The Tempest

Not Exactly Shooting For \”Miss Congeniality\”

Beware of the T.A.G.S.

Posted by revelkc on Monday, May 22, 2006

By Steve (a/k/a Revel)

I enjoy reading, especially books. I always have. I have soldiered on in the fields of advancing technology and computerdom, from bbs to blogs–you can ask my patient, more tech savvy husband, (you know him as Tempest)–it's much like a soldier trodding through mud. But I have never lost my love for a good book. Something about having it unfold in my mind's eye is a personal experience I truly cherish.

I am not hypercritical and not overly choosy—I like the deep thought and introspection of a Michael Cunningham novel, as well as the guilty pleasure of a juicy Jackie Susann romp. And yes, I love Anne Rice no matter how far out and freaky she gets (actually, the freakier the better). So I am not a “book snob”.

I order a lot of books from Insightout, Book of the Month Club's "gay subdivision". I buy some at stores, but time-wise it just works out better. However, one of the pitfalls of mail ordering is the dreaded "T.A.G.S." (Truly Awful Gay Story). Giving credit where it's due, ISO writes truly glowing reviews and synopses of every book in their catalog, after all, would you buy something that was summed up with "So, unless your nursing your hangover with double shots of Tanqueray with a crack cocaine chaser, you probably should pass on this piece of literary backwash." Not a lot of truly masochistic book buyers out there.

Today, I had to give up on a T.A.G.S.–"Back Where He Started" by Jay Quinn. Why did I buy this book? I took a chance on this:

"The weekend after Thanksgiving, Chris Thayer finds himself packing up the last odds and ends of his quietly extraordinary life. After 22 years of gay marriage to Zack Ronan-and raising three kids as his own-Chris is suddenly a member of the Second Wives Club. An ambitious young woman at Zack's ad agency is pregnant with Zack's child, and Zack had decided that Chris's utility as a sexual companion and surrogate mother to his children has run it's course. What's a gay divorcee to do?" Reestablishing his life, with new surroundings, a new job, tentative steps into new love in middle age, the grown children's problems, and the ex still wanting to meddle, all are promised to unfold.

The problem lies in the unfolding (doesn't it always?). Each step becomes more improbable than the next. Romantic that I am, I readily accepted that Chris, then a twenty-something naive kid from the wrong side of the tracks, would fall for the slightly older, dark and dashing Zack. Hey, things like that can happen in a bar (right honey? :-)). I understood the mystery, why oh why can't Chris see his house? What's he hiding?

I suspended disbelief when the secret was the three small children, that Chris took to like they were his own "young-uns". Yes, that term is actually used, A LOT. The story IS set in North Carolina, but there is so much sweetie baby cookie honey in here to throw you into a diabetic coma…but I digress….

Unfortunately, all pretensions at reality get off at the next bus stop. Flashing forward to the present, Zack's treachery (with Alicia, the ambitious co-worker!) results in Zack expecting a new baby and Chris being shown the door. After an all too brief break up experience, in which Chris actually takes being slapped (I should have known I wasn't going to be able to stand it…immediately this should have turned into a murder novel), Chris takes his "settlement/guilt money" and buys a beach house, furnished to the hilt with the help of the stereotypically flamboyant gay decorator, Wade Lee. Sounds plausibly gay, right? Except Chris is 48, and for 22 years being a homemaker has been his life, so he has no work experience. This dawns on him sometime after running through most of the money on lavish furnishings, including a $7000.00 sofa. Oh puhleeze…..

This is when he truly started to get on my nerves. But never mind, since Chris got such a hard knock, we all know karma instantly repays you by giving you EVERYTHING YOU COULD POSSIBLY WANT. He's a devout Catholic (ok by me) but he immediately finds an accepting church with an understanding and accepting priest (D'OH!)-who is so helpful he lands him a job with the local psychiatrist (who's wife LOVES hearing about Chris' reawakened dating scene!) The family dog dies, and of all the luck, Heath the local vet is a gay man looking for a no-strings affair. The perfect rebound! And Heath in turn encourages Chris to pursue Steve, the hunky dog breeder, who, you will be truly shocked to learn, Heath also had an affair with and deems them "perfect for each other". Throw in enough cloyingly sugar-schmaltz-filled scenes with the adult "kids" to make "Seventh Heaven" blush with shame, (oh, I almost forgot, the hunky youngest son, 22 year old Schooner-I am not making that up-is, yes, a raging mo who brings his boyfriend to the beach house to "christen" the guest room) and you might be able to understand why I had to stop 2/3 of the way in.

The death blow was the scene where Schooner bursts in unannounced after Chris and Steve have had mindblowingly erotic sex (I will give that to the author..the sex was well written) to break down at the thought of "Mom" having a sex life and saying…"It's very disturbing, Chris, you've lost a lot of weight and you're tanned. Now you're parading around like you're trying to be some Abercrombie and Fitch boy-whore. You're freaking me out. You're definitely not the mom I know." Abercrombie and Fitch boy-whore??? EGAD, not that!!! Ok, now we've switched to bitchy comedy! I did skim through to see that Zack makes a play to come back and there's a disastrous storm, but at the very end Chris is talking Steve into going to church, but only if it truly means something to him. Well, at least the church survives the storm!

OMG. OMFG. So, to me, that is a T.A.G.S. The worst one since "The Winter of Our Discotheque". And I made it all the way through that one–well, it was such a complete calamity I had to know if anyone survived. They shouldn't have.

Ironically, ISO sent me a two-fer coupon with free shipping today. I have set it aside. It's just too soon…sniff….I hope to be back soon with a review of a R.A.G.S.-a Really Awesome Gay Story. Now where did I put that Danielle Steele……

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