Title: Off the Beaten Path
Author: Katrina Strauss
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
Travis Bell is openly gay to family and friends, but as a college athlete, he chooses not to define himself by his sexuality. When he covers for a friend’s misdeed, he’s forced to renegotiate his future. Carefully. Or he’s going to lose his coveted lacrosse scholarship. The last thing Travis plans on, however, is a “volunteer vacation” in the remote wilderness with members of Omega Beta Pi, aka Off the Beaten Path, a fraternity devoted to gay rights and environmental causes. To make matters worse, he must share a tent with Kyle, an opinionated activist who also happens to be the hottest guy Travis has ever met.
Kyle Schafer is a proud activist who disapproves of Travis’s ignorance on issues affecting the environment and gay community. To his even greater annoyance, Kyle finds himself attracted to his shallow tentmate on a purely physical level. Travis goes against everything Kyle believes in, but that doesn’t dampen the chemistry that sparks between them. Pretty soon, it looks like Travis isn’t the only one who’ll be going off the beaten path.
I loves me an opposite attract story done well and here it is done well. Though not without a few niggles, Off the Beaten Path, which is the first book by this author I’ve read, is a well-written, light, sweet read with likeable characters and a believable plot.
Travis Bell and Kyle Schafer are both physically fit college juniors and gay, but that’s about where their similarities end. Travis may not advertise that he likes guys, but he doesn’t hide it either if asked. When trashed roommate Dylan decides to spray paint a homosexual slur on the outside of the GLBT/environmental activism Greek house, Omega Beta Pi, Travis stops him, but not in time. They get caught; Dylan gets away, leaving Travis to cover for his friend. With his lacrosse scholarship in jeopardy and other disciplinary actions looming, he is forced into going on a week-long camping “volunteer vacation” with three of the Path students. Sharing a tent with Kyle, an out and proud vegan activist, proves to be a challenge on many levels, not the least of which is that he is attracted to the handsome blond. For Kyle, his mutual attraction to Travis is a terrible thing; he eats meat, he is apathetic, and in Kyle’s opinion, denies who he is by not being in-your-face out and “only playing the gay card when it suit[s his] agenda.” Obvious chemistry and passions override misgivings, however, and the two make an agreement to have unattached sex for their short time together. Sticking to that agreement proves difficult, so what will happen once the week is over remains to be seen.
Borrowing from Wave’s recent format…
What I liked: Both protags, though I admit that I loved Travis muchly. He is willing to compromise, yet remains true to what he believes. Mac calls him “Fiery, opinionated, doesn’t take any shit.” He adjusted to the whole “I didn’t get to go on my beach vaca ‘cause I was a bad boy” thing pretty quickly, which shows he can let things go. I liked his sense of humor. He refuses to let his sexuality define him, yet he is comfortable in own skin.
Travis’s face darkened. “What’s it to you? It’s not anyone’s business that I’m gay unless I choose to make it their business.”
“You don’t think you should take a little pride in who you are and act as a positive representation of the gay community?”
“Hey, I don’t have to tattoo a rainbow across my forehead to take pride in myself. If my sexual preference doesn’t come up in conversation, why point it out and cite myself as somehow being different? Have you considered that the best way to gain acceptance and be treated like a regular person is to, you know, act like one?”
Kyle is somewhere in the middle between the live-and-let-live quiet folks and the hardasses vegan activists who shove their lifestyle down your throat about why you should do this or not do that. Unfortunately, that allows him room to be unwilling to compromise and meet Travis in the middle of some of their issues, which got on my nerves a teensy bit. But, I did like him and I think he and Travis will do well together going by the epilogue.
What didn’t I like? Not a whole lot, though I admit that I felt it got a little saccharin toward the end. When the baby raccoons came into the picture during the dramatic climax (and in the epiolgue) , I got a bit of a toothache. One editing issue that I caught: there are two blatant instances where the names were switched; in both cases, “Travis” is written instead of “Kyle.”
If you’re looking for a sweet, opposites-attract romance, try Off the Beaten Path. I recommend it to anyone who likes m/m.