Almost Like Being In Love

almost like being in loveTitle: Almost Like Being in Love
Author: Steve Kluger
Publisher: HarperCollins
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel (Print 354 pages)
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5 DIK

five star + DIK read 2

 

 

 

THE BLURB

A high school jock and nerd fall in love senior year, only to part after an amazing summer of discovery to attend their respective colleges. They keep in touch at first, but then slowly drift apart. Flash forward twenty years.

Travis and Craig both have great lives, careers, and loves. But something is missing …. Travis is the first to figure it out. He’s still in love with Craig, and come what may, he’s going after the boy who captured his heart, even if it means forsaking his job, making a fool of himself, and entering the great unknown. Told in narrative, letters, checklists, and more, this is the must-read novel for anyone who’s wondered what ever happened to that first great love.

THE REVIEW

Almost Like Being In Love is as addictive as chocolate, it’s that good and it’s one of those books which I hated when it ended because I loved, loved this story so much. The book is epic without being 600 pages long, and it’s about a man’s journey to find his soul, his lost love from 20 years before, how he abandoned everything else in his life in his quest, and the people in his life and those he met along the way.

The story is told epistolary style and if you’re put off at the thought of reading an entire story made up of newspaper articles, letters, emails, diaries, posts, etc., don’t be. Steve Kluger is master at his craft and you will be sucked into this story from the first chapter. His ability as a writer is unparalleled and if you think my statement is over the top when I say this, read the book and then tell me I’m full of it.

This love affair did not have a dull moment. Craig McKenna and Travis Puckett – one is a jock and the other a nerd – met at 15 in 1978 when they were both in high school, and Travis literally fell off a ladder into Craig’s arms. We experience their youthful crushes for movie and baseball heroes and follow them as they skip school to see these idols and lunch on Ring Dings and Pepsi. The story recounts some of these episodes and if you wonder how they were able, as fans,  to have the access they did, this was before the days of the paparazzi and threats against celebrities.

Eventually they fall in love and we experience their courtship if you can call it that, because it always seemed to be interrupted by Craig’s activism and involvement in civil rights issues and marches, and he even ended up in jail a time or two. This was, after all, the ’80s where “gay rights” were not exactly household words.  Kluger never hits the reader over the head with his politics or the issues of the day, although there is a little bit about gay bashing in the book, and while a lot of the issues of the 80s were alluded to, they don’t take over the book.

When Travis and Craig have their first kiss after doing everything else like showering naked together, and express their love for each other, there was a sense of wonder that each had found such a perfect person who loved them despite their faults! After spending a short time together, savouring their romance, it was time to part because they were going to college, in different states.  Here’s a typical conversation between Travis and Craig  –

Would you still love me if you found out that I once stole a box of York Peppermint Patties?
Would you still love me if you found out that I once snuck into Gypsy without a ticket?

Would you still love me if you found out that I once f**ked a bagel?
Would you still love me if you found out I once f**ked one too?

Would you still love me if I kidnapped you and took you to Harvard with me in September?
Would you still love me if I knocked you unconscious and wouldn’t let you go back to St. Louis this summer?

Would you love me even more if I told you I’d figured out a way for us to be together for the next three months?
Does that mean alone together?
Absolutely
I’ll do it
You haven’t even heard the battle plan yet.
It doesn’t matter
(Grin) Hand me some paper

Even though they both promised to keep in touch, life happened, the letters stopped and they drifted apart, but they never forgot each other. Twenty years later Travis realized that despite his successes, his life was empty and he knew why. Craig was no longer in it so he decided to find him and what a journey it was.

What made this novel memorable for me were the characters – both protagonists as well as the supporting characters. I have to give Steve Kluger full marks for creating all the wonderful characters that made this such an outstanding read — Gordo, Travis’s best friend, Clayton, Craig’s partner for 12 years, who was so great that I had mixed feelings about whether I wanted Travis to take Craig away from him; I loved Clay despite the fact that he was Travis’s rival, and I became invested in him. Charleen, Craig’s business partner, Jody, her lover, and A.J, all of whom played such key roles in the book that it’s hard to think of them as supporting characters. One of the most memorable characters is Noah, Jody’s son who Craig fell in love with and you will too and I think he stole a major slice of the best lines. Closing the book and leaving Travis and Craig behind was really difficult for me because I knew then that the story was truly over. The way I feel when I get to the last page of a book is what determines in my mind how exceptional it was, and in this case I was almost crying when the book ended because I felt so emotional that the journey was over.

The characterisations were brilliant – Travis is obsessive compulsive and crazy in a good way about baseball and movies and American history. He never found the ideal man despite (or maybe because of) his Boyfriend Checklist that each potential suitor had to meet and there were three levels that determined said boyfriends’ suitability – Beginner Level which had things like ( “Isn’t hiding another boyfriend” and “Will probably remember my name in the morning”); Intermediate  Level (“Misses me when we’re apart” “Can fall asleep in my lap – and still call it a date”); and Top-of-the-Line (“Celebrates my faults” “Kisses me for no good reason”.) There were 26 items that the boyfriend was rated against and if he failed he was out.

When Craig suspects that Travis is coming back into his life from all the clues that Travis’s OCD tendencies left  behind, he was happy because he could put that chapter of his life behind him, or so he thought. What he didn’t count on was the old magic still being there. He was now a lawyer but still an activist  and Travis’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect in terms of effecting a reconciliation because Craig and Clay were having relationship problems, but Travis fell under Clayton’s spell and in the end he had a tough decision to make.

The book is laugh out loud  and will have you in stitches. There are too many funny bits to cover in this review but one that made me chuckle was Travis trying to arrange an appointment with Craig’s mother who is a doctor so that he could sneak Craig’s number or address from her office, only to find out almost too late that she’s a gynecologist.

The ending was the right one and I was pleased that Kluger was able to find a way for everyone to be happy, without creating heartbreak for someone else. The book is memorable and will bring tears to your eyes as you travel with Travis in his obsessive search for his one true love.

Ultimately Almost Like Being In Love is about love, getting second chances, and the loyalty of friends who endure just about anything in the name of friendship.

Author

I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball

31 comments

  • Hi Lady M
    It was a good one wasn’t it? *g* This is why I love this site – instant feedback.

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    Re the rest of Kluger’s books I would start with Last Days of Summer which is not an M/M book, but it’s a story about a young boy and his baseball hero, Charlie Banks. The story continues up to the time the young boy becomes an adult. I LOVED it as well. I couldn’t review the book here, which is a great pity, but you will find reviews on amazon.

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    Kluger’s first book is called Changing Pitches which I bought but haven’t read as yet – I’m sure it won’t be as good as Almost Like Being in Love because the reviews are mixed, plus I think this is only about 50% M/M

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    I have another rec. The Dreyfus Affair by Peter Lefcourt which I reviewed here.

    http://www.gaybook.reviews/?p=756

    If you get it I hope you will come back and let me know how (if) you enjoyed it. You can pick this up second hand from amazon.com

    Reply
    • Hi, Wave, thanks for recommendations. Three days ago I wouldn’t have even try to read The Dreyfus Affair because I just don’t get baseball, but after reading Kluger, what can I say except: if Travis can do it… XD I’ll most definitely look into it. ^^

      Reply
  • I just had to say this – I bought the book after reading your review and – I’m speechless. I laughed (out loud, waking up my family in the middle of the night), I cried (sobbed really a few times) and I’m planning to buy all Steve Kluger’s books. Absolutely beautiful. You were right. It’s a keeper. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Nope, Heroes & Ghosts is certified girl cooties-free. 🙂 Both characters are 100% gay. We do see a bit of the het relationship of Ichi’s best friend with his wife on the side, but I don’t think we see them have sex, so no cooties even there. 😉

    Reply
    • Mary
      Thanks for letting me know that there are no “girl cooties” in Heroes and Ghosts.:) I have now purchased this book from The Book Depository and should be getting it within a couple of weeks.

      Reply
  • Hey, baseball and a bit of M/M, Changing Pitches can’t be that bad :). Even if it’s a first book, I think Kluger is good enough a writer than even his first efforts can’t have been apalling. I’ll try looking for this book a bit harder.
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    Rec? Already told you. You know the one. I know you’ll tell me once you’ve read it. I hope you like it too. I would hate to spoil such a good batting average so far :).
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    *gasp* You read books for PLEASURE? You don’t say. How shocking. Hell if I know where you find the time, though :).

    Reply
    • I’ll let you know about Changing Pitches. It might be December at the rate I’m going – too many books to review.

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      I have your new rec. in my amazon cart. I hope there are no girl cooties in this one or you’re in big trouble.*g* Tell me NOW!

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      I do read for pleasure a time or two:-D

      Reply
  • I LOVED “Almost Like Being in Love”– it’s been on my keeper shelf since a read it a year ago. Wave, I think you’ll also really like “Last Days of Summer”.
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    “Rough Draft” is my favorite Chris Owen/ Jodi Payne book, so I’d definitely recommend moving it up in the TBR pile.
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    Count me in as hating the end of “Riding Heartbreak Road”. It ruined the whole book for me.

    Reply
    • Hi Nichem

      I just started Last Days of Summer and it seems terrific so far. Very funny. I love baseball and books about the game.

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      On both your and Celeste’s rec. I will definitely bump up Rough Draft on my TBR list.

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      Riding Heartbreak Road was deleted off my hard drive right after I finished reading it because I knew I wasn’t going to be reading it again.

      Reply
  • Hi Mary
    I guess I won’t be getting my money back from you.*g* I’m pretty sure you’re the one who recommended it and I’m very happy you did. Feel free to make other recs. at any time – so far you’re batting 100.

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    I don’t think that you will enjoy Riding Heartbreak Road. Email me if you want any additional information. I asked Kiernan Kelly about this book when I interviewed her and she didn’t have a satisfactory (to me) explanation for the epilogue. She should have just left it alone. Many readers are still mad about this because there was no warning – the book was over and then, something new.

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    Kluger’s Changing Pitches I bought from amazon.com but I’m not sure if I’ll enjoy it as much as Almost Like Being in Love. I’ll tell you after I’ve finished it. It’s his first book written in 1984 and it’s not exactly M/M although there is some of that in the book. I won’t be reviewing it since there are girl cooties in it.:) It’s been re-released so it’s available. I’ll be reading Last Days of Summer purely for pleasure (I do that sometimes Mary.):-D

    Reply
  • I can’t remember if it was [Lynn] or Mary M who recommended this book because I was raving so much about The Dreyfus Affair, but whoever it is owes me a lot of money because I bought 3 more books by Kluger:-D
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    Oh no you’re not foisting this on me. I just placed a 50$ Amazon order for Warrior’s Cross, Collision Course and Fathoms Five, all books *you* recommended on this blog, so we’re more than even. Plus, Kluger’s books are in all good libraries so you didn’t HAVE to buy them. That was your own decision, sweetie :-DD That being said, it is possible that I was the one to recommend it to you first; I read it at the beginning of January and I’m pretty sure I mentionned it to several people then and ever since. 🙂 And I knew you had a fondness for baseball, so there’s a fair chance I would have targeted you 😀
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    I’m glad you enjoyed this book as much as I did. Lighthearted, touching, laugh-out-loud hilarious… I still remember those tests Travis gave his jock students. LOL! And IIRC Craig’s activism was actually triggered by Travis, and I found it lovely that it later became such a big part of him. 🙂
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    The epistolary format was something completely new to me then and it was a revelation. Kluger has used it to maximum efficency and with great effect. However, the last chapters of that book made me really nervous at the time because I was so terrified the author wouldn’t go the route I wanted him to and that would have totally spoiled the book for me too *gives Laurije a short hug*. But all was well that ended well :-D.
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    You’re planning on reviewing Kluger’s other books here? Are any of them M/M too? The only other I read was Last Days of Summer and it’s a purely platonic relationship (understandable since one of the two men is a child for 99% of the book 🙂 I don’t think I found much information about Changing Pitches. Where did you get your copy?
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    Thanks for the warning about Riding Heartbreak Road. With what you said, I know I’m better avoiding it because I wouldn’t like it. I loved Jane Seville’s Zero at the Bone but just those epilogues already came close to spoiling the beauty of the book for me, so I’m not even going to risk Riding Heartbreak Road. Mucking things up for your characters after the HEA is achieved is a killjoy for me. Keep that for the beginning of the sequel – that’s what they are for 🙂

    Reply
  • When I got to the end of this one I was so unwilling for it to end, I went back to the beginning and read it again.
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    Another book that is similar in many ways is Jodi Payne and Chris Owens’ Rough Draft. It’s in my keeper file, too.

    Reply
    • Celeste
      You just reminded me that I have had Rough Draft in my TBR file for over a year. I will be pulling it out of mothballs very soon. Thanks!

      Reply
  • I read this over the summer and I still have it close at hand instead of tucked away on a shelf because just seeing the cover makes me happy. It is delightful from start to finish. I wouldn’t change a single thing.

    I waffled FOREVER about reading it, actually, probably since last fall. I was nervous that I would care about the characters so much that the ending might make me bitter as hell (I am not someone who can easily shake off books that don’t end the way I’d prefer,) and I went through several rounds of searching compulsively for explicit reviews before I finally begged my friends list for help. Thankfully, someone had read it and was willing to spoil me; otherwise, I’d probably still be on the fence.

    Reply
    • Hi Laurije
      Thanks for stopping by.

      One of the reasons I read books like this is that they provide a welcome break from most of the books I read for review purposes. There’s actually a PLOT, great characterizations, and a journey to the finish line, and they don’t concentrate on the sexual relationships between the guys to the exclusion of other content. Almost Like Being In Love was a joy to read from beginning to end. Sometimes I’m disappointed with the ending of a book, but if it makes sense in terms of the characters and the story then I’m OK with it. In this case it was a very happy ending for everyone.

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      Another book that I reviewed here is Andre Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name. The end made perfect sense to me and I LOVED the book. Sometimes we just have to believe that the author knows what he/she is doing and trust them. However, I know if you’re personally disappointed with the ending of a book it could affect your enjoyment of the entire story – one such book for me is Riding Heartbreak Road where the author added an unnecessary (for me) epilogue that the readers hated. OTOH a lot of times M/M books have HEAs even when it makes absolutely no sense in terms of the characters, and I get upset that the authors are insulting the readers’ intelligence. I could live with a HFN or even a parting of the ways rather than have a forced HEA.

      Reply
  • Leslie
    I know you will love Almost Like Being in Love. It’s such a great book and I’m not surprised that readers are still discovering it 5 years after it was first written.

    Reply

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