Healthy Obsession

412930Title: Healthy Obsession
Author: Carolyn LeVine Topol
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novella (16,777 words)
Rating: 2 stars out of 5

A guest review by Leslie


THE BLURB

While Jack Randall relishes his free-spirited life, making no commitments and tricking with a variety of hot men, he also wants what his best friend Steve has: happiness with a husband. He doesn’t realize that joining the health club in his building, Healthy Obsession, will lead him to Mr. Right; but there stands the muscular and extremely good-looking Rick Monroe

Jack is immediately attracted to Rick, even though Rick is married, a father, and reluctantly in the closet. The reality of falling in love is much harder than the dream of finding Mr. Right, but Jack is willing to make the effort and help Rick, if Rick is willing to be true to himself.

THE REVIEW

I am going to be honest right up front: I really detest the expression “breeder.” It’s a hot button word for me. So when a character thinks something like,

“The biggest irritants were the women. He hated watching all the breeders gathering at the new watering hold to flirt and tease in the nauseating way heteros tried to attract one another…

in the first few pages of a book, it is going to bias me against that character right from the start. This, unfortunately, is what happened to Jack Randall, the main character in Healthy Obsession. I was willing to keep an open mind and let Jack redeem himself in word or deed, but he never did. He was selfish, self-centered, rude, sarcastic, and prone to jump to conclusions based on incomplete or inaccurate information. And maybe it’s a reflection of my shallowness, but if a book has a lead character that I really can’t stand, it’s going to be tough for the book to win me over. In this case, Healthy Obsession did not.

The basic premise is simple: Jack is a self-proclaimed slut who has slept with two-thirds of the gay men in Boston. While this has been a happy, fulfilling, and satisfying life, he has come to understand that what he really wants is what his friend Steve has: happiness and true love with a husband. Once Jack has had this stunning realization, nothing will do but to have it happen within the next 24 hours.

While Jack doesn’t have a clue about how to change his slutty ways, salvation comes in the form of his boss, who demands that he join the new health club in their office building because the boss will a big break on his rent. Farfetched, yes, but it serves to get Jack into the gym, where he immediately meets Rick. Rick is drop dead gorgeous and wearing a wedding ring (insert more insulting breeder thoughts) but that doesn’t stop Jack from hitting on him in the steam room.

Rick, meanwhile, doesn’t know who or what he is. He says that he got married at age 20 to get out of the house and away from his “drunken, abusive” father (but at the time, he was attending Boston College, which has dorms…wouldn’t that be a way to get away from his father? How did he afford to attend BC, anyway?). Now it is some number of years later. His marriage is on the rocks, he thinks he’s gay, he’s legally separated but still living with his wife because he doesn’t want to leave his children.

Slut, meet closet case. Is happiness and true love in the cards for these two men? You betcha! And it comes within Jack’s required timeframe of 24 hours, too.

I only finished this because it was short and I wanted to see if the ending was as preposterous as I expected it to be (it was). Equally preposterous was Jack’s transformation from rude and obnoxious to sensitive and caring, willing to help his man find his way in his new gay life. And because of Jack’s steady, guiding, and insightful personality, Rick suddenly has clarity of thought and mind and his way, his path is revealed to him…with Jack at his side.

Barf.

Fans of the author might find something worthwhile in this wretched mess, but I, in good conscience, cannot recommend it. But in case you doubt my opinion, there’s a lengthy excerpt at All Romance eBooks that should help you decide if this insta-love story is right for you.

NB: At the time I wrote this review, the Dreamspinner Press site was down for maintenance, so I linked to ARe instead, where you can read a sample and purchase the book, if you are so inclined.

15 comments

  • Well, Wave, as they say, I gave it the good ol’college try. But in the end, it just wasn’t a memorable (or recommendable) story. It happens.

    L

  • Leslie
    I’m really sorry that this book didn’t do it for you. I do remember Lynn’s review of Waves of Fortune. Sometimes I wonder how some plot bunnies breed and become books.

  • I think I’ll definitely pass. This is by the same author of Waves of Fortune, which is the first 1 star review I gave, I believe. If you’re rating it this low, I see she hasn’t changed much since I read and reviewed that monstrosity. Did she limit the POVs here to the protags?

    • POVs: they bounce between whoever is in the scene although I don’t think there are any scenes with more than two characters: Jack and his BFF Steve, Jack and his boss, Jack and Rick. Jack is the constant, I suppose.

      I remembered your review of Waves of Fortune. I think the thing that saved this novella from 1 star was the fact that it was short with a limited cast of characters and a very simple plot.

      I suppose this style of writing appeals to some people, but I’m not one of them.

      L

  • Anit-breeder comments always stomp on my last nerve. As the mother of two fabulously handsome sons, I deserve immense gratitude…or at least not to be referred to in crass & impolite stereotypes.

    Thanks for the amusing review and opportunity to avoid becoming a dissatisfied customer as this book apparently touches several ‘ick’ buttons for me.

    • The author is a wife and mother with two young adult children (according to the bio at the end of the book) so I find it surprising that she would use such pejorative language. If it was supposed to illustrate a facet of Jack’s personality, then, okay, I suppose (although I would take a different approach but I am willing to give writers their creative license). But, in fact, that when Jack realizes he is falling hard for this married, closeted guy and suddenly becomes his source of support and love, his prior, disdainful comments of straight folks and “breeders” don’t make any sense and become even more offensive.

      Anyway I look at it, it doesn’t endear me to this story.

      L

  • I have not read the book. I don’t think I will bother at all now but my “hot button” issue is cheating. Is the married guy still married as the affair begins? That is what has stopped me to this point from getting the book.

    • There is some obfuscation from the author on this point, as Rick refers to his wife as both his “wife” and “ex-wife” on several different occasions. But he also says, several times, that he’s legally separated but to me, that’s not divorced. So I would say the answer to your question is yes, he’s married as the affair begins.

      And, as I noted in the review, despite his legally separated status, Rick’s still wearing his wedding ring when Jack meets him in the gym.

      L

  • So, you’re giving it a ‘2’ because of the muscular abdominals we see on the bookcover? Very nice btw. grin Add a treasure trail and I’ll buy it just for the cover. lol

    Wave, have a sexy bookcover contest!

    • Now, I think the cover is a little dorky looking, myself. LOL. The red-shirted guy’s left arm is just hanging there, rather unattractively, and then they are both clutching each other shirts–this doesn’t scream sexy to me… 🙂

      As for the 2 star rating, well…so far, the only 1 star book I have reviewed here was that hot mess, Wasted by Aiden Shaw. And while Healthy Obsession wasn’t very good, it just didn’t sink to the level of awfulness of Wasted, which is in a league of its own in the 1 star world.

  • 24 hours might be a bit of an exaggeration (thinking back on this)…maybe it took 48. The point is, it was very, very quick, especially for someone to make the decision to officially end his marriage, come out, and fall in love. Even in a romantic HEA story, I just can’t believe it.

    L

  • Yeah, breeder doesn’t work for me either. Someone has to have babies people, where are you going to find your next generation of twinks? I don’t care if you can’t have babies, don’t criticize those who do/can.

    All that in 24 hours? Ummm. I’ll pass.

    Slut, meet closet case.

    Very funny line. 🙂

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