Poker Night: Texas Hold ‘Em

Title: Poker Night: Texas Hold ‘Em
Author: Carol Lynne
Publisher: Total-E-Bound
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Novella
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

THE BLURB

A pizza delivery never felt so good.

Zac Grainger’s life is pretty quiet. Other than coaching high school football, the only excitement he gets is playing poker with his close friends every other Saturday. That is until he opens the door to the hottest pizza delivery man he’s ever seen, and man, does Zac want a piece of that pie.

Eric Stanton spends long hours as an intern at one of the largest hospital in San Francisco. To help keep a roof over his head, he also has a part-time job as a pizza delivery driver. When a gorgeous customer tries to flirt with him, Eric’s too tired to reciprocate.

Just when Eric wonders if he’ll get a second chance with the guy, an order is placed requesting him personally. Tired or not, perhaps things are looking up.

THE REVIEW

Texas Hold ‘Em is the first installment of prolific series author Carol Lynne’s Poker Night series, and the first book by this author that I’ve read. Each story will cover one of each of a mixed-bag of six gay friends (Zac, Marco, Angelo, Trey, Kent, Bobby) who meet for a bi-weekly Saturday-night poker game. Book one is Zac and newcomer Eric’s story, and a basis for the other cast who will ultimately each have their own tale.

Pacifica, California, high school football coach Zac has a great bunch of diverse, single friends who have met at his house every other Saturday to play poker for the last three years. On one such Saturday, he opts for pizza for the boys, only to become instantly enamored with the “tiny little blond Adonis” delivery boy, Eric. Eric, who divides his time between being a medical intern and delivering pizzas for his uncle to make ends meet, has no time for a social life, but Zac is persistent and pursues Eric with tempting offers of home-cooked meals, lots of steamy smexxin and relaxation time that he currently doesn’t have. Only wanting to make Eric’s life easier, Zac unintentionally goes about it a bit heavy-handed and creates some conflict along the way.

Though not without a few niggles, I found Texas Hold ‘Em to be an quick, easy read with lots of sweetness and smexxin, and hopefully a generally good start to the series.

Told through alternating POVs, of I thought both protags were likable and believable. The story is very character-driven, with us getting to know both men — and the others, generally — well through the tale. There are quite a few differences between Zac and Eric, and they are used here to move the plot and story along nicely. Zac is a mother-henner in some ways — even with his friends — a natural protector and rescuer, and Eric needs some assistance, so there is a good match there. Unfortunately Zac is also a bit of a control freak and goes about wanting to take care of Eric in ways that has the prideful other man uncomfortable. Eric wants to need no one and has issues with relying on someone else, but is conflicted because it does feel nice to have someone care of him for a change. Zac sees this and thinks “what if I have to fight Eric for Eric?” There are other differences as well, besides physical (athletic Zac is larger than academic Eric), with Zac being very family-oriented and welcomed by them in every way, and Eric a disappointment in almost every way to his.

Note that, for the length of the story, there is quite a bit of steamy smexxin. Since I am looking for good relationship development within the tales, I hope the smexxin doesn’t take over in other installments.

A very few niggles:

There is an element of almost insta-love here that I am not fond of and I hope that the series doesn’t continue that way. Additionally, there is a conflict point where Zac and Eric are apart for a while and their initial coming back together seemed too easy without the benefit of real discussion of the issue until later in the story.

I unfortunately found several annoying, obvious editing and proofing errors, which at times drew me away from the story, such as using “Champaign” (the city in IL) for “Champagne” (the beverage). Another glaring one comes from living in the San Francisco Bay Area, which makes me sensitive to the capitalization of territories, neighborhoods, etc. “Bay Area” should capped, period, when referring to the approximate 7,000 square miles of geographic region around the San Francisco and San Pablo Bays, and there were multiple instances of that not happening here.

OVERALL

Texas Hold ‘Em is a good start to the series, with both a good tale for Eric and Zac, but also a set-up for some of the other characters’ stories. I hope all of the offerings are like this one. The next story, Slow Play, is of Bobby and Eric’s boss, Dr. Jules Peters, and I’ll be moving on to that now.

13 comments

  • The fact that she writes about a group of men all finding their true love is something I like. Because how often it doesn’t happen, at least for me, that I think what kind of bf would other people have in the story that I am reading.
    On the other hand, she does that all the time so it is kind of repetitive.
    When in need of a fluffy read her books are the ones to turn to. Some are more entertaining of the others because I like the characters better.

    Reply
    • Hi Ingrid. I, too, like the idea of the group of friends all finding their loves and one of the reasons I picked the series. Since I haven’t read anything else by here, I can’t speak to the repetitive nature of her body of work, but it has been something I heard along the way from other readers.

      Reply
  • I read pretty much everything Carol Lynne writes. Her characters are appealing, and one thing I like about them is the large variety of ages, races, backgrounds and professions. Couple of them have disabilities, and a couple are HIV+. Most of the heroes do tend to fall in lust and love very quickly, which doesn’t usually bother me, but I can understand that it can annoy people. Basically, I would describe her novel(la)s as entertainment for a couple of hours.

    Reply
    • Hi Sari. Yes, the reputation of diversity of her characters are one of the reasons I chose this series to read, but I admit that if they are all insta-love/lust, that will bother me somewhat. We’ll see as I work my way through.

      Reply
  • Oops, that other Lynne book I mentioned is called Gio’s Dream, not Giovanni’s Dream. Wouldn’t want to confuse Lynne with James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room!

    Reply
  • Yes, I’ve read a lot of Carol Lynne and the majority of her stuff contains the love at first sight device. Her characters also tend to have incredibly strong sex drives that can at times overtake the story. I also find that many of her plots hinge on a character or group of characters suffering violent, anti-gay harassment, which is certainly an issue that many authors touch on, but after awhile it sort of comes off as paint by numbers in Lynn’s work. I have read a couple of her books that I’ve enjoyed (Sex with Lex and Giovanni’s Dream) and I think she works as an occasional fluff piece, but it’s been a really long time since I’ve invested in a new work by her.

    Reply
    • Good morning Alaina. As this is the first book of her’s that I’ve read and reviewed, I cannot speak to traits or not in her other many series/stand-alones, but it sounds like you have a lot of experience with that.
       

      Her characters also tend to have incredibly strong sex drives that can at times overtake the story.

      I’ve made my way through most of the six books now, and while reserving judgment on the actual plots until I’ve had a chance to digest them again and write the reviews, I can say with certainty that there is, in general, a heck-a-lot-a smexxin. Seriously. Like a whole lot.
       

      I also find that many of her plots hinge on a character or group of characters suffering violent, anti-gay harassment, which is certainly an issue that many authors touch on, but after awhile it sort of comes off as paint by numbers in Lynn’s work.

      Books three and four, especially, deal with this, so I am seeing that theme here. This book one is pretty light and fluffy, but others are much angstier because of that angle.

      Reply
  • I have read a few Carol Lynne and I found the insta-love to be a hallmark of her’s although I’ve since heard of some other tales that it’s not the case, but I’ll be honest, I stay away from her stuff unless someone I trust tells me it’s not insta-love. I just find that so frustrating to read now. Seems like this one may have shards of the same issue for me.

    Reply
    • Hi Tam. This book was fine, and I bought the attraction and almost insta-love here. However, and I am reserving judgment until I’m completely done with the series, this may not be the case for the rest of the stories.

      Reply
  • Wave, I did like it nicely. I would definitely classify them as novellas, with each under 100 pages, but the pub put them up as novels, so I thought I’d stay with that classification.
     
    It is a good start and am looking forward to the others. I am done with the second book now and I have to say that it is not as good, I don’t think, as this one was. I’m going to read it again to see if I change my opinion.
     

    Re your point about the capitalization of the Bay Area, sometimes even with US citizens I find that this happens in other books. Perhaps because this is a British publisher they didn’t do a US check the way some US writers occasionally do Brit checks when they write stories set in England.

    Could be you are right. I am finding it an even bigger issue with book two and I can’t help but feel that no one checked the regional aspect of it, which feels sloppy.

    Reply
  • Lynn
    Sounds like a good start to the series, and the characters appear to be quite likable despite the instant “I love You”.

    *
    Re your point about the capitalization of the Bay Area, sometimes even with US citizens I find that this happens in other books. Perhaps because this is a British publisher they didn’t do a US check the way some US writers occasionally do Brit checks when they write stories set in England.

    *
    I thought these were all novellas – I guess there’s a whole lot of reading for you in terms of the entire series.

    Reply

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