply poorly done and absolutely not what I was expecting from an author I’ve previously rather enjoyed. I really hope this was an aberration.
Considering the reviews this book has been getting it’s clear readers are willing to forgive the inherent problems and enjoy the emotional journey. So you judge yourself.
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