A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
Wealthy gay lawyer Thomas “Tommy” Wells Atherton III lives and practices in San Francisco, raising his young son, Thomas “Tiger” Wells Atherton IV. With no belief in love or commitment, he has made Tiger and his work the center of his life. He is blindsided, however, when hunky Brian Baldwin walks into his office one day looking for a divorce — based on the fact that he is gay. Can he move past his firm, long-held beliefs to give himself — and his son — the life and love they deserve?
If you read more than three chaptered stories by Michaels (and even some of his one-shots), you know there are several things that will most likely make an appearance in whatever he pens: Marines; Irish Marines; Irish men who aren’t Marines; jocks; at least one wealthy, generous protag; strong familial support; fit bodies; raunchy man scents; and rimming sessions that go on for days. He also has passion for gay issues: gay marriage, gays having/adopting children, gay coming of age/coming out, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” There is a healthy dose of autobiography in his stories; he has many decades of both writing and loving (his love life is legendary) and his stories usually touch upon some aspect of his many experiences. There are no exceptions here.
Rock Paper Scissors is a very sweet, romantic tale. I loves me some sweet romance — Caught Running by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban is one of my all-time favorites and it is pure, glorious sugar on a page — so this was a welcome read. I liked the premise very much, and I’m a sucker for stories with precocious kids in them. Some folks felt that it was too sweet, but I was not one of them; every once in a while I don’t want to have things blowing up, other characters trying to get in between our lovers, major misunderstandings, giant character flaws, etc, marring my story.
I enjoyed watching Tommy interact with seven-year-old Tiger and the obviously special relationship they have. Now the question may pop up about how “queer as a three-dollar bill” Tommy got himself a biological child; let’s just say that a heckalota beer + a bit of Ecstasy don’t make for concern about what warm, wet cavity is being used during sex. g Tiger is a little, oh-so-innocent manipulator, a mischievous, match making tyke who wants nothing more than a second daddy and for his gay parents to “go to Massachusetts” (Tiger-speak for to get married). Living in SF and being raised in the Castro means that Tiger understands at a young age what gay is and how to get men to do just about whatever he wants. There are some other reviewers who felt that Tiger was creepy, but I was charmed. I sniggered out loud at several of the conversations he had with the adults around him.
Tommy and Brian felt fairly true to me as gay men trying to have a relationship with minor obstacles in their way (even if one of those obstacles is one of them!). There is an overwhelming attraction that neither seems to be able to fight, though Tommy does his best at first. Brian is looking for the love he never really felt for his wife, the family that didn’t come to pass during his marriage, and to live his life without a lie. Perhaps that all can be realized with Tommy? And Tommy is just looking for…something…though he is positive it isn’t love. Well, he’s pretty sure it isn’t. Could it possibly be? No, absolutely not, and no one is going to tell him otherwise! g The sex was typical Michaels: just shy of insta-sex and relatively vanilla (with his added little…er…flavoring thrown in).
I thought the secondary characters were fairly well-developed and brought in several of Michaels’ “trademarks.” Brian’s priest brother, Matt, provided some very interesting dialog for the story around religion and Gay marriage. Ted, Tommy’s law partner and friend, and Tiger’s “uncle,” was a great support for the family and a sounding board for Tommy. Dalt, the new man in Ted’s life, allowed for the introduction of a Marine to the story.
My only problem came when Tommy acted, in my opinion, out of character. He is very clear in the beginning about his not believing that males — especially gay males — are capable of commitment to long-term relationships, and because of this and for his son’s sake, refuses to get seriously involved with anyone. He doesn’t date at all. Ever. Knowing this, and even acknowledging that he is feeling like something big is missing in his life, it seems completely out of character for him to enter into this relationship with Brian and have it move as quickly as it did. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for love at first sight. I totally get relationships moving forward rapidly (my current 14-year partnership got off the ground running within a few days). I understand that loneliness makes you desire strongly for and do almost anything to relieve the hunger for what at times you feel you cannot have. But this seemed to be such a huge veer off course that it took two re-reads to talk myself down. What finally saved it for me is that Tommy himself has this same struggle early and often, and speaks to them both internally and out loud to multiple people. It seemed that every time I said to myself that this was ridiculous, Michaels deals with it; for example, I think “Tommy would never bring home a man to meet Tiger after only X days,” then Tommy thinks exactly that, questioning both his beliefs and actions. Nice.
I am a fan of Bobby Michaels from his Nifty days (as rimpig), with Two Minute Warning and Subic Surrender two of my favorites from him, so I had high hopes for Rock Paper Scissors. Overall, it met my expectations quite nicely.