A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
Charter Captain Bobby Quinn loves life on the water. What he hates is working for his brother.
Charter Captain Bobby Quinn loves life on the water. What he hates is working for his brother. After years spent restoring an aging wooden yacht, his brother bought it out from under him. In Bobby’s mind, if family will screw you at the drop of a hat so will everyone else so, except for his bi-weekly poker game, he sticks to the solitude of the boat he loves.
Dr. Jules Peters knows all about solitude. When not working endless hours as Head of Emergency Medicine, he’s tinkering in his garage. A collector of vintage cars in need of TLC, Jules has an impressive collection of cars but few friends.
Jules meets Bobby when he’s given a cruise around the San Francisco Bay as a gift. Although their mutual attraction is explosive, neither man is ready to move out of his comfort zone. It might take a meddling med student and an off-season football coach to get these two loners to see there’s more to life than caring for inanimate objects.
Slow Play is the second installment of Carol Lynne’s Poker Night series. 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. This second book is trawler captain Bobby and Dr. Jules Peters’ story, as well as setting up scenarios for the upcoming stories. My plan is to review one book each day or so this week until the final book is released on Sunday, January 10.
Opening about four days day after the end of Texas Hold ‘Em (reviewed here), Slow Play has Bobby arguing once again with his half-brother, Brad, who bought his pride and joy trawler, the Gypsy, out from under him at a financially weak time. Disgusted, he makes his way to his second boat, which is in the process of being renovated, figuring out how he will make his next-day cruise, a gift from Zac and Eric to Eric’s boss, Dr. Jules Peters, work with Brad’s demands of moving the Gypsy to another marina. Despite his being raised in a wealthy environment and being accused of being a “reverse snob” by his friends, he has preconceived notions of Jules even before he meets him as the assumption that the older doctor is just another rich person, and he is so not impressed by wealth. Jules, for his part, is a lonely workaholic, devastated by and still mourning the death of his partner, Morgan, sixteen years before, leaving relationships with other men alone and focusing on his job at the hospital and fixing up his classic cars. The two have an immediate attraction, but working out their issues will take time and effort on both parts.
I had some mixed feelings about this somewhat angstier second book. Don’t get me wrong; while I didn’t hate the story at all, I did several issues with it. After what I thought was a good start to the series with Texas Hold ‘Em, I was hoping for a little more, but ultimately I was a bit disappointed in the execution, especially around the smexxin/relationship ratio. There is an awful lot of smexxin for a 90-page book, and as a result, I think both the character development and relationship aspects suffered. I felt that we were given just glimpses of both men and their relationship with each other in between what seemed like perpetual hard-ons and getting it on (including immediately after Jules suffers a minor head injury, which seems improbable and perhaps even medically unsafe).
As with Texas Hold ‘Em, I thought both protags were generally likable, believable and sympathetic. Bobby and his family issues felt realistic and not overblown. I also liked — what we are shown, that is — watching lonely Jules try and work his way through the long-time grief and mourning over dead partner, Morgan, and his inability to save him. And not only loverless, he is also an orphan, with all of his immediate family dead, which also contributes to his lonely life. Much of what there is of the emotional aspect of this story focuses around this, but in the end it felt glossed over and seemed like it wasn’t enough for me to really get to know Jules. Related to this, Bobby has concern over being a replacement/rebound for Morgan and what his long-term options were with Jules, but again, some of what he feels is only mentioned, it seemed, in passing, either as thoughts or a little bit of discussion with Jules about it.
Additionally, Jules has spent the last fifteen plus years avoiding getting involved with men — even casually — because of his continuing grief, but he is almost instantly open to a possible relationship with Bobby, a man he just met? He could barely have sex with Bobby at first without Morgan coming between them. As a result, this just didn’t ring true to what we know of Jules’ character.
There are also two major conflict points that I felt could have been made use of to help define their relationship and create a bit of drama which I think were totally dismissed too easily. First is the whole Bobby can’t stand/doesn’t trust rich people thing, a major point that is brought up early on and which would bring to light the significant financial disparity between the two men. This goes just about nowhere and barely seems to be an issue. It is mentioned a very few times when they are together, and though Bobby talks with his friends a bit about it a bit, it ultimately just doesn’t seem to an issue for as much as it is a big part of Bobby.
Second is the age difference, which I was really hoping would be something to be in play here. Jules is forty-three and though we are not told how old Bobby is — Jules himself wishes he were fifteen years younger at one point when thinking about the younger man — it seems that the difference is over a decade. Once again, we are cheated, I thought, of the real, possible tension/drama point around this issue. As someone who is in a long-term relationship with someone fifteen years older, I can say with clarity that it definitely can be an issue and it is common teasing that I am the baby of her group of friends. There is barely anything here at all about it.
Last point — and this is going to be snippy and picky and something I brought up in my review for Texas Hold ‘Em — but as a resident of the setting of this series, I feel need to speak up. There are numerous, blatant, draw-me-out-of-the-story, local reference errors that drove me batty. I had a whole paragraph here listing them one by one, but in the end, what I really want to say is that while I understand that this publisher (and author?) is British, and I have no issue with books set in other locales from the publisher/author home base, the lack of regional fact checking made the story seem sloppy from a resident reader point of view and detracted from the tale for me big time.
Slow Play was somewhat of a disappointment as the second installment of Poker Night, but one that I think readers should not miss as part of this series. Book three, Pocket Pair, is the story of Trey, the dramatic situation that ends Slow Play, and his relationship with school principal Cole.