Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Opposites Attract in Better Than Good

I just finished reading Lane Hayes' first book in her "Better Than" series, Better Than Good.  It's a story of opposites, as the description states:
Matt Sullivan understands labels: law student, athlete, heterosexual. He has goals: graduate and begin his career in law. One fateful night, Matt tags along with his gay roommate to a dance club and everything changes. Matt finds himself attracted to the most beautiful man he's ever seen. All labels go flying out the window. 
Aaron Mendez doesn't believe in labels, and he’s leery of straight curious men. He makes it clear that he’ll hide his fabulous light for no one. While Aaron can't deny the attraction between him and Matt, he is reluctant to start anything with someone who is still dealing with what this new label means—especially when that someone has a girlfriend.
The premise may sound like a typical gay romance but it has certain twists, and I will admit that Better Than Good hit on a few of my pet peeves.  Aaron is flamboyant, wears make-up, and adds an "ee" to everyone's name, such as Matty for Matt.  I really don't have anything against flamboyant gay men, as I believe that we should all be who we are, and if that's flamboyant then so be it.  It's no different from a hyper masculine man.  Some people are just that way.  I tend to think I'm a happy medium, but that's a different issue.  I will admit that I don't quite understand men wearing make-up, but to each his own.  My only real pet peeve though is when someone calls me Joey.  My name is Joe, not Joey.  So, in my own bias, it grated on my nerves each time I read Aaron calling Matt by the pet name of Matty.

With that being said, I have to tell you those were secondary things because the story is beautifully told.  Hayes does a wonderful job at looking at our insecurities and struggles with decisions.  Matt seems straight but not narrow when we first meet him, but Hayes gives us a good look at the fluidity of sexuality.  One of the things I often find when reading female authors of M/M romance is that they are much more open to the fluidity of sexuality than male authors are.  I also think it's a more realistic look at sexuality.  It's not necessarily about a man going from heterosexual to homosexual over meeting one guy, but more that heterosexuality is so often seen as he "norm" by so many, that some men fail to look past the heteronormative perception we are often raised to believe.

While Matt isn't your average "straight" guy, neither is Aaron your average gay man.  Aaron seems not to have the insecurities that many gay men have, but a closer look shows this is a misconception.  Aaron faces insecurities over his family relationships, especially with that of his father, and he's reluctant to give a chance to a man he thinks is straight.  On the surface, Aaron may seem like a carefree, young, out and proud gay man, but when we get to know him, we learn that he is much more complex.  

The love story in Better Than Good is a slow sensuous story that will leave you wanting more.   The conflict here was presented in a different manner than most M/M romances.  Usually it's the struggle of the "straight" man coming to terms with falling in love with a man.  In Better Than Good, it is the gay man who has inhibition about dating a "straight" man, who has a girlfriend and is perceived to be heterosexuality.  Matt's character doesn't have the central conflicts of most "straight" character, and readily admits that he is bisexual. This gives the story a new twist and makes the story a dynamic narrative which results in an romantic and happy conclusion.

Hayes' working title for the book was All You Can Do is Try, which is a good motto for all of us, and it would have been a great title for Better Than Good, but I'm glad she changed the title and decided to expand the secondary characters of Jay and Peter into a second book in the "Better Than" series.  I've already begun reading Better Than Chance, and I'm enjoying it even more than Better Than Good.  It's definitely a series that I suggest you read.  Because this book was definitely better than good.


Damien Malachy said...

Appreciate your recommendations for books!
Hope you are full of joy and gratitude for all you have this Thanksgiving Day. And may the coming year open your eyes and heart to receive even more.
One thing for which I am grateful is discovering your blog, which I read daily. So thanks!

Susan said...

I can give my wholehearted support behind this series, Joe. I have read the three books in the series so far and loved each one. And while the Matt to Matty in the story didn't bother me, I can appreciate how you feel about that when it comes to your own name. I don't want to hear any variations on "Susan" either. :)

nikki said...

Loved the book.