Review: Queers — by AJ Rose

QueersOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

I have loved AJ Rose’s writing, starting with the amazing Power Exchange.  Back in November 2012, I wrote a review and gave it 5 Stars.  What I loved about it was the strong theme, and the great depth in character development.  It was more than just a romance book, but more like message about self-discovery and being truthful to one’s self.

So, when I was given the opportunity to read Queers, I was both excited as well as nervous.  What happens if I didn’t like this book as much?  Based on the cover and the back of the book, it is nothing like the other series.  But finally, I said, “the heck with it”, and started reading.

Basic Plot:

Duff McKinley is a singer on his way to the big show, well, as soon as he is discovered that is.  His first break is landing a job at Brad Mosely’s bar/club called Queers.  Will this turn out to be a once in a life-time for his career and love life, or will he be stuck with settling?

Garrett Slater is Duff’s best friend, and he moved across the country to support him.  But now is Garrett’s time to shine as he finds Mr Right in the form of Landon Kennedy.  Yet, as Garrett drifts away from his friends like Jackson Moriarty, is he wasting is chance for happiness and true-love or living his dream?

Background:

There is  a lot going on in this book.  There are two “main” love stories here, both are explored fully; we see Duff and Brad’s story first and then Garrett, Landon, and Jackson’s stories are folded into it.

I have not read many of the other reviews on Goodreads about Queers.  I noticed that the range was wide on this one, some readers giving 1 stars with just as many giving 5.  I decided not to read much until after I had finished the book primarily to keep the influence down to a minimum.

I think that two things might have swayed the readers to the lower:  the complex story lines here and the domestic violence.  I will discuss both further in my review, but I believe that was the gist of what their issues were.

Duff McKinley & Brad Mosely:

This is the easy couple to talk about.  Duff is the first person introduced to and I was enchanted from the start.  He is a dedicated and talented singer who landed in LA to “Make it big.”  Now he is ready to make that break into contract-land and needs the job at Queers to get there.  We see into Duff very quickly:

This never gets easier, he thought, approaching the bartender, his back ramrod straight as he faked confidence in an effort to convince both himself and her.

We can easily identify with Duff.  Who hasn’t applied for a job and then was terrified that we wouldn’t get it?  When we meet Brad, we can tell that there is more going on then just his cranky demeanor.

“Pep talk time.  Don’t be afraid of Brad.  He’s a fantastic guy, a lot of fun if you get to know him, and he’s nowhere near as sour as he seems at first.  He’s very loyal, but you have to earn it.”

There’s much to say about Brad, but I do not want to spoil his back story.  Suffice it to say, he has a past love that still causes him pain and he has not moved on yet.  It isn’t until he meets Duff that he realizes it might be time to return.

Garrett Slater / Landon Kennedy / Jackson Moriarty:

This is the complex side of the book, full of angst.  Garrett is Duff’s best friend, really more of a brother.  He is also always been “Out”, not because of choice but rather because his sexuality was difficult to hide in the first place.  This builds a character who is more of free spirit, rolling with the punches rather than hiding or being careful.  It is this nature that attracts Landon and the trouble that follows.  We see Landon’s charm as they meet for the first time:

Landon slowly, deliberately drew him closer until their bodies were pressed together.  Garrett’s breath caught as the man’s warmth and expensive cologne enveloped him.

“I’ll temporarily let you go,” Landon said softly, commandingly.  “But expect my call.”

Jackson is another one of the best friends, a nurse who has loved Garrett from afar.  Unfortunately, Garrett doesn’t believe he is serious about trying to date.  Jackson’s known more as the “slut” in the past, and this stereotype doesn’t help him now.  As he sees Garrett withdrawing more and more of himself in the relationship with Landon he fears for Garrett.

Theme Summary:

At first, I thought I had the theme at 15% of the way through the book.  But what I realized was that it really fed into what I consider the “main theme”.  Moonshine tells Brad something early on in the book:

“You’ve been going through the motions so long, you’ve forgotten how to react to good feelings.  The numbness is wearing off, and I bet it’s fucking weird.”

For Brad, this is about his previous boyfriend.  For Duff, he put his career on hold while he finished his backup degree.  Garrett moved across the country to support his friend Duff and his photography is less about his creativity and more about working for something else.  Jackson is in love with someone who may never see the true him.

And then at 75%, I found the profound theme I was hoping I would find:

“”Death is not fair,”” Duff parroted her words from the police station alley.

Neither is life, but I do what I can to make it fair.”

Life has given pain to every one of our characters and that pain and experience has the ability to stop their dreams and relationships from being fruitful.  However, it is by moving forward through the fires that these characters are reborn into the stronger characters they are by the end of the novel.  They learn the lesson that while friends can help, they ultimately must commit to make the changes to help themselves.

Strong Points:

AJ’s strength is in his descriptions and writing.  I am always pulled straight into the story, and this is no exception:

What didn’t quite fit in was the girl behind the bar, looking more appropriate for a leather club than a dueling piano bar.  Perhaps it was her influence that gave Queers its snap, as if it was closely thumbing its nose at pretension.

It is not just the main character that gets development, but also secondary characters like Moonshine and  Jennica.  In fact, I see Moonshine as the embodiment of the theme and our greek chorus.

What could be better?

If you glance through the reviews on Goodreads for Queers, you will see warnings about triggers.  Remember when I said that AJ’s strength was in his writing?  Well, that also goes into the descriptions of abuse that one character goes through.  So, I give the warning, if you have suffered from domestic abuse, this might be a trigger.

I will be honest, domestic violence is a trigger for me, so there were several scenes where I had to skim through.  I do believe that it needed to be said to advance the plot and the characters, but it is painful to read.

I will also say that the end did feel a bit like the magical fairy came through and tied up all of the loose endings; but after all of the angst and pain I was ready for a HEA.

Conclusions:

This was a compelling read, one that I am very glad I experienced.  Do not be put off by the silliness of the cover, it is a serious read.  There are powerful emotions throughout, so be prepared to cry and cheer as our boys overcome their trials.

The message is one that I think we all could use.  Family is not always blood, but certainly our friends can be the support that we need to survive.  And when we fall down, they will be there to help us up.  While they will encourage us to do better, ultimately it is up to make changes in our lives.

AJ Rose is a brilliant author.  He always infuses his stories with powerful messages, like little kernels of truth and insight in hope that we will take the time to uncover.   If you are currently in an abusive relationship, remember that you can always leave.  You have family, friends, and outside support that will help, but you have to be the one to make the move for help.  This book certainly made me appreciate the support of my friends and my husband.  I have been very blessed; thank you AJ Rose for helping me to remember this truth.

Bea

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