Title: Acquired Tastes
Author: Chris Owen
Publisher: Torquere Books
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
He made promises to give support and respect…He chose a group of men to be brothers, and created bonds as strong as blood ties… What happens when the oaths he swore as a teenager are resurrected a decade later?
Lee Sutton is working his way through his PhD at a new college, his old life left behind years ago. He’s become independent, solitary and driven toward impending success. When he finds that one of his closest neighbors is a member of the same secret society Lee once belonged to, Lee’s life is thrown into disarray at exactly the wrong moment, and he has to face new choices, weighted against the past.
Dr. Joey Reed is a successful chemist, an outgoing and enthusiastically cheerful man who proceeds to worm his way into Lee’s life, believing them to be long lost brothers, dear to each other simply because they chose to be, years before they met.
Is it possible that vows made as a freshman can guide the life of a doctoral candidate toward happiness? Lee and Joey are only beginning to find out when the past is brought to the fore, taking them back to the college and home they’d once shared with a family they’d chosen.
While studying to defend his doctoral thesis Lee Sutton is working as the Property Manager in the complex where he lives. He has no money but his job provides free lodging which is a godsend, since every penny counts until he has his doctorate and finds a job in his field. One night he is called out to a resident’s apartment to fix a plumbing problem and he meets Dr. Joey Reed, a chemist, who represents everything Lee aspires to in life. Joey is successful, laid back, and seems to have life by the tail. It wasn’t until Lee found a familiar pin in the bathroom drain that he realized he and Joey have a lot more in common than he thought. The pin represented the best years in Lee’s past from the time when he was a sophomore in university 10 years ago when he belonged to a 50 year old secret society of gay men who supported each other and bonded for life.
When Lee told Joey that he knew what the pin represented Joey was overjoyed to have found a brother so far from home. He immediately wanted to be with Lee because of their strong connection through the brotherhood, in addition to the fact that he had been attracted to him for some time, but Lee was concerned about an unequal relationship because of their different lifestyles and social status. However, when Joey made it clear why he wanted to be with Lee he found it difficult to say no. Their affair was delightful as Joey does his best to show Lee what they could have together despite being complete opposites, if only Lee would let things take their natural course.
Because Chris Owen is the author of Acquired Tastes the sex was unbelievably erotic and sensuous and the sense of fun between the characters came through loud and clear as they navigate their way through Lee’s issues about being poor, feeling inferior to Joey, and always putting a monetary value on everything.
Part of the story is told through flashbacks and we get to know a much younger Lee who had more than the usual problems of getting good grades at university. Extreme poverty was something he experienced every single day as he tried to live on a non existent income and scholarships that barely covered his books and tuition, and it became evident why he was so sensitive about money or a lack thereof.
When the past collides with the present the protagonists have a few issues to resolve, and Joey has to decide whether supporting Lee is more important than his old fears. Tragedy strikes one of the members and the brotherhood showed why it has remained such a significant part of each members’ lives for over 5 decades.
Chris Owen has written a wonderful, unusual book in Acquired Tastes which shows people at their best and worst and demonstrates what friendship is all about. This story is about love, loyalty to friends, dedication to a cause and each other, through personal triumphs as well as heartbreak. The protagonists are three dimensional and the supporting characters are all well drawn. There are moving scenes in the book which, while not maudlin, will tug at your heart strings, and there is a lot of information about the secret society but I didn’t think it was overdone as the detail was important in the context of the story.
I really loved this book and I think you will too.