Title: Spot Me (Work Out #1)
Author: Andrew Grey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Length: Novella (101 pages)
Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
Working out is a daily routine for Dan, who meets his friend Lonnie at the gym to lift weights. But breaking a sweat takes on a whole new meaning when Dan sees Gene, a professional bodybuilder, in the mirror. Dan knows it’s a lost cause: he’s forty and nursing a broken heart, nowhere in the same league as gorgeous Gene.
Then at the gym the next day, Gene asks Dan if he can work out with him. A bet wins Dan a smoothie and conversation, which surprisingly leads to a date. Now Dan is faced with a dilemma: does he allow Gene to elbow his way into his life, or will he give up on the idea of a new relationship before it even starts?
Work Out Series
Spot Me is the second book of Andrew Grey’s that I’ve read and reviewed (Best Revenge is reviewed here). More than willing to give this author another try, I scooped up this story in the newest offerings from DSP. Though I thought the book had potential and it started out all right, it soon became apparent to me that it would be a miss. I would classify it in the “Eh” category with some annoyances thrown in.
The story opens with Dan, who tells the tale in third person, leaving work and going to meet his best friend and work out partner, Lonnie, at the gym for their daily weight training. As he’s doing his thing, he spies a newcomer, a huge, muscled “absolute vision” and it totally taken by him. It turns out that he is a fairly famous gay bodybuilder, Gene, a man who has graced the cover of muscle mags for a while now on his way to his goal to becoming a chemical-free, all natural Mr. Universe. It seems that this beautiful man noticed Dan, also, and soon they are having protein shakes after their work outs and going to dinner together. But all is not perfect in muscled lovers land; Dan has some self-esteem and relationship issues that impede the happiness Gene is sure they can have together.
My biggest issue is with Dan, who I felt was inconsistent in his personality, emotions, actions and confidence. Half the time he is a whiney, shy, embarrassed, skittish, insecure mess, and the other half he is confidant, secure and almost wanton. I was never sure which Dan I was going to see; he flipped back and forth, sometimes paragraph to paragraph. Early in the story, even before formally meeting Gene, Dan says to Lonnie (who, by the way, I liked as a character very much and wished I had seen more of):
“But let’s be real here. He’s what, about twenty-eight? And way out of my league. Even if he is gay, a guy like that is not going to go for a skinny old guy like me.”
This almost sums up the issues. It’s obvious that he is intimidated by Gene’s body. Dan has a decent body which he seems fine with in one breath (He was never going to look like Gene, but he was happy with his progress), but in the next he’s self-conscious in comparison to the other muscle-bound men around him, especially Gene (Did that mean Gene had been looking at his legs? Dan was almost embarrassed. He’d been working out for years, and while he was lean, he was never going to be particularly muscular). The twelve-year age difference bothers him, too; he is forty and Gene is twenty-eight, and it comes up time and again throughout the story.
Added to these self-esteem issues, he is not long out of a bad, decade-long relationship and he doesn’t know how to be part of a healthy couple. Apparently there was some D/s aspect of that relationship, and though it comes up fairly often, it was never really explained to my satisfaction.
I loves me a flawed, tortured hero, one that grows during the course of the book to come out at least somewhat healthier than he started, but it simply didn’t work here. I didn’t feel that Dan grew much at all, and the inconsistency in his personality prevented me from becoming invested in him. More often than not I alternated between wanting to slap him (like Lonnie actually does, at one point) and recommending a good therapist.
Additionally, outside of the aforementioned problems of Dan’s, some of the “getting to know you” action happens off screen and as such, I felt that I didn’t get to know him or Gene very well. In fact, the majority of the story was spent on either lifting weights or Dan going on and on about his issues, either to himself, to Lonnie, or to Gene.
There were some other problems I had, too:
There is a scene where Dan turns down Gene for sex because he doesn’t want to rush into it. Gene gives Dan absolutely no reason to think that he was angry or upset — he even agrees with him — yet Dan freaks out afterwards, needing to call Lonnie — while the man is on holiday, no less — to talk (and whine) about it. Even given Dan’s issues it seems completely unnecessary.
We meet Dan’s ex, Mike, who conveniently comes swaggering back into Dan’s life a few minutes before Gene is to pick him up for their first date. The scene rang contrived. This happens twice, each time Mike attacking Dan, going for his crotch in the hopes of getting him excited. Or something. After the second time Dan pushes him off and explains that he is with Gene now, he thinks:
Mike turned around, a sad, almost pathetic look on his face. “He’ll leave you, you know.” It was funny, but Mike’s tone wasn’t mean or cruel. In fact, Dan heard a touch of sadness in Mike’s voice, like he was still trying to protect Dan the way he always had—by being the big, dominant protector.
What part of jumping Dan, then saying that his relationship with Gene won’t work out because Gene would leave him says “dominant protector?” I didn’t see it.
Finally, there are some little things: I found several editing errors; I didn’t understand exactly who Lonnie was or what he did (for example, is he a professional trainer?) that allowed him to have two Porches; how did Gene come to working out in that gym (Dan has never seen him there before).
Fans of the author may feel differently, and other readers may not be bothered by the issues I mentioned, but from inconsistent characterizations to protags that lacked depth to action happening off screen, this book was not a win for me. My next read by him is going to be Bottled Up and I am hoping for a better experience than the last two.