Friday, April 27, 2018

Kat's Review: After Hours

After Hours by Emjay Haze
Publisher: NineStar Press (April 9, 2018)
Genre: Contemporary Romance -- M/M

Alex Michaels is a successful manager for a Wall-Street financial firm and lives in a beautiful hi-rise apartment overlooking Central Park. Anyone looking in from the outside would say Alex has it made, especially his working-class parents who wanted more for their only son.

Nick is working his way through graduate school with dreams of becoming a teacher so he can help kids like himself. With his parents cutting him off and leaving him with nothing but a student apartment and low self-esteem, he’s determined to make something of himself in spite of them.

Even Nick’s club friends think Alex is too good for him, but Alex keeps showing Nick how worthy he is. Alex learns a lot from Nick, too—how not to give up on his dreams.

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Kat's Review:

After Hours is the story of Alex and Nick, as they meet when Alex patronizes the gay club where Nick works as a waiter, and begin a relationship despite their different economic lifestyles and insecurities. There is a lot of gay here. Lots of gay sex, lots of gay cliches, lots of gay men. But there is no conflict. I’m still not sure what the point of the story is.

Alex is 28, working at a business firm (something to do with accounts and sales). He’s successful, and gets a promotion with a raise toward the beginning of the story. He has a nice apartment and car, and he’s fulfilling the dreams of his working class parents but not his own aspirations of being a chef.

Nick is 25, a grad student in education who supports himself with two jobs (the club and janitorial work, coincidentally at Alex’s office building). He grew up in affluence, but his parents disowned him when he wouldn’t play straight, so he’s poor now.

There are tensions between the two men as they try to navigate their own emotional and sexual baggage - Alex is really only into sex in a committed relationship, Nick has a long list of past sexual partners - but these are usually resolved (or at least apologized for and swept past) within a page. There are a few times where there seems to be greater tension building, such as when we learn that Alex’s parents are coming to visit, and he’s going to tell them that he wants to quit his cushy job and go to culinary school.

***Minor spoilers***

But then his parents are just happy for him. No problem at all. There are times when Nick and Alex are each jealous or uncertain of the other’s feelings, but of course that all turns out ok. Everything just works out. Friendships develop, everyone accepts everyone. There is just no conflict at all.

The only plot point that could be construed as conflict is when Alex starts getting tasked with travel for his work, and Alex and Nick’s time together is shortened. Alex isn’t getting along with his boss, who is pretty prickly when he himself is away from his partner, who lives across the country. A perfect source of conflict that could drive some sort of plot, but it just sort of fizzles. Everything ends up ok.

***End of spoilers***

Overall, the writing style is competent, though there are just too. many. details. It reminded me of the 50 Shades trilogy, or the Handbook for Mortals. We get descriptions of the most mundane of details, including how characters dress and undress. Even the detailed sex gets repetitive. And it’s not helped by some of the word choices. This is the first time I’ve seen “pucker” used as a noun, as a stand-in for anus. I understand that synonyms for “butthole” are limited, and not everyone finds anal play sexy in the first place. But reading about one man licking another’s pucker doesn’t do anything for me.

In her bio, the author, who is a straight married lady, describes herself as an advocate for LGBTQ+ folks. I think that’s awesome. I also think that straight folks who want to write about queer folks should still engage in sensitivity readers. There are a few queerphobic bits in this story that this queer lady did not appreciate. For example, using the word “twink” is controversial in the community, and as a woman, not something I’m interested in wading into. The description of Alex’s new lady friends observing their first drag shows was painful. Are the performers men? Women? What do they do with their genitals? Who tf cares, why are you so curious?

There was just a lot going on in this book. A lot of details that seemed to be building up to something, but nothing happened (what will happen with Nick’s family?). I struggled to finish this one. They were two white gay dudes who were still relatively privileged, and not really aware of that. Their lives seemed conflict-free, aside from the angst of their own making. Ample scenes of pucker-licking aren’t going to make up for that.


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Source: Netgalley eARC

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Thanks for the review, Kat! This is part of a larger issue with the M/M genre and community, including how it's often so fetishized and focused only on pretty cis white gay men fucking. And "gay" is an important requirement because for many: ewww, I don't want my hot guys fucking girls, ever! Don't get me started on that, btw. All of that is something that M/M readers and authors really need to come to terms with (and change). Like, yesterday. But I digress, because that's a different topic and one that's not in my lane anyway.

Also, I'm still laughing at pucker as a noun. On the bright side, it spawned this fun Twitter convo, so there's that.


Until Next Time,

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