My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I seem to be on an Amy Lane kick and continued with Racing for the Sun audiobook. I found it very interesting and easy to listen to but had a bit of a problem with the main relationship. Here is where the argument of fiction vs. realism really comes into focus. When the singular romantic relationship is clearly unhealthy and one of the protagonists is deeply disturbed, can the book still be enjoyable? Well it’s up to the readers’ tastes then. I read a review with the insightful comment that if the book was M/F then a lot of readers would have really be bothered by the relationship. It’s a true statement for sure and even with M/M I was still bothered. When I tried to look at the book as sheer fiction and over the top romance, I liked it and could enjoy the dysfunctional relationship in that scope. Trying to make it seem realistic or actually healthy in any way just doesn’t work – because it’s not. So I think it’s up to the individual reader. This will likely resonate more with established Lane fans than newcomers, but that’s just a guess.
Jasper “Ace” Atchison is from a typical lower class family. Too many kids and not enough money for school led him to enlist in the army. While on his second tour of Iraq he meets Sonny Daye, a too young and scared boy that is willing to do anything. Ace decides to look out for Sonny and help him survive the army. After two years of close calls and plenty of wartime trauma, both men leave the army to set up a garage street racing cars for money. It was Sonny’s dream but Ace is determined to make it come true.
I’ll be honest in that the narrative wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Sonny and Ace are not romantic at all while in the army but instead are close friends. Ace is the first person narrator so we know he’s interested in Sonny, probably already in love with him, so that’s why Ace goes to so much trouble to make Sonny’s dreams come true. However, the book takes a really long time to get the two men together so I wasn’t sure when that was going to happen. Even after the army, Ace and Sonny dance around each other unwilling to actually admit the clear attraction between them. I think they both thought the other was straight or weren’t willing to take the chance. I’m not sure but it dragged on a little long and I was frustrated with their inability to actually say anything of importance to each other. Communication is not a skill these two possess at all.
However, once they do finally hook up the relationship takes on a very weird vibe. Sonny has a mysterious past that is offered in very small bits and pieces until the very, very end. All the reader knows is that he’s had some kind of traumatic past and is desperate if not psychotic about belonging to someone. This isn’t a BDSM kind of owning but Sonny likens it to a dog having a owner. So when he and Ace get together, Sonny is literally obsessed with belonging to Ace. Sonny is a complicated and complex character no doubt, but he’s not exactly a nice, likable person. He’s pretty much an ass most of the time to everyone, including Ace. And Sonny’s insistence on being owned is dysfunctional and downright disturbing. Ace feeds into this because he loves Sonny and even goes against his own desires and instincts, such as the shower scene with the knives. I appreciated that Ace, being his own complicated protagonist, had much more reasonable conflicted feelings about it sometimes but overall he simply wanted to make Sonny happy and secure so he wasn’t interested in questioning Sonny’s motives or the source of his dysfunction.
The relationship can certainly be seen as romantic and I often thought that. The two men are deeply in love and the whole “you’re mine, forever” kick is of course what everyone wants to think about true love. So if you can get aside the fact that Sonny’s traumatic past has pretty much scarred him and his psyche for life and he’ll never have a functional, healthy, independent relationship, then sure the book is pretty romantic. It has its share angst, which I always love and appreciate in deeply moody books. I had no problems with Ace’s actions at the end and actually really applauded the entire thing. It made sense to me. I like to think that Ace and Sonny lived happily ever after and they certainly had the strength and love to do it, all problems aside. I just couldn’t quite shake that uneasy feeling that lingered in the back of my head whenever I paused the book and let myself leave the fictional romantic world.
Overall I enjoyed the story and the narrator was good. I didn’t always like the voice and accent he gave Ace, which sounded southern twanged to me for no real reason. But the gruff, growly timber fit the characters very well and he had an easy voice to listen to. I think I probably enjoyed the story more as an audiobook and could get into the romantic headspace more that way. I enjoyed the pace and the writing is as crisp and evocative as ever. It reminded me of why I love Lane’s truly angsty works. She knows how to ride the line of a lot of angst and drama but never too much. I think if readers can appreciate the relationship as romantic, and not unhealthily co-dependent, they’ll likely enjoy the book.