Chip Arnold is a well-liked football coach at a small liberal arts college, but his personal life is in a bit of a rut. He goes out drinking with his colleagues, gets along well with his players, and dates all the prettiest women in town—he has the life most straight men dream of. But lately none of the women he dates seem to be igniting any passion in him. Then he meets the new school chaplain, Foster Lewis.
Romantic attraction to another man is new and terrifying, and Chip just can’t put his finger on why he’s drawn to Foster, but it’s stronger than anything he’s felt for anyone in his life. Never one to back down from a challenge, Chip decides to go for it. But love is never simple, and sometimes it’s a downright mess!
This one is a bit of a mixed offering for me. On the one hand I like Eric Arvin’s unique voice and his humor is very entertaining. It’s a bit over the top but he has a way of inviting the reader to laugh along with him and his characters. The writing is economical without extraneous, never ending descriptions. However for all of that, the attempt here to describe every day men who fall in love just didn’t work well for me. I found the story boring and difficult to engage and ultimately I didn’t particularly like any of the characters. This is likely to be very reader dependant and I’ll still continue to buy/read Arvin’s books.
The story follows two sets of men as they work their way to a happy ending. The first set is the football coach at a small college, Chip, and the new pastor, Foster. Chip is the classic ladies man that sleeps around a lot, loves sports, and doesn’t do well with emotions or communication. Foster is an openly gay chaplain, struggling with a recent breakup and trying to find something outside of his vocation to focus on. While Chip never imagined being gay, Foster wonders if he’ll ever find a healthy, happy relationship with another man. Their relationship starts off with a bang as Chip is immediately attracted to Foster and pursues the younger man vigorously. Chip doesn’t spend much time agonizing over his first gay relationship, he throws himself into the new experience and assumes an immediate confidence that even Foster lacks.
Alongside these two are two young men, best friends and football players that realize their friendship has romantic overtones. Brad and Jason are always together and their rough housing and teasing has lately taken on an erotic edge. The story follows these two as they figure out what they want and how to take their friendship to a sexual relationship. While these two young men are by turns outrageous and funny, I’m not sure why this storyline is added. Their relationship is not bad or distracting, but it’s not the main focus and it seems as though the story wanted to show another common, everyday couple. These two men are meant to typify young jocks with their behavior and that is translated well while their new status as boyfriends doesn’t raise any issues.
The dual stories lines are shown in third person viewpoint that hops around a bit. Sometimes this is confusing as it’s difficult to tell if the reader is in Brad or Jason’s head since the boys are very similar in many ways. Additionally there are no sex scenes and all the sex is fade to black, which in this case works very well. The focus on the men and the mostly easy road to happiness isn’t distracted by angst or sex for the most part. The writing tends to be sparse and economical, all written in the author’s unique style of voice. The humor tends to be over the top in some ways with exaggerated effects which sometimes didn’t work so well here as the story is not that funny. Several times the characters would refer to themselves or actions as plot lines or clichés – “Despite his best efforts, he had become a plot device after all.” -, which in this case just reminds the reader they are reading a contrived story and the characters are in fact bad plot lines.
There are also some aspects of the book that just don’t make much sense. Later in the story Foster has a crisis of conscience and breaks up with Chip because a mutual friend isn’t happy with the relationship. This seems incredibly far fetched and even when the friend comes around, the two don’t get back together. Instead when they do get back together there is very little motivation and neither the reasons for the initial breakup and later reunion work well. The pace also tends to lag and although the story should be a quick read, I struggled to be interested and engaged and ultimately took much longer to read this than previous Arvin books.
This might be a case of reader preference as the attempt to show everyday “simple” men falling in love is a good idea. Arvin’s unique voice and simple writing help but ultimately I didn’t enjoy the characters or the story very much. There aren’t huge flaws that will kill readers’ enjoyment so if this sounds like something you could enjoy, check it out.
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